Many prospective international students have no idea where to begin the process of looking for and applying to schools abroad. That’s why hiring a study abroad consultant is a great idea.
Study abroad consultants are highly experienced and knowledgeable about the study destinations they specialize in. They know which documents are required, the application process, and can also provide advice on which scholarships to apply to.
But how do you know which study abroad consultant is right for your needs?
Let’s explore what to look for when hiring a study abroad consultant, including their qualifications, accreditation, experience, and communication style. With the right study abroad advisor, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your study abroad goals.
Make Sure that They’re Properly Accredited
Accreditation is an important factor to consider when hiring a study abroad consultant. Accreditation indicates that the consultant meets certain standards of quality and professionalism set by a recognized organization. Some accrediting bodies for study abroad consultants include:
- NAFSA: Association of International Educators
- Forum on Education Abroad
- American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO)
- Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (HERC)
When a consultant is affiliated with a reputable accrediting body, it means they have been vetted and have met certain qualifications and standards. Accreditation with reputable bodies can give you peace of mind that the consultant is knowledgeable, ethical, and capable of providing high-quality service.
However, note that there’s no mandatory accreditation for study abroad consultants. Some countries have official accreditation which can be a good indication of the quality of the service.
It’s also important to understand that accreditation does not guarantee that the consultant is the best fit for you. You should still do your own research and due diligence to make sure that you choose someone who’s suited to your needs.
Take a Look at Their Level of Experience
Experience is another aspect you should consider when hiring a study abroad consultant. An experienced consultant will have excellent understanding of:
- The application process
- The country’s education system
- The type of colleges and universities available
- The documents you need to apply
- The culture and lifestyle of your desired study destination
They’ll also have a good track record of placing students in top-ranked universities and have a network of valuable contacts in the field.
To properly evaluate a consultant’s experience, ask for information about their background, including their qualifications and how long they have been working in the field. Request for references and check online reviews to get an idea of the consultant’s reputation and the experiences of past clients.
An experienced consultant will be able to provide you with valuable guidance and support throughout the application process.
It’s also worth noting that experience does not always guarantee quality of service. Evaluate the consultant’s qualifications and track record to ensure they can meet your needs. You might even opt to go for a relatively new consultant. They might have a fresh approach to help you gain admission to colleges and universities abroad.
Check the Consultant’s Knowledge
In addition to experience and accreditation, it’s also useful to check the consultant’s knowledge. Ideally, the consultant should be knowledgeable about your preferred study destination.
When evaluating a consultant’s knowledge, ask them about their qualifications, background and experience. Ask about the countries and universities they have experience with and the process they follow. Don’t forget to ask about their knowledge of the specific program or field of study you are interested in pursuing.
- A knowledgeable consultant will be able to provide you with:
- Accurate and relevant information about the country and university you are interested in
- Information to help you understand the pros and cons of studying in specific countries
- Guidance on how to identify colleges and universities that are a good fit for you
- Information and guidance on how to select college majors and minors
Note that a consultant may have knowledge in a specific field or country, but not in others. Make sure the consultant you choose has knowledge and expertise in the area you are interested in.
Evaluate Their Service Personalization
While a consultant might have many clients, make sure that they have enough time and commitment to offer you personalized service. Hire someone who’s willing and able to take the time to understand your needs and goals, and tailor their services accordingly.
Ask about the services they provide and how they approach the process. For example, ask about their process for identifying universities that are a good fit for you, or how they help you prepare and review your application. You can also inquire about the level of support and communication you can expect from the consultant throughout the process.
A good consultant will provide one-on-one support, including regular check-ins, and be readily available to answer your questions and concerns. They’ll take the time to understand your unique qualifications, strengths, and weaknesses, and use that information to help you identify great universities.
Bear in mind that personalized service does not always mean that the consultant will only work with you. A great consultant will have multiple clients, but they should still provide personalized service and attention to each one of them.
Finally, be prepared to be an active participant in the process, providing the consultant with accurate and updated information and following their guidance.
