The Insecurity of the Admission Process

If you haven’t been disconnected from the Internet (or television) in the past week or so, you’re most likely up-to-date on the college admission scandal rocking the nation thanks to the indictments facing some pretty famous people, including Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. And yes, it’s appalling on a variety of levels (So. Many. Levels!), but but I’ve been at a bit of a loss as to how, exactly, to respond to something that’s hit so close to my working life and has impacted so many of my colleagues in a way that “traditional” scandals typically don’t.

In fact, in spite of the amount of jokes I’ve heard (and passed along – hey, I haven’t lost my sense of humor, people!), I find that I’ve been largely out of things to say on the subject for two reasons. The first reason is, quite simply, because a lot of people have said a lot of things about the scandal far more eloquently than I ever could. And the second is that I can’t say that anything about this situation actually truly surprised me when it came out, except perhaps the specific names of those involved (which I think shocked all of you as well).

I can’t honestly say that I was astounded by the amount of money that was spent to commit fraud. (I wish I could.)

I can’t honestly say that I was astounded to learn that coaches could be bought and school counselors could be silenced. (Again, I wish I could.)

I also can’t honestly say that I was surprised by the names of the schools involved and that the outward perception is that these schools have these names and are therefore more desirous than other schools with lesser known names. (That was, perhaps, the least shocking revelation of all.)

I guess where I’m at today is this:

I love my job. I’m good at my job. But more than that, I’m so focused on being painfully ethical in the way I do my job that I’ve actually lost money helping students in the past. And that’s okay with me because I didn’t compromise my ethics, I compromised my paycheck. What’s more, there are thousands of other people like me out there doing the same job, loving their students, and occasionally losing money. Together, we now work under a shameful umbrella that we must try to crawl out from under, thanks to a group of people who have now forever tainted a system that wasn’t at all perfect to begin with.

(Meanwhile, the negative media reports lumping all educational consultants and paid counselors under the same umbrella as this one profit-hungry firm aren’t helping either. But the media relies on ratings and selling commercial air time so they use splashy headlines to do their jobs. I get that. I don’t like it, but I get it.)

So now I’m going to go back to doing my job, which is to help students and families assess the right college options for their goals, their budgets, and the rest of their lives – not the college with the right name or the right perceived pedigree but the college that is RIGHT for that student’s development. I will not make promises I can’t keep; I will not guarantee admission or results; I will not offer any path to admission that doesn’t focus on a student leveraging his or her own merits and talents as part of the application process.

Furthermore, as a professional member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), I offer the following statement, as issued last week on behalf of our membership:

The fundamental role of independent educational consultants is to help students explore college opportunities and find the right place for them to succeed academically and socially. IECs don’t get students admitted—they help students demonstrate why they deserve to be admitted at appropriately chosen schools. They help students find colleges they might not have heard of—often out of their region—and they help students put their best foot forward.

Here are 5 things families should consider when looking to hire an IEC:

  1. Does the IEC belong to a professional association such as IECA with established and rigorous standards for membership?
  2. Do not trust any offers of guaranteed admission to a school or a certain minimum dollar value in scholarships.
  3. Ensure that the IEC adheres to the ethical guidelines for private counseling established by IECA.
  4. Find an IEC that visits college, school, and program campuses and meets with admissions representatives regularly in order to keep up with new trends, academic changes and evolving campus cultures.
  5. Do they attend professional conferences or training workshops on a regular basis to keep up with regional and national trends and changes in the law?

If you want support and guidance in the college search and admission process, please contact me or another member of the IECA. You can also purchase a copy of my book to help guide your personal search.