Many families, once they have decided to pursue a boarding education or even just a short term educational experience abroad, turn to a local contact to help them find the right opportunity. Let’s face it, if you are in a foreign country or even a major city, and even if language isn’t an issue, finding a school that is appropriate to your child’s wants and needs is a daunting task. Often times, it is easier to have someone who deals with schools and education opportunities on a daily basis give you a hand. There are two options available to most families: consult an agent or hire an educational consultant. Like any decision to engage someone for advice, paid or otherwise, it is best to do a little homework before making your choice.
Educational Consultants are generally professionals who charge a family a fee for service which usually includes interviews, learning and personality assessments (sometimes a complete psycho educational assessment which may or may not include a diagnosis of a learning difference), a list of recommended schools to match the needs/wants of the student/family, facilitating visits to a short list of schools, and then assistance in preparing for applications, tests, and interviews. Educational Consultants work for a family and therefore are considered to be impartial because they are hired by the family to help them with their needs and they do not accept a commission from the school where a student earns a space. Educational Consultants may belong to a professional organization such as the Independent Educational Consultants Association . IECA consultants are available to help with college advising, day and boarding advising, learning disability advising and therapeutic advising.
Educational Agents are found throughout the world and collect a commission from education providers (schools, colleges, language programs) for each student they place in a school, on a course or program. Like a travel agent, they sell ‘seats’ and can book you on almost any course. In fact, much of the industry has developed out of the sector of the travel industry that caters to those looking for an educational ‘trip’ or experience. If price is your biggest factor in choosing an opportunity, an agent can counsel you on a wide variety of options varying in location, length of stay, and your budget. The biggest distinction between a good agency and a bad one is the training of their workforce. Some agents or agencies specialize in boarding school programs and some rarely place students in boarding schools in favour of less expensive public school programs that do not have the academic requirements of independent schools. Apart from charging much less, public schools often offer shorter and single semester stays as well.
‘Private’ schools on the internet can be deceiving as anyone can design a pretty website or have a catchy slogan, you need first hand knowledge through an educational consultant, or an agent if you cannot visit a school yourself. In looking for a recommendation, try to ask your agent to put you in touch with a representative from within their agency who has visited the school you wish to attend. Agencies that can provide first hand knowledge or testimonial from other clients they have placed in a program are your best bet for finding the right program or school for you. If the agency is collecting a ‘commission’ from a school, then they are in essence working for the school. However, they also see themselves as representing the interests of their student and family ‘clients’ as most educational institutions such as LCS reserve the right to accept or deny their students. Many consultants and agents also help with study permits, guardians, travel arrangements and may continue to represent the parents to the school. Who an agent truly represents in the market (family or school) can be a grey area, therefore it is best to run a few scenarios past your agency to see how ‘independent’ their recommendation of a program might be (for-profit private schools often offer bonuses to agents after a certain number of weeks or programs have been sold).
LCS works with Educational Consultants and Educational Agents from around the world. As we reserve the right to accept or deny all of our students based on their applications (and their understanding of our school), we do not perceive a conflict with paying a commission to an agent for a student we have accepted in an area of the world that a) prefers to seek advice locally, and b) where we do not have an ongoing presence or cannot travel to recruit on a regular basis. We see agents and consultants as an extension of our reach to promote the value of a truly world class Canadian education at LCS.
In our experience, educational consultants and educational agents can be very helpful partners to families (especially those with limited English), in finding and enrolling their children at LCS. In some countries however, e.g. China, we do not pay a commission, we work with Educational Agents who may charge a client family a premium for their work in placing a student at LCS. In this case, they are working very much like an educational consultant, helping and coaching their families to gain a space in a very competitive environment.
Educational Consultant Contacts (I apologize for this list requiring scrolling)
Educational Agency Contacts