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Top 10 Reasons to Use an Independent Education Counselor, or IEC

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

Founder and Head Guidance Coach Lauren Joyce Hensel highlights the Top 10 reasons there is value in using an ethical Independent Education Consultant for the university application process.

Students sit around a computer researching colleges
High School College Counselors and IECs are very different

1. IECs have qualifications.

To gain membership in the Independent Education Consultants Association (IECA) and International Association of College Admission Counselors (International ACAC), LAUNCH has to meet stringent guidelines. Qualifications for IECA membership include: a bachelor’s (associate member) or master’s degree (professional), at least three years of admissions counseling experience, professional references, and experience working with students. Members must also have a commitment to continuing education and professional development.

International ACAC requires members to have a recommendation from a current ACAC member and clear outlines of one's business expectations.

LAUNCH is currently an Associate Member of the IECA and a proud member of the International ACAC.

Two women posing in front of Universiteit Leiden, The Hague
Lauren and Sara visiting Leiden University College

2. IECs visit schools regularly.

Members of the IECA continually visit colleges and universities to increase their understanding of campuses and educational opportunities for students. Members average 25 visits per year in their area of specialization. During a visit, LAUNCH team education counselors meet with members of the admissions teams to talk about what kind of student would fit in well at the institution. We are given a thorough tour of campus, an overview of the school curriculums, student clubs, social life, faculty member highlights, research opportunities and internships, career centers, and more. We meet with and talk to current students to understand their experiences and get their viewpoints about the institution as a whole. These visits help us to further make recommendations to our clients about where their interests and opportunities align to find the best fit for them.

3. IECs specialize in a focus.

When joining the IECA, members must pick one or two specializations (Graduate Programs, Therapeutic Programs, International, Learning Disabilities, College and School) to better serve students and their families. LAUNCH specializes in serving third-culture families and student-athletes in the "College and School" niche. To serve as many students as possible, we continuously build our referral network for additional services that lie outside our expertise. All LAUNCH referrals match our values and approach to school advice and university guidance.

4. Independent Education Counselors advocate for students.

IECA members operate independently. They are not affiliated with any school or university, which means their sole purpose is to advocate for students by learning about the environment that is best suited to the needs of the student. They help students sift through the overwhelming amount of information available by keeping up to date on changing trends, policies, deadlines, and more. We help research to save families time and guide them on where to allocate their time.

5. IECs provide individualized attention.

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommends secondary school counselors have a student load of 250:1. However, the national average in America is 408:1 per the most recent study completed in 2023 (Rakestraw, Kathleen). Furthermore, a recent survey by the National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC) found that counselors typically only dedicate 30% of their time to college counseling, which averages out to 38 minutes per student. This means many students and families are left to navigate the ever-changing college admissions process alone or with misinformation. At LAUNCH, we work with no more than 10 students per graduating class, which means families receive in-depth guidance with a personalized and holistic approach to the university admission process.

2 college counselors with computers discussing best colleges for a student
Researching Schools for a good student fit

6. IECs utilize an unbiased approach.

To maintain an ethical approach to school and university guidance, IECA members objectively get to know a student, their values, likes and dislikes, ambitions, and more so they can delve deep into meaningful research. Our goal is to find multiple best-fit options, as typically students will find more than one throughout the school search process. We rely on a combination of facts, historical knowledge, student reviews, campus tours, alumni earnings, and more to provide a well-rounded view of a school. This helps us to understand if our clients will fit with the culture and community of campus.

7. IECs follow sound, ethical standards.

The leading organizations for Independent Education Counselors (IECA and HECA) provide ethical guidelines for all their members. In addition, the International ACAC requires members to adhere to NACAC’s stringent and robust ethical and social responsibility guidelines. Breaking these guidelines can have severe repercussions and result in professional consequences from any of these organizations.

8. IECs offer advice, not guarantees.

IECs cannot guarantee acceptance into any school, college, or university. As a result, IECs offer unbiased advice and structured guidance which lead to a strong admissions strategy. They work with families to disseminate false or inaccurate information about schools, programs, organizations, and professionals. At the end of the day, a client is responsible for making their final choices, but at LAUNCH we aim to create increased opportunities through sound, competent and informed advice and a trusting relationship with our clients.

9. IECs encourage independence.

All IECA members encourage students and families to be active participants in their school search process. Through a personalized process, IECs can broaden perspectives and opportunities, discuss possibilities in a meaningful way, and encourage students to reflect deeply upon their priorities, wants, and needs regarding a school. By working with a reduced client load at LAUNCH, we are able to actively encourage personal discovery throughout the entire school application process.

10. IECs are your family’s partner in the process.

An IEC’s personalized approach allows them to become partners with students and their families. At LAUNCH, we want families to celebrate their milestones with us throughout the process and beyond. We want them to remember us as a safe place where they were able to launch their future. To start your partnership with LAUNCH, apply online at and remember to #dreamlaunchsoar!


College Counselor poses in a park
LAUNCH founder, Lauren Joyce Hensel

About the Author

Lauren Joyce Hensel is the Founder of LAUNCH Education Advisors. She has 15 years of College Admissions experience and a Master's Degree in Public Policy from the Illinois Institute of Technology. As a former D1 collegiate volleyball player and coach, she has a passion for college athletics and recruiting. Lauren currently resides in Chicago, Illinois with her family.



1. Rakestraw, Kathleen. 2023. Student-to-School Counselor Ratios in the United States. Retrieved from []

2. National Association for College Admission Counseling. Counseling and College Counseling in America's High Schools. Retrieved from []

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