Is It Worth Using a Consultant?

Updated May 26, 2016 |
Is It Worth Using a Consultant?
Here are the reasons why using the services of a professional educational consultant is worth it.

Most of us parents are fairly adept at tackling the various projects which life seems to put in front of us. Whether finding an apartment or purchasing a home or dealing with medical issues or writing a will, we all do our research, sift through the various options and make our choice. That's a pretty standard modus operandi, right? Well, obviously I have simplified things a bit because I left out the consultation we all had with experts in just about every case. The doctors explained the choices we had for the medical issues and prescribed a course of treatment. Our trusted attorney reviewed the lease agreements and purchase agreements for our real estate transactions so that we didn't run into problems in the months and years ahead. We just used those experts as a matter of course. This video is a bit dramatic but it makes my point: you need expert help choosing a private school just as you need expert help for other major decisions.

But we don't need any experts to help us choose the right private school for our child, do we? We can do all this ourselves, right? Wrong! I know because we thought we could choose the right school for our very talented eldest daughter who had the perfect academic transcripts, the sports and the extracurricular activities. This would be a cake walk. Just visit a couple of schools, apply and that was all there was to it. Our mistake was a common one. Two of the three boarding schools were extremely competitive. They wait-listed our daughter. The one safe school which was still a very good school and met all of our requirements accepted our daughter. We gambled. We did not consult with an expert. Lesson learned. When  it came time to find a school for daughter number 2, we hired a consultant, the late Hugh Silk. He looked at the list of schools we had in mind, furrowed his brow very slightly and suggested some other schools. Daughter number two was accepted at all three schools. I rest my case.

Here are 5 reasons why you ought to consider using a consultant to help you find the right school for your child.

1.  Consultants know their schools.

Why is this important? After all, the internet gives you everything you need to know about schools, right? Not exactly. Don't forget that a school's web site presents the school's story exactly as the school wants it told. The videos are compelling. The photos are gorgeous. And the testimonials are glowing. As they should be. However, an educational consultant works for you. Not the school. She is paid by you. Not the school. She will point out features and aspects of a school's program which you perhaps have not thought of. Why is that? Because she is a professional. Just like an attorney will point out the pluses and minuses in a contract, an educational consultant can and will point out the advantages and disadvantages of a particular school as they relate to your child. An educational consultant knows you and knows your child. Here is a short video from The Blake School, Minneapolis which illustrates the kind of outcome you and your consultant are seeking.

2.  Consultants have contacts at schools.

Educational consultants visit schools. They make a point of keeping their networks current. As a result they can get answers to questions which you may or may not think about asking. They will know that a certain school has just been made an IB school and what that means and says about the school's programs. They will know that the long time English department head has retired and that some exciting, new programs are in the works. That means that an educational consultant can get answers to your questions because they know who to ask and what to ask. An educational consultant's professional network is her stock in trade and is one of several reasons why she is worth the fee she charges.

3.  Consultants keep up with goings on in their schools.

Just as they do with contacts educational consultants make a point of staying current with the goings on and activities in their schools. When we use the phrase "their schools", obviously a consultant has a group of 50-100 schools which he knows extremely well. He visits them regularly, speaks to the staff and has a finger on the pulse of things. Beyond that circle  of schools he has the requisite contacts to find out about and inform you in detail about schools just about anywhere. Private schools are not the same as public schools. Your educational consultant is focused tightly on a very select group of schools catering to less than 9% of students nationwide. Perhaps you are an expat looking for a school which follows the curriculum your children had back home. Here is a brief video showing what you might expect to find at The British School in Chicago.

4.  Consultants have years of experience dealing with families.

An educational consultant has years of experience dealing with families. He is attuned to your needs and requirements. Because you are hiring him and paying his fee, he is very much aware of the fact that he is working for you. He has no other agenda except to help you find the best schools for your child. He also understands how much is at stake and how emotional a decision this is for all concerned. He is sensitive to your concerns about getting the right fit. He understands how important it is to find a school in which your child will thrive and build a solid future. Your child is unique. He will get to know you and your needs before making any recommendations.

5.  Consultants will save you much time and effort. 

Of course, you have the ability to do a consultant's job. But it will take considerable time and effort. And do you really have the expertise to do the job? Truthfully you can do most of the work and find most of the answers. But like writing a will, wouldn't you want to have an expert, i.e., an attorney, review what you have drafted? An educational consultant will point out things you haven't thought of. He will caution you against simple mistakes such as only applying to very competitive schools. A professional educational consultant will save you much time and effort.

The point of this article has been to make you understand that while you most certainly can find private schools for your child on your own, there are distinct advantages in hiring an educational consultant to do all the heavy lifting for you.

Questions? You may contact me on Twitter. @privateschl

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Here you will find resources and tools to aid in your search and evaluation of private schools. Explore the ranking system and read what schools have to say about it. Learn more about the most important questions to ask and how an education consultant can get answers. Use our checklists to help compare school administration, curriculum and more.