Evaluate Their Communication Skills
Another factor to help you choose the right study abroad consultant is the effectiveness of their communication style. Effective communication ensures that you are kept informed and updated on the progress of your application and that any questions or concerns you have are addressed in a timely manner.
Ask about their availability and how they will keep you informed throughout the process. You can also inquire about the methods they use to communicate, such as phone, email, or video call.
A great consultant should be responsive and communicate effectively with you throughout the process. They should provide regular updates on your application status and be available to answer your questions and concerns. They should also be able to provide clear and detailed explanations of the process and requirements.
Note that communication is a two-way street. You should also be prepared to communicate effectively with the consultant. Provide them with accurate and updated information and follow through on any tasks or deadlines they give you. Be prepared to ask questions and express any concerns you have.
Overall, effective communication is key to ensure a smooth and successful study abroad application process. Establish clear expectations and communication channels with the consultant from the start.
Check If They Operate Ethically
When comparing different study abroad consultants, don’t forget to check their adherence to ethics. Ethics refers to the principles of moral conduct and behavior that a consultant should adhere to in order to provide fair and honest services.
Ask about their professional affiliations and accreditation, as well as their policies and procedures. A reputable consultant should be transparent about their fees and services, and have a clear understanding of their responsibilities and limitations. They should not engage in any malpractice such as providing false information, or promising things they cannot deliver.
Note that some consultants may have financial incentives or agreements with certain universities, which could influence their recommendations. An ethical consultant should be transparent about these incentives and disclose them to clients and should not let these incentives influence their recommendations.
Look out for red flags such as:
- Unrealistic guarantees
- Pressure to sign up for their service
- Requiring payment before providing any service
Choose a consultant who is ethical and transparent in their practices to ensure that you are getting the best possible advice and guidance.
It’s important to be aware of your rights as a client. Report any unethical behavior to the appropriate authorities.
Affordability of Their Services
Fees is another crucial deciding factor when hiring a study abroad consultant. The fees charged by consultants can vary widely. Before making a decision on whom to hire, make sure that you understand what services are included in the fee and if it’s reasonable.
Some consultants may charge a flat fee for their services, while others may charge on a per-application or hourly basis. Make sure to ask about any additional fees, such as application fees or translation fees, that may be incurred during the process.
Does that mean that you should go for the most expensive consultant? Not really.
A higher fee does not always guarantee better service, and a lower fee does not always mean a lower level of service. Consider the level of service and expertise you are getting for the fee charged. It’s important to do your research and fully evaluate the consultant’s qualifications, experience, and reputation before making a decision.
Keep in mind that some universities and countries have their own application fees. Such fees are not controlled by the consultant and should be taken into account when evaluating the overall cost of the process.
Your goal is to hire a study abroad consultant whose fees are reasonable and transparent, and who can provide the level of service and expertise you need. But don’t have unrealistic expectations. Go in with a clear understanding of the fee structure and the services included before engaging in any contract or agreement.
Read Their Online Reviews
Finally, don’t forget to check what former clients have to say about the study abroad consultant’s services. Reviews can provide valuable insight into a consultant’s:
- Communication style
- Level of service
- Success rate in placing students in schools abroad
Check online platforms such as Google, Facebook, or specialized websites. You can also ask the consultant for references, and reach out to past clients to ask about their experiences.
But there’s a caveat. Reviews should be taken with a grain of salt – as some may be biased or fake. To form a well-rounded understanding of the consultant’s reputation, read a variety of reviews – both positive and negative.
Keep in mind that a consultant who’s relatively new in the field may not have many reviews, or none at all. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t qualified or reliable. To arrive at a decision, take into account the other factors we’ve discussed.
Final Words on Hiring a Study Abroad Consultant
Take time to do your due diligence before hiring a study abroad consultant. Consider factors such as accreditation, experience, knowledge, personalized service, communication, ethics, fee and reviews.
Once you hire a consultant, you also have to be prepared to be a good client. To get the most out of your study abroad consultant, provide them will all the information they require and follow their guidance.
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