How to Find a Good Education Consultant
As one of the leading providers of education consultancy in the UK, parents and students rely on Simply Learning Tuition’s team of education consultants for advice and guidance along every step of their education. But what are education consultants, why might you want to use them, and what should you look for in a good one?
What is an Education Consultant?
Unlike academic tutoring, which is well understood and relatively commonplace, many of the parents and students who use our education consultancy services are doing so for the first time. Many of the parents and students we speak to are unfamiliar with education consultants and aren’t aware of how they can help with school or university placements. Initial concerns about an unfamiliar process that requires parents to trust us with such personal, complicated and significant decisions on their child’s academic journey quickly fade away as work begins; a good education consultant is a trusted and knowledgeable advisor who can support pupils and families with the major decisions and transitions throughout their educational career.
An education consultant can help you find the right nursery or school for your child, match students with the best university and course in the UK or overseas, or guide you through the notoriously complicated and competitive process for applying to independent schools. Wherever you could benefit from the expert knowledge and experience of a dedicated advisor who knows the system inside-out, an education consultant can help.
Why use an Education Consultant?
Every choice about your child’s education is important, and many of them can be difficult and stressful. Education consultants take the pressure off you. They make the process of moving school or applying to university simpler and easier. They can be as involved as you want – from sitting down with you and your child to discuss their options, to managing an entire admissions process for you. And in so doing, they save you time and energy. Months or years of worrying about a big decision could be reduced to a few meetings with a consultant who will help you make the right call.
What’s more, by trusting the process to an expert advisor, you can avoid all the pitfalls of taking the wrong option. Sending your child to the wrong school or university for them could set back their academic and social progress, and most importantly affect their happiness.
A good consultant will never let your child’s wellbeing slip out of focus. Other sources of advice and information on education can sometimes be useful, whether it’s coffee-circle chat or scrutiny of published league tables. Online search tools (such as our own School Finder) could help you shortlist schools to apply to. But none of these tools can meet and get to know your child. There truly is a school and university for everyone, and a good consultant will dedicate themselves to finding the right one for you.
When should you use an Education Consultant?
Many parents first use an education consultant when looking for a nursery or pre-school. This is the first step in a child’s formal education, and – for some families – the first time they have entrusted their child’s care to someone else, so finding a nursery where they can be happy and flourish is key.
There is a lot to consider. Naturally, parents want to know about the nursery’s educational ethos and its staff-to-children ratio. But there are also practical considerations, like whether you need yearly or just term-time care, and the nursery’s location near your home or workplace. It’s also important to look ahead to the years after nursery. Some are known as ‘feeders’ to desirable independent junior schools – for instance, children at Pippa Pop-Ins nurseries in London frequently go on to Thomas’s Fulham and Parsons Green Prep.
A good consultant will keep on top of the details that commonly catch parents out, such as deadlines for registration. But they will also have invaluable insider knowledge that you won’t find elsewhere, such as whether the nursery’s culture is right for your child and family. All of this contributes to finding the right nursery and ensuring your child gets off to the best possible start in their education.
When it comes to school, families increasingly