Work at Home: Profile of College Consultant Francine Schwartz
Francine Schwartz is a woman with a mission: to help high school students and their families find and apply to colleges that are the right fit for them.
Ms. Schwartz has been in the college consulting business for the past five years. The first three years, she worked as a college consultant for a local high school. When funding for that position ended, Ms. Schwartz did some research and decided to start her own business as a college consultant from a home office. As a college search guide and mentor, she assists families with the entire college search process from learning about careers and majors, to navigating the complex financial aid and scholarship process. Her work with families helps them feel less overwhelmed and helps empower the students she works with to be ready for the next step after high school. Her business offers packages that are customized to families needs. She offers flexible hours and services to meet her client's busy schedules. Ms. Schwartz provides one on one counseling in person, via email, and audio or video.
Ms. Schwartz is 58 years old, lives in Connecticut with her husband, and has three children. Her oldest daughter is 28, lives in New York City and is an OB/GYN resident, her son is 27 and lives in Connecticut and works part-time, and her youngest daughter is 21 and is a college senior in Washington, D.C., majoring in Environmental Studies/International Relations.
Ms. Schwartz has a B.A. in Psychology from Pennsylvania State University, an M.A. in Educational Psychology and Counseling from the University of Kentucky, and a Sixth Year Diploma in School Counseling from the University of Connecticut. She has been an educational and counseling professional for over 35 years. In Lexington, Kentucky, she began her career at the Lexington Community College as the Co-Director of Financial Aid, an Assistant Professor, and Coordinator of the Program for Students with Disabilities. After moving to Kalamazoo, Michigan, she worked for an Intermediate School District developing and managing a work/education council for adults and children with developmental disabilities. She also worked as a case manager in this position. Then, for 14 years, she worked at Family and Youth Services as a foster care and adoption professional. Upon moving to New Jersey, Ms. Schwartz started a private counseling practice with couples. Once arriving in Connecticut, Ms. Schwartz obtained her real estate license and worked as a real estate agent for a time, before obtaining her position as a College Consultant at the Norwich Free Academy in 2007. She has run her college counseling business from her home since 2010.
Ms. Schwartz feels the pros of running this type of business are that she has been able to create and run a business that she is truly passionate about. Advocating for students and helping them achieve their dreams is extremely fulfilling for her. She constantly learns new things from colleagues, workshops, books, and classes which help the students and families with whom she works. She can set her own hours and work schedule. And she has a home office in the basement of her house where she can access her computer and also meet with clients.
The cons of the college consulting business are that there is not a guaranteed income stream and no benefits. She finds herself working nights and weekends, which she doesn't mind, but points out that this could be difficult for someone with younger children. As an entrepreneur, she finds herself responsible for every aspect of her business which includes anything from solving information technology problems to managing finances. And at least initially, she has spent a lot of time working on sales and marketing her business to generate clients. Another con is that it takes some time to get to a full slate of clients so the business can take a few years to reach its full potential financially.
Once a college consultant has a full caseload of students and families, it is possible for them to make $40,000 to $60,000 per year. This does take time and is why being able to market the business on an ongoing basis is essential. Once clients start to sign on, word of mouth helps a great deal with advertising.
Advice to Future College Consultants
Ms. Schwartz suggests becoming a member of one or both the Independent Educational Consultants and The Higher Education Consultants Association. Both of these organizations offer help and support for college consultants, but a person must be approved to join. Membership requirements include education and professional experience. The qualifications are listed on each organizations website. Families who work with individuals who are members of these organizations are assured quality counseling services by professionals who must abide by a code of ethics. Although it may seem daunting to join these organizations, the resources and support available through them can be invaluable. Both provide extensive resources through professional development conferences, webinars, and tours.
For those wishing to go the educational route, online certifications in college consulting are available online through UC Irvine and UCLA. Information on both university programs can be found online at the university websites.
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