If you’re passionate about education, helping students find the right choice for their higher education goals, and can spot the difference between a prospective Yale, Harvard, or Stanford student, then education counseling could be a great career choice! Educational consultants have a background in education and/or have experience working with young students, are effective multitaskers, have good networking skills, are knowledgeable of the latest educational tools and trends, and more.
What do education consultants do?
Different education consultants provide different services based on the students they work with. Consultants who work with high school students help them get into the best possible university, and provide guidance that includes reviewing students’ profiles and researching universities that would be a good fit. They provide information on application requirements, deadlines, and procedures. Counselors also review and provide feedback on college essays, helping students tailor their writing based on the university and course they’re applying to. They can also help students with test prep (ACT, SAT, etc), present them with financial aid opportunities, provide career counseling, and help organize campus visits and prepare students for them accordingly.
Consultants with a background in education or psychology also understand the stress students go through during the application process and can even provide emotional support.
If helping students realize their potential is something you’re interested in, then here are 8 steps you can follow to become an education consultant:
1. Pursue a degree
While not necessary, having a background, like a bachelor’s degree (or more) in education, counseling, or psychology, signals that you have studied pedagogy and understand the education landscape, making your clients trust your knowledge. You could also pursue professional programs (like this one by the Independent Educational Consultants Association) that give you the knowledge and skills required to advise students and build a business.
2. Work in education
Offering your counseling services can be difficult with little to no experience, as clients could doubt your ability to navigate the education sector effectively. Moreover, while counseling in a high school could be a good place to begin, opportunities in the U.S. can be few due to limited funding and many states requiring a Master’s (at least) in education. Here, professionals recommend approaching universities for entry-level jobs, either in financial aid, admissions, or other student services — such positions have a high turnover rate and, more importantly, can give you an insider’s view of how college admissions work! Additionally, you could also opt to work at companies that specialize in consulting (this can include firms that offer test prep, essay prep, aptitude tests, and other services for high school students).
3. Volunteer your time and work in local communities
In addition to/ apart from working in high school, colleges, or firms, you can also volunteer within your local community to spend more time with students and understand their thinking through the college search process. Volunteering is a great way to give back and allows you to understand students’ challenges and lived realities, proving your commitment to diversity and inclusion.
4. Build strong communication and interpersonal skills
To know what’s a good fit for a student, you need to be able to listen carefully to them, understand their interests, and accordingly suggest universities they can apply to based on their profile. However, shortlisting universities and scholarships is only one part of your job as a counselor — you also have to convince your student and their parents that it's the right choice, especially if they have other ambitions. Excellent communication skills are essential to convince others of your thoughts and ideas and to present yourself as an able and effective counselor. You also need strong decision-making and problem-solving skills. Students and parents look to you to guide them through the college application process and cut through the stress associated with it. Your ability to clearly and effectively present suitable options for your clients will go a long way in building your reputation!
5. Find your specialization
Part of defining yourself as an education consultant involves finding a niche in which you work best, which is necessary to promote yourself as a professional. Choosing a niche can help you answer: why do I want to be a counselor? It can also help you narrow down the kind of students you want to work with, help you define your long-term goals, and decide what educational values you would like to share through your work. Specializations can differ between geographies (for example, if you have deep knowledge of the education system in a particular state), disciplines (STEM, arts, material sciences, etc.), schools (Ivy League, mid-tier universities, highly selective colleges only), financial aid, kind of student (athletes, arts-focused students, learners with disabilities, international students, etc.), and services offered, among other categories.
6. Build your networks
Networking is key to building strong relations with universities and gaining important knowledge about how different admissions departments work and what they look for in prospective students. Additionally, you should tap into a network of fellow counselors and benefit from their experience. Your peers can provide unique perspectives that can help make you a better professional. You can also join professional communities like the National Association for College Admission Counseling, Independent Educational Consultants Association, and Higher Education Consultants Association to gain access to exclusive training, workshops, and mentorship programs.
7. Stay abreast of the latest developments in education
Education is ever-changing, and an important component of your job as an education counselor is to be up-to-date with the latest trends, developments, and changes in educational regulations and policies to give students and parents valuable insights and recommendations. Online resources like Education Dive and The Chronicle of Higher Education are useful to learn about the latest developments on campuses and changes in government policy. Following organizations like the National Center for Education Statistics and the American Educational Research Association can be beneficial, as they regularly publish research reports on education in the U.S. Attending conferences, seminars, and workshops can also be useful to stay abreast of and adapt to the changing education landscape.
8. Learn, learn, and learn
As an education consultant, continuous learning allows you to better your expertise and retain a competitive edge while you counsel and advise students and parents. Reading the latest publications and following news resources are a great way to be informed of changes, but, to further your own personal growth, you could consider pursuing a Master’s or doctorate in education, complete certificate programs and training sessions (for example, the Independent Education Consultants Association provides a variety of certificate programs and online training). With AI steadily permeating all professions, staying informed about digital tools, online learning platforms, and other technology that can help guide students is equally important.
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.