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Professionalism is Critical in the College Counseling Profession

The world of college admissions made headlines last week as the story of the college admissions scam set up by an unscrupulous independent college counselor from California hit the news. Many wealthy parents paid him to guarantee admissions to elite colleges. As I looked at William Rick Singer’s background and credentials, I noticed one thing, he was not a professional IEC.

William Rick Singer did not have a membership in the higher education organizations such as WACAC or NACAC. He was not a member of professional counseling organizations such as IECA , HECA or NCAG. He certainly was not a Certified Educational Planner (CEP). This is a credential conferred upon only the professionals in educational counseling (both in schools, non-profit organizations and private practices) with demonstrated ethics and experience. If he had joined any of these organizations, and become involved in the organizations, he would have had a clear understanding of the standards of the profession of college counseling, and the ethics he should be following.

The profession of college counseling is a relatively young profession. I have watched this profession evolve from a small group of people, to a profession of many thousands. People in the profession of college counseling have always placed a high priority on ethics and professional development.

IECA (Independent Educational Consulting Association) was founded in 1976 to provide information to families seeking professionals and provide standards and ethics to adhere to. In 1997 together with a group of visionary consultants, we started HECA (Higher Education Consultants Association). HECA started with and always focuses on the need to train new and experienced college consultants in ethics, standards and provide professional development training.

College affordability and college counseling are the focus of another professional organization, NCAG (National College Advocacy Group). Professionals on both the financial and the academic side of the desk come together to support families as they navigate both college planning and funding.

Steven Antonoff, one of the pioneers in educational consulting, help found the American Institute of Certified Educational Planners (AICEP) over twenty years ago, to provide highly qualified and experienced educational consultants a process for them to become a Certified Educational Planner (CEP). The certification process is extensive and rigorous. Only the most experienced and best consultants qualify to become a CEP. This certification gives families confidence in the professional they were working with, knowing high standards and ethics are being upheld by the professional they entrust their children to.

This commitment to professional development is an integral part of GuidedPath’s mission. I recognized in the very beginning the role professional development has for educational advisors at any experience level- from beginning to seasoned counselors. It is our job, as professionals providing expertise, to continually learn and grow, and be trained in ethics and standards. If you don’t learn the ethics and standards in the beginning as a counselor, you are already on the wrong path.


Together, we need to let our students, parents and society know college admissions counseling is a calling, a sacred trust, and not one we will sell to the highest bidder.

Cyndy mcdonald, pps/ma

GuidedPath shows that commitment to professional development through our Professional Development Interview series, through the Best Practices webinars and interviews, and through our GuidedPath Academy. The GuidedPath Academy is geared toward providing organizations, regardless of their age or size, with a solid foundation in ethics, standards and best practices.

Professionally I have shown my commitment to professional development through hours of volunteering for schools and professional organizations. I would urge any educational professional to seek opportunities to contribute. Look for college nights in your community, local scholarship fund raisers. Volunteer to help out at a regional counselor conference or meeting. Join a professional organization. Attend one of the professional conferences being held over the next few months. See one of our several recent blogs on professional development opportunities in 2019: National Conference dates, IEC focused professional development and Summer Institutes.

Together, we need to let our students, parents and society know college admissions counseling is a calling, a sacred trust, and not one we will sell to the highest bidder. That is our commitment. I know it is yours too.

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