Gathering The Team: Students, Parents, School-Based Counselors & Independent College Consultants Working Together

August 24, 2017 juliasurtshin

As the new academic year gets underway, now is the time to refocus on how best to meet our goals and aspirations. College-bound high school students, their parents, school- based counselors, and independent college consultants all have at least one goal in common: to have students gain admission to several colleges that meet their academic, personal, and financial needs and preferences. Most of us would agree that having all parties on the same page and cooperating is likely to be the most successful approach.

So, how do we accomplish this?

Here are some thoughts about “Best Practices”.

Students With Both School Counselors and Independent College Counselors

If you’re a student who has both a school counselor and an independent guiding you through the college search and admission process, please…

* Understand that one does not replace the other. These two professionals have different perspectives, different pressures, and different roles. There is a great deal of variation as to how each will assist you. Be sure that you understand how each can support you, respect their different roles, and interact with each accordingly.

School Based Counselors

Are experts on school curriculum.
Understand you in context of your peers.
May/may not suggest colleges they believe will be good fits.
Write recommendations.
Likely will not have time to support individual applications.

Independent College Counselors

Will suggest colleges with probability of good fit.
May facilitate college research.
Won’t recommend you to colleges.
Guide applications.
Assist with final decision making.

* Be both tactful and respectful when letting your school counselor know that you’re working with an independent counselor.

* Assume responsibility for your own college search and pay close attention to the information, expectations, resources, and deadlines that each counselor has made available.



If you’ve hired an independent college consultant to help you and your teen navigate the college search process, please…

* Like your teen, understand and respect the different roles, perspectives, and responsibilities of each counselor and interact with each accordingly.

* When relaying information or suggestions from one counselor to the other, be mindful that counselors want to collaborate, not be adversarial.

* Support your teen in taking charge of his/her own college search.


School-based Counselors

Whether you’re in a large public or small private school, if you know (or think) that one of your students is (may be) using an independent college counselor, please:

* Clarify any uncertainty.

* Understand that independents recognize the pressures you face and know that you’re working hard to meet the needs of students.

* Know that reputable independent consultants respect your perspective and want to collaborate with you, not replace you.

* Recognize that what a student has relayed from an independent likely has been “filtered” either intentionally or unintentionally and may not be what the independent actually said.

* When in question about an independent, reach out and contact him/her. We welcome partnering with you and, as long as we have permission from our students and their parents, we’re happy to discuss them with you.

* Get to know the independent college counselors in your area, either by participating with them in local professional development activities, or by inviting them to meet with your department.


Independent College Consultants

Most of our students have school-based counselors and it is their best interests that we work constructively together. Please:

* Understand that school-based counselors frequently have a wide range of responsibilities and depending on their school size, hundreds of students in their caseload. College counseling may be only one small part of their job.

* Explain to your client families the different roles of school counselors and independents and emphasize that one does not replace the other.

* Ask your client families to sign information release consents and reach out to their school-based counselors in a respectful and meaningful way.

* If given permission to do so, contact school counselors. Ask how you can work with them most effectively and what, if anything, they would like from you.

* Support the policies and procedures that school counseling departments have in place to regarding curricula, recommendations, and transcript requests.


For further thoughts about counselors as team players, see–publications/publications/journal-of-college-admission/how-iecs-fit-into-the-counseling-puzzle/


Here’s to a new school year! Cheers everyone.










4 Comments on “Gathering The Team: Students, Parents, School-Based Counselors & Independent College Consultants Working Together

  1. Beautiful post, Julia. I would add this: for school counselors whose students ask them to refer independent educational consultants, don’t take this as an insult, and do refer ONLY IECs who are members of HECA or IECA or both. There are a lot of people out there who call themselves independent college counselors, but you can trust that those who are members of these two highly respected organizations participate in ongoing professional development, and visit colleges regularly.

    1. Excellent point. HECA and IECA are professional affiliations that everyone should look for when considering an independent professional. Further, the Certified Educational Planner designation indicates a high standard of knowledge and experience and is an additional indication of the qualifications of an individual.

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