What skills do you need to succeed in the education consulting industry?
There are several. First, it’s important to be a quick learner as consultants often face a steep learning curve when they start the job. You need to learn which schools offer which programs, how each school defines itself, which students are competitive at which schools, which students are good fits at which schools, what makes a strong application, and how to guide students to write that strong application. From the get-go, students and families will be looking to you to make those recommendations.
However, you also need to be flexible. You and your student might make a plan for their summer in March only to have it fall through in June because of a canceled SAT test or a family emergency. Or a global pandemic could result in changes to the entire application process! Either way, you have to be able to think on your feet and continue to convey a sense of professionalism and calm to your clients.
You need to be a strong communicator. At the most fundamental level, we are teaching our students how to communicate, either through writing or speaking, so you need to be exceptional at that yourself.
Lastly, customer service is crucial. Students and families want to know that you are going above and beyond for them and working hard to provide the most individualized support possible.
What prior experiences make someone a strong candidate for a job in admissions consulting?
When I review resumes, there are four types of experiences I am looking for: mentorship, academic advising, admissions, and writing/editing. These experiences can happen in various contexts and may overlap with one another; it’s also important to note that successful candidates may not have all of these experiences, but they will likely have at least two.
Mentorship experience is important because it shows me you can create close working relationships with students; I want to know that you are someone who students will trust with their ideas.
Academic advising is related to but slightly different from mentorship. Especially for counselors who want to work with our younger students before they begin the application process, I am looking for someone who has helped students find and pursue opportunities related to their academic interests.
Any experience in a college admissions office is great, because it gives you insight into how the other side of the process works. It gives you a better understanding of what a successful final product should look like.
Because so much of our work is related to writing, we hire strong writers. If you can’t write, you certainly won’t be able to edit. Prior editing experience, whether it is formal or informal, is even better! It makes me even more confident in your ability to work well with our students’ essays.
What piece of advice would you give to someone considering a position in the admissions consulting industry?
Reflect on and understand the importance of your work. Our job has more far-reaching consequences than just where a student goes to college. We are working with students at a stressful and formative time in their lives. Though the application’s primary role is to convey who the student is to the admissions officer, writing the application also plays a role in creating the student’s understanding of themselves. As consultants, it is our job to guide students through the process of self-reflection to not only ensure high-quality essays, but to also ensure that students leave the process more aware of who they are, their strengths, and what they have to offer to a college community.