What Value Does an Education Consultant Actually Add?
This was a question that recently came across my desk.
A perfectly reasonable and obvious question that I never thought needed answering. But then again, I live in the world of education consulting.
“We can pretty much do an internet search and find a school ourselves.”
While the internet is an obvious and helpful starting point for a school search, families will eventually need a deeper understanding of what each school is really about. First, they will have to extrapolate meaning from school websites which begin to look and sound alike.
Likewise, they need to wade through the education lingo of today such as “differentiated instruction…research-based curriculum…transformational learning experience…whole child," etc. Ultimately, families need to know what is actually going on in each school and how is it different from what all the other programs and schools claim to be offering.
An education consultant will have a deep knowledge of each school and schools in general—education consultants speak school. She will understand each school’s unique history, philosophy, academics, facilities and extra-curriculars.
For example, she will know if the new Head of School has a mandate for change or is more likely to maintain the status quo. She knows the kind of student who thrives there.
Understanding the unique culture of each school, she helps families tailor communication with Admissions in a way that is authentic and appealing. Advocating on behalf of the family, she ensures that applications are given full consideration. An education consultant helps families truly get to know each school and supports their application so that they can make a great school match for their child.
In the case of an internet search for a public school, US families are confronted with statistics and data that are unlikely to convey much meaning without proper analysis. What is behind the numbers? What are the key indicators of a strong program? Is it small class size? Teachers with multiple advanced degrees? High “spend” per student?
For example, while the investment per student in one district may be higher than in another district, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the second district should be eliminated from consideration. Both districts may be getting the same great results. Or perhaps the AP results in a particular district look lackluster and this causes concern. This may be because the district puts up few barriers to enrollment in AP classes and encourages all students to challenge themselves. So, while not as many students will be highly successful, bringing down the overall score, the family may feel more at home in a school district with a “can do” attitude.
The internet is a terrific resource, but of limited help without a knowledgeable guide to take families beyond website content.
Here’s what Bennett expects from our education consultants:
· Empathy: ability to listen and thoroughly understand a family’s unique perspective and situation. Many of our consultants have relocated multiple times, domestically or as expats, and they understand the challenges and stress of finding a new school for one’s children.
· Experience in the education field: teachers, administrators, admissions personnel, counselors and the like
· Expertise: knowledge of different education systems, curricula and individual schools; ease with leading a family through a school search, admissions and registrations processes
· Ability to problem-solve; finding the right fit school for a child is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle; the plan needs to work for now and later
· Guidance: someone who will guide a family and be truly consultative
Not to toot our own horn, but if you’re considering engaging an education consultant for yourself or an employee, this list may help you find who you’re looking for!
Sara R. Schmidt is the Director of Business Development & Client Relations, Co-Director of Private Client Services and a Senior Education Consultant for Bennett International, based in Seattle. As a member of an internationally mobile family, Sara has navigated the school search process for her own children on three continents, finding the right fit for them in public, private and international schools. She is very familiar, therefore, with the anxieties and hurdles faced by parents relocating their children around the world, and her work is informed by her own extensive experience. Sara serves as Trustee and was President of the Bellevue Schools Foundation in Bellevue, WA, and is a member of Pacific Northwest Relocation Council and Bay Area Mobility Management. She holds a B.A. Ed., Summa Cum Laude, from Wheaton College and an M.A. in Public Administration from Harvard Kennedy School and is also fluent in Spanish.
Over the years, Bennett International Education Consultancy has worked with hundreds of corporations across the globe, many of them Fortune 500 companies, providing domestic and international school advisement & placement services - preschool through university - to the dependents of relocating employees. In addition to education placement, our team provides customized consulting for corporations with a range of education issues: education policy writing & benchmarking, tuition studies, group move advisement & planning, and remote education solutions.