Category Archives: College admissions scandal

Independent Educational Consultants Should be Licensed

No segment of our society is more appalled by the damage done to the reputation of the college admissions consulting field by recent scandals than those of us who have dedicated our professional lives to it. Independent Educational Consultants (IEC’S), also known as College Admissions Consultants, have had a shadow cast upon us by bad actors who have engaged in illegal conduct. Most college consultants are ethical, qualified experts upon whom students and families can rely for valuable service throughout the stressful and complex admissions process.

When the Varsity Blues scandal was reported a few months ago, we all saw an example of the worst that can happen in our profession. Federal indictments were issued against 53 individuals who participated in a scheme masterminded by an unethical consultant and abetted by his clients and a few college insiders. They gamed the system so that selective and highly selective institutions, from which the students might otherwise have been rejected, were defrauded into admitting them. Although such incidents are extremely rare, IEC’s have been in a defensive posture since the story broke.

Then, in July, just months after the news about Varsity Blues, ProPublica reported that another fraudulent scheme had been identified in Chicago. Parents, working with unethical IEC’s and other advisors, deluded public agencies and colleges in order to receive need-based scholarships to which they were not entitled. They accomplished this by assigning legal guardianship of their children late in high school to a relative or friend. “The new guardianship status then allowed the students to declare themselves financially independent of their families so they could qualify for federal, state and university aid.” according to the ProPublica article that broke the story.

There are two salient facts about higher education in 2019. First, admission to selective and College campushighly selective institutions is extremely competitive, with less than 15 percent of applicants being accepted at the best-known schools.  Second, tuition and fees are so high that they severely stress the budgets of many families who don’t qualify for need-based aid and cause many to go deeply into debt.

These conditions don’t come close to justifying the conduct noted above, but the temptation for unscrupulous college consultants and their clients to cut corners is obviously there. So, as a society, how can we avert a surge in such conduct in the future? The best answer to this question seems obvious. We should mandate the licensing of IEC’s!

Families need a standard to trust

Families need to trust in the integrity and expertise of IEC’s to guide them successfully through the maze of the admissions process. Parents will pay reasonable fees for guidance during this important transitional phase in their child’s education. They have a right to feel secure about the ethics and expertise of their chosen consultant.

Unfortunately, the status quo in the IEC field is that anyone, anywhere can set up a website, print business cards and brochures, and recruit clients for college admissions and admission-related services. It doesn’t matter if their credentials and experience are inappropriate. It only matters that they can convince prospective clients that they’re qualified.

Let’s put this in perspective. Below in Table A is a sample list of professions that require a license to be issued directly or indirectly by a public agency in order for individuals to offer their services to the public.

Table A: Professions Requiring a License in Order to Practice
(Sample List)

Medical Doctor           Building Contractor           Public Accountant
Registered Nurse       Cosmetologist                     Practical Nurse
Pharmacist                  Barbers                                Physical Therapist
Attorney                       Electrician                           HVAC Mechanic
Dentist                         Plumbers                             Tractor-Trailer Driver
Teacher                       Clinical Psychologist           Real Estate Broker/Agent
Veterinarian                Paralegal                              Financial Advisor/Stockbroker
Land Surveyor            Medical Lab Technician     Hairdresser
Civil Engineer              Massage Therapist             Home Inspectors/Engineer
Manicurist                   Pipefitter/Steamfitter         Pharmacy Technician
Acupuncturist             Radiologic Technician         Occupational Therapist
School Bus Driver      Chiropractor                         Dental Hygienist/Assistant
Court Reporter           Private Detective                  Veterinary Technician

Professions requiring a license include some that you interact with frequently and others most people need only rarely, if ever. Whenever you may need them, you’re safe to assume that people in these professions are qualified by the fact that they’ve met the requirements to be licensed. According to a study conducted by The Brookings Institute, nearly 30 percent of people now working in the United States require a license in order to perform their jobs.

Look for professional memberships

Families are forced to use other means to assess the ethics and qualifications of an IEC in the absence of a license. Membership in one or more of the three largest professional associations is an important indicator. These are the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC), the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA), and the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA). These associations are communities of scrupulous IEC professionals who have established ethical standards that members must practice. Details can be found here: NACAC, IECA, HECA.

