Expertly Navigating a Free Consultation
Updated: Mar 24
*Note: This blog will focus predominantly on college advising consultations, but the content is applicable to other consultations as well.
What is a Free Consultation?
At its core, a free consultation is the first meeting between a consultant and a potential client considering their services. More specifically, a free consultation about college advising serves two primary purposes:
It provides an opportunity for us to present our services, establish our expertise, understand the needs of the student, and assess if we can meet those needs.
It also helps students and families learn more about the services that we offer, what those services might look like in practice, assess if we can meet a student's needs, and ultimately decide if we would be a good fit to work with the student.
At the end of the consultation, all parties should feel confident that by working together, the college search can be less stressful, more meaningful, and focused on the best future for the student. This might not happen immediately and ethical advisors aren't looking for an on-the-spot committal. We encourage all families to take the time to talk it over and make the best decision for their situation.
When Should I Sign Up?
Students and families operate on varying timelines, and some might be ready for a free consultation much earlier than others.
How early is too early? For the college search process, we recommend utilizing the free consultation no earlier than 9th grade.
How late is too late? It's never too late for a free consultation, but students beginning later in the process will find themselves with fewer opportunities and more looming deadlines.
Most families should begin working with a college advisor in 11th grade, but a particularly engaged student can certainly start in 10th grade or earlier.
How Should I Prepare?
The best way to prepare for a free consultation is a mix of research and self-reflection. Before starting a consultation, make sure that you have taken the time to look at our website, FAQ, services, and blog. While we'll gladly answer any questions, be sure to explore our website content for answers to common questions, in order to best utilize the time in our consultation.
It is important to spend some time reflecting on what your goals and needs are. The consultation will be more productive if you have taken the time to assess where you are in the process, what you're looking for, and how we might be able to help. It's perfectly fine if you don't know the answers to these questions. Our job is to be the expert. We'll help you figure out these answers if you're feeling a little overwhelmed or lost. Although it might seem like a long time, 30 minutes will pass very quickly and we want to make the most of it.
What Should I Ask?
The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) offers a great list of questions to ask when hiring an independent educational consultant.
Outside of that list, students and families should really consider their fit with the college advisor. Much like finding a good fit for college, a good fit with a college advisor can make all the difference in easing the stress and burden of the process. A college advisor should empower you to feel comfortable and confident, and remind you that the college search can be a fulfilling and fun journey of self-discovery.
How Should I Follow Up?
Just like in the college search process, follow-up is very important (for both parties!). After we finish a consultation, we always reach out to the student and family to discuss next steps, provide a breakdown of prices/services, and thank them for their time. We also understand that people live busy lives and that they might not be able to reply to our follow-up immediately. That being said, out of respect for both parties and other students, we do expect some sort of response within a reasonable amount of time. If you have no interest, that's totally fine, but letting us know helps to free our time to help other students. If you are interested, then the sooner we know, the sooner we can begin to start helping you through the process. We look forward to being in touch!
With all my support,
Independent College Counselor
Co-Founder of Virtual College Counselors