What is an educational consultant?

An educational consultant is a professional who assists students and parents—and other interested parties—with the planning and completion of higher education. Consultants help with everything from identifying student strengths and weaknesses, making prospective college and graduate school lists, assisting with time management, to how to prepare for a thesis defense. Some educational consultancies specialize in service to specific student populations such as students with learning disabilities, student athletes, etc. Scholarly Pursuits specializes in service to students of color.

Don’t high school and university guidance counselors provide the same services as educational consultants do, for free?

The short answer is no. Educational consultants provide more personalized services and spend more time with individual students than high school and university guidance counselors. School guidance counselors have a host of responsibilities in addition to advising that take time away from their advising obligations. In fact, a recent study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) revealed that counselors at private schools spend 55 percent of their time providing college counseling while public school counselors are able to devote a mere 22 percent of their time to doing so. The disparity in college advising time between public and private schools is only one of many ways that certain student populations get left behind through systemic educational inequalities. Additionally, high school guidance counselors manage a much larger number of students at a time than do education consultants. 

Educational consultants have the knowledge, time, and resources to get to know each student on a personal level and craft a plan that is right for them. However, it is important to note that educational consultants should never be viewed as a replacement for guidance counselors. Educational consultants along with school guidance counselors, teachers/professors, parents, and the students themselves should all be viewed as complementary elements of a student’s educational success team.

Why should I use an educational consultant?

Applying to and completing college or graduate school is a time-consuming, complex process with many confusing terms, requirements and countless unknown unknowns. This can be especially true for groups such as people of color, immigrants, and low-income families that have been traditionally underserved in the American education system. While basic information about an institution or program can be found online, an internet search will not tell you what type of student will thrive at the institution both academically and socially. The reality is that most information about colleges and universities available on the internet is either written by the institutions themselves or by fanatical or disgruntled current or former students. Conversely, educational consultants are impartial professionals who have spent hundreds of hours visiting universities, connecting with faculty, staff and students at each institution, and gaining a comprehensive, full-scale understanding of the institutions and their populations.

Why does cultural competence matter for students of color?

Let’s say this from the outset: students of color are not a monolith. Each racial and ethnic group has different cultural characteristics that should not be overlooked in the advising process. Cultural factors can influence strengths, experiences, and weaknesses relevant to higher education, and individual- level strengths, experiences, and weaknesses can influence the manifestation of various cultural signifiers that could affect educational decision-making. The intertwining of these issues is why cultural competence is such an important quality for an educational consultant to possess.

Higher education can be a significant tool for upward mobility (i.e., getting ahead in life), which is why proper assistance in educational pursuits has the potential to transform both individual lives and society as a whole. But for many students of color, and low-income students (which—to be clear—are not necessarily the same) who lack the safeguards that come with access to certain privileges and resources, the wrong decisions regarding education can be personally, professionally, and financially devastating. One third of all college students at four-year institutions drop out or transfer. And although the overall racial gap in university enrollment has decreased over time, the racial gap in university graduation rates has not.