Since membership in these associations is voluntary, and IECs can legally work without being part of any organization offering oversight, we reiterate that IEC’s should require a license. Since most IEC’s operate in multiple states through the Internet, a Federal agency, in consultation with the organizations listed above, is the most appropriate licensor. At the very least, state-by-state licensure would let consumers know that the individual has met certain criteria.

In a future post, we’ll outline the steps that can be taken by interested parties to promote a licensing requirement for IEC’s along the lines of the requirements for financial advisors.

Colleges and universities are reexamining their current admissions practices to remedy flaws that make them susceptible to fraud. Meanwhile, our focus at Klaar College Consulting is to make you, as parents and students, fully aware of the strict ethics of our approach to college admissions consulting services and our qualifications to help you succeed in accomplishing your educational goals.

My College Expertise is Earned

Charlotte Klaar, PhD

Parents don’t hire me because I promise to get their students into prestigious schools.  In fact, the only promise I make is to help students find the best school for his or her needs – academically, socially and financially.  And, since entering this profession in 1995, I’ve helped hundreds of kids get accepted and graduate from college.

One student I worked with was Gabe, an intelligent young man with learning differences.

He had been attending a music preparatory program at a respected college in his hometown.  The college wanted him as an undergraduate student, and he wanted to go there to be close to home.  He was concerned about moving out of his comfort zone. However, his parents wanted him to think bigger and grow musically.  I showed him other music programs and how they didn’t need to be far away.

 “He didn’t want a large school or to be too far from home, she helped direct him to the right program. He ended up at Catholic University of America.  It wasn’t his first choice, but when he did the first piano audition they called him, and got him scholarships,” said his Mom.

How did that work out for Gabe?

“Gabe graduated last year and is doing his Masters in Piano Performance, also at CUA, so she (Dr. Klaar) really helped him make the best choice for him (perfect school size, location, great piano teachers…). He felt comfortable enough to not apply for any support and found his own way of studying and made it through college successfully (Cum Laude and Dean’s list seven semesters out of eight!)” Gabe’s Mom reported recently.

College Made Simple

Get a jumpstart on your college app and essay with one of these “College Simplified Summer Camps!”

Hearing that brought tears to my eyes.  That’s why I’m passionate about what I do. I understand the importance of taking the time to get to know students and their families well enough to create a college career path for each student’s unique goals and strengths.

Let’s face it, the whole college admissions process can stressful for parents and kids. One of the roles I play is to act as a buffer between you and your student.

I use a friendly but no-nonsense, no-excuses style to work with students to help make the college search, application and essay process a delightful adventure of self-discovery and growth. Along the way, I help students learn to make more informed decisions and to own the process.

That’s why students trust me, respect my knowledge and experience and work hard to meet their assignments and deadlines.

Benefit from Dr. Klaar’s expertise at the “College Simplified Summer Camps”  in Charlotte, NC, Fort Mill, SC and Frederick, MD, in June and July 2019!

My knowledge and experience is hard-earned; I belong to all of the top College Consultant professional organizations, and was the third college consultant to be honored with the Steven R. Antonoff Award for Professional Achievement at the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) Spring Conference in Boston, MA in 2016.

The award was created to recognize an IECA professional who has distinguished him or herself by their outstanding contributions to the profession of independent educational  consulting.

I also keep my professional knowledge up-to-date by visiting colleges nationwide, attending conferences and keeping up on changes in this profession.

So, if a college consultant promises to get your child into a certain college, or a top-ranked college, take a good look at their professional background.  The actions taken by the educational consultant at the center of the Varsity Blues case are in direct contrast to IECAHECA, and NACAC, which specifically bar admission guarantees and emphasize truthful, accurate application materials that are the student’s own work.

Every college is a good college for some students, and what a student does once they get to college is far more important than the college name on the diploma.

My professional memberships:

  • Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA)
  • Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA)
  • National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)
  • American Institute of Certified Educational Planners
  • Southern Association for College Admission Counseling
  • National College Advocacy Group (NCAG)
  • National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC)
  • York County Chamber of Commerce

Benefit from Dr. Klaar’s expertise at the “College Simplified Summer Camps”  in Charlotte, NC, Fort Mill, SC and Frederick, MD, in June and July 2019!

 Other professional qualifications

I hold a BA in liberal studies from the University of the State of New York, a teaching certificate from William Paterson University, a MS in interdisciplinary science studies from Johns Hopkins University, and a PhD in general psychology from Capella University. My graduate work was focused in the area of family psychology and I’m well-versed in the issues facing teens and their parents.

For resources to help students with Autism, visit this page of our website.

College scandal is damaging in so many ways!

This week’s events surrounding college admissions saddens me greatly. Not only because of the illegality of it, but also because of college cheating scandal the message it sent to the multitude of highly qualified students who have applied to their schools of choice and were denied without being given a valid reason.

Frankly, I have never thought that “We got too many qualified applicants” was enough of a response.  There are so many aspects of this situation that it is hard to hone in on just a few. Let me try.

The perpetrator was not a member of any of the recognized professional organizations who would have policed his activities. Each of the organizations to which I belong have issued statements of condemnation:

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)  statement says: “Admission and counseling professionals understand and have valued ethical behavior as stated in our Code of Ethics and Professional Practices for well over 80 years,” said Stefanie Niles, NACAC president and vice president for enrollment and communications at Ohio Wesleyan University. “We strive to ensure that all students are treated equitably throughout the process,”  he added.

The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and its members are committed to helping families find the most appropriate college for their students and assist families in navigating the application process.

IECA members are professionals who understand and adhere to high ethical standards and follow a comprehensive code of ethics in all their interactions with clients and institutions. They are compensated by and work exclusively on behalf of their client families.

The Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA)  similarly discussed the code of ethics which members must uphold. It adds: As the only network of independent educational consultants focused exclusively on supporting high school students in their search for the right fit college, HECA members create greater access to opportunity and change lives.

What is the message being sent to young people in these cases?  I am most concerned by the message that these parents have given their children is that:

  • The student is not worthy without cheating!Cheating scandals at colleges
  • That unless the student attends a prestigious school, the parent is disappointed in them.
  • Cheating is OK.
  • You can get anything you want by lying and paying for it no matter what it does to others.
  • Hard work does not matter; only privilege matters.

These are all terrible, harmful messages.

My advice to parents, based on my more than two decades of experience as a Certified Educational Planner are:

1. When choosing an educational consultant, be sure to check the person’s membership and standing in these organizations. Unaffiliated consultants are neither vetted nor monitored.

2.  Parents don’t get your hands into all the things your students produce.  When you do that, you’re undermining the confidence of your child. You’re sending the message: “Without me, you cannot be successful.”

3.  Ignore whatever hype is around you and do what is best for your student.

4.  Really hear what your student is saying about the kind of future he or she wants.

5.  Applaud every success and acknowledge every failure. Without the latter, the former never happens. Don’t rescue your student! He or she must learn how to clean up his own messes and learn that there are consequences to her actions or inactions. If you are always in the middle, they have someone to blame other than themselves!

6.  Acknowledge that life isn’t fair.

Why hire a genuine college professional:

Parents hire me so that their student will have the time to develop the self-awareness they need to complete the college search and application process. With my professional guidance they’ll do so in a planned and deliberative manner.

In much the same way as baking a cake, it cannot be rushed and takes more than the 15 – 30 minutes that students get in their high schools to work through the myriad of issues.

I spend between 20 and 30 hours working with or on behalf of each of my students over the course of about 18 months.

I’ve guided hundreds of students to college success, and here’s what they say:

PROUD PARENTS OF A.R., BOSTON UNIVERSITY ’21“The college application process can be as confusing and daunting to the student as is it for the parents. From the first consultation Ms. Klaar put all of us at ease. She dug in deep to help our son discover exactly what he wanted from his college experience and his career goals. 

“She guided him in ways that we didn’t even know existed that lead him to a 4 year FULL scholarship. Ms. Klaar works directly with the student so they take ownership of their journey. As parents we highly recommend the services of Klaar College Consulting.”
If you have any questions on this topic, please call me at 803-487-9777 or email [email protected]