Independent educational consultants are always helping students, whether they’re offering career advice, reviewing college essays, helping with test prep, or finding scholarship opportunities. The job can sometimes feel isolating: you work alone, travel and visit universities by yourself, and might have limited opportunities to connect with your peers and seek professional growth.
If this sounds like you, we highly recommend you consider joining an association for independent consultants. Such organizations bring consultants together, provide networking and educational opportunities, organize events like conferences, workshops, and seminars, and fund training. Here, we will discuss the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA) — what it is, its services, membership options and eligibility, and whether it is worth joining.
What does an education consultant do?
Education consultants, especially those who specialize in college admissions, help students choose the right university and course. This includes helping students with high school curriculum planning to make sure they do the right courses for their program, assessing students’ profiles to identify their strengths and suggest universities, prepping for college entrance examinations, reviewing college essays, providing career counseling, and suggesting financial aid opportunities.
What is HECA all about?
HECA is one of the largest independent consultant associations in the U.S., and the only one that focuses exclusively on supporting high school students as they search for a college. The organization boasts over 1,000 members in the U.S. and abroad who serve more than 40,000 high school seniors annually. HECA offers consultants access to its annual conference, multiple seminars and workshops held throughout the year, numerous networking opportunities, and opportunities for professional development (in the form of its Professional Development Institute). HECA members become a part of its consultant directory that parents and students can access online to find a consultant that suits their needs.
How can I become a HECA member?
HECA offers three membership categories: member, provisional member, and retired member. To become a member, you must meet the following criteria:
Hold a Bachelor’s degree or higher
Have experience as an education consultant for at least two years/ a high school counselor for two years + an education consultant for at least one year, having served at least 10 students/ have completed a certified college counseling program (HECA accepts the UCLA College Counseling Certificate, UC Irvine Independent Educational Consultant Certificate, UC Riverside College Admissions Counseling Certificate, and UC Berkeley Certificate in College Admissions and Career Planning)
Have attended at least one college conference in the last 18 months and must complete at least 20 college visits during your first two years as a HECA member
If you do not meet all the requirements, you can apply to become a provisional member provided you have the necessary educational qualifications. Provisional members become full members by:
Attending the new member orientation
Attending at least one HECA conference
Attending at least two HECA webinars within the first year of becoming a member
Completing at least 20 college visits in two years
How much does a HECA membership cost?
Membership (all categories) costs $450 annually and runs from March 1 to February 28 of the following year. As a HECA member (all categories), you get the following benefits:
Inclusion in the HECA Directory, which parents and students can access to search for a counselor
Access to the online member forum and the HECA Listserv, an exclusive email-based discussion group to ask questions and share information
Access to HECA-sponsored college tours
Access to HECA’s professional development opportunities
Discount registration rates for HECA-organized workshops and conferences
Invitations to HECA events and affiliation gatherings
What does HECA’s Professional Development Institute do?
HECA members and other independent consultants can avail of the HECA Professional Development Institute (PDI) to improve their knowledge and skills. Any consultant can apply to the PDI, though HECA recommends it for professionals with 0-10 years of work experience.
The PDI is available both in-person and online. The 2024 in-person session will run for two days from June 9 to June 10 at the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter in Atlanta, Georgia, where HECA hosts its annual conference. The PDI will include sessions led by experienced counselors and industry insiders and you will learn about the different skills required to become a successful consultant through a mix of group tasks, role-playing scenarios, and mock admissions and financial aid appeal committee exercises. PDI faculty includes Cyndy McDonald, a college counseling leader with over 30 years of experience who teaches the UCLA College Counseling Certificate Program, and Steven R. Antonoff, the former president of the Independent Education Consultants Association.
HECA Annual Conference — what is it?
Every year, HECA hosts a multi-day conference that brings together consultants, admissions representatives, and other education stakeholders through tours, multiple seminars and breakout sessions, and dedicated networking opportunities.
For the 2024 conference, Rick Clark, Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Georgia Tech, will be the keynote speaker. The conference will also include a college fair and a two-day exhibitor fair. Emory University will host the conference’s closing ceremony. HECA members will have special access to pre- and post-conference campus tours
HECA members can register for the conference from March 11 onwards and non-members from March 14. Registration fees are yet to be disclosed.
4 reasons you should become a HECA member:
You’ll be able to access a network of like-minded peers HECA is the only organization for independent consultants that focuses exclusively on college counseling. If this is your specialization, you will be able to connect with more than 1000 consultants working in the same space and learn from them.
As a HECA member, you’ll have dedicated resources for professional development HECA holds multiple workshops, webinars, and other events throughout the year that impart knowledge to education consultants. As a member, you’ll have a subscription to the HECA newsletter and the Chronicle of Higher Education, which will keep you up-to-date on the latest news and developments in education. You can also attend the PDI, a two-day professional skilling course organized by HECA.
You can attend the annual HECA conference During HECA’s annual conference, education consultants from across the country come together under one roof. As a consultant, you’ll be able to network with your peers and the college’s admissions representatives, which can be vital for building relationships with universities.
You can visit colleges as part of HECA-exclusive campus tours HECA organizes several tours of nearby colleges for its members before and after its annual conference. Each year, HECA holds its conference in a different part of the country, allowing you to tour universities in that region. Universities also host HECA members for private tours throughout the year. At least 75% of HECA members tour at least 10 universities annually.
Bonus — the Lumiere Research Scholar Program!
If you’d like to recommend a rigorous research program open to high schoolers, you may want to consider the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here. You can also reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to know more, or to have a chat about possible collaborations!
Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!
Kieran Lobo is a freelance writer from India, who currently teaches English in Spain.
Image Source: HECA logo