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IECA's Conference in 2024 - Should You Attend It?

If you’re an independent education consultant, chances are you’ve often received invites and targeted publicity to attend conferences for consultants, and with good reason! Large conferences organized specifically for education consultants are a great way to network and connect with peers, learn about the latest developments in the education sector, meet representatives from universities, and gather insights by sitting for seminars and participating in workshops. 


In the U.S., the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and Higher Educational Consultants Association (HECA) are two of the largest associations for independent education consultants that regularly hold conferences that bring together consultants from across the country. In this blog, we’ll focus on the IECA: what it is, how one can join, and its annual conference. 


But first, who are education consultants and what do they do?

Independent education consultants (also referred to simply as consultants or counselors) are professionals who provide a range of services within the education sector, including working with high school students to find them the best possible university. This process can include analyzing students’ profiles, test prep, reviewing college essays, organizing campus visits, suggesting financial aid opportunities, and other services. 


What is the IECA?

Founded in 1976, the IECA is a not-for-profit association representing experienced education consultants that organizes and funds professional training institutes, workshops, conferences, business forums, symposiums, and other events aimed at education consultants’ professional development. The IECA also maintains a directory of qualified education consultants that any parent or student can access via its website. 


How do you become an IECA member?

Being an IECA member comes with a variety of benefits: networking opportunities, resources to skill yourself as an independent consultant, discounts to attend training sessions, workshops, and conferences, and invitations to attend campus tours and meet admissions staff, among other perks. The IECA offers prospective members three levels of membership they can apply for based on their qualifications and experience: student, associate, and professional. 

  • Student membership is for graduate-level students studying education placement counseling or a related field but who are yet to begin advising students and establish an independent business practice. To qualify, you must prove you are currently enrolled in at least two college courses (or be enrolled in at least one and show that they have completed another relevant course). Student members pay an annual fee of $140.

  • Associate membership is for those who have recently entered the field of independent education counseling. You may have recently graduated and opened your practice or are transitioning from a counseling position in a school or university. To qualify, you must have worked as an independent consultant for at least one year (or have completed a recognized certificate program), have/ about to have an established counseling practice, and have a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree. Associate members pay an annual fee of $300.

  • Professional membership is for experienced consultants who have had their own independent practice for several years and are highly qualified. To qualify, you must hold a Master’s degree in a relevant field, have worked for at least three years in education placement or admissions, run an independent practice for at least one year, advised at least 35 students in private practice, and completed at least 50 evaluative college campus visits and 25 school visits. Professional members pay an annual fee of $600. 


What is the IECA Conference all about?

The IECA’s annual conference is its flagship event that brings together consultants, college and school representatives, and even policy makers under one roof. More than 1,000 people attend the conference, which spans several days and includes sessions specifically for consultants, college admission representatives, and other education professionals. 2024 marks the first year IECA holds only one annual conference instead of two.


When and where will the 2024 conference be held?

The 2024 annual conference will take place from May 6-8 at the Mohegan Sun Resort in Uncasville, Connecticut.


Where can I register for the conference?

Registrations for the 2024 Conference will open in late February.


What kind of sessions are held at the IECA Conference?

The IECA organizes sessions that are relevant to the different stakeholders attending the conference. There are three main kinds of sessions:

  • Traditional breakout sessions are general workshops that deal with sharing core knowledge of a particular topic (1 hour)

  • Leading-edge advanced breakout sessions are advanced and aimed at experienced professionals who want in-depth, specialized knowledge of a particular topic (1 hour)

  • Pre-conference workshops address topics that are of specific interest to the attendees (3 hours)


Generally, the IECA organizes sessions that fall under the following main categories:

  • Current issues in admissions and campus life (access, affordability, testing, etc.)

  • Consulting, counseling, and admission staff skills

  • Adolescent learning, emotional and behavioral difficulties, and other topics related to adolescents’ well-being

  • Information relevant to independent consultants' businesses and professional development

  • Knowledge sessions for professionals working in school, college, and therapeutic environments

  • Sessions focused on admission, marketing, and business solutions

  • General skill and knowledge sessions (basic, intermediate, and/or advanced)


What was the 2023 Conference like?

The IECA 2023 Fall Conference was held from November 13-15 in Tampa, Florida. It featured 83 sessions (not including pre-conference workshops) that spanned three days. The traditional breakout sessions numbered 74 and covered numerous topics, including adapting to the new digital PSAT, working with neurodiverse students, supporting students living abroad, managing parental expectations, making a well-reasoned college list, AI and its impact on the admissions process, essay tips by admission officers, information sessions on the IECA’s government relations committee, admission practices at selective colleges, balancing academics and athletics in recruiting, selective college admissions case studies, how colleges award financial aid, and much, much more.


The nine leading-edge advanced breakout sessions included learning brainstorming tips that students can use to figure out what part of their personality they should use in their college essay, how to navigate applying to college when you have mental health issues, using brain science to “show up” every day, and other themes.


What are some of the pros and cons of attending the 2024 Conference?


Pros:

  1. You will have a great opportunity to network The IECA Conference is as good as it gets for education consultants. With consultants, college admission representatives, and other education stakeholders all under one roof, you will have a unique opportunity to network with your peers and gain valuable insights and helpful tips that will surely help you grow individually as a consultant and better advise students and parents. 

  2. You can attend several insightful sessions If the 2023 Conference is anything to go by, there will be 80+ led by fellow consultants and other industry insiders who will be insightful. The 2023 edition included sessions led by admissions representatives on crafting better college essays, administering the digital PSAT, AI in admissions, and other relevant topics.


Cons:

  1. It could be difficult for consultants across the U.S. to attend the conference 2024 marks the first year IECA transitions from holding two conferences to a single annual conference. While this means it could be their largest conference yet, it makes it more difficult to attend for consultants who would’ve otherwise been able to choose the more convenient conference based on its proximity.


Our verdict — should you attend the IECA Conference 2024?

If you’re an education consultant, the IECA is a great place to network and gain valuable insights into your profession. You’ll be able to meet with hundreds of your peers and learn (and share!) some best practices of being an education consultant. You’ll also meet college representatives and build important relationships with them. In addition, you’ll be able to learn a lot by participating in just a few of the conference’s many sessions. Even if it’s difficult to get to, we recommend you make the trip to Connecticut!



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 contact@lumiere.education 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: IECA logo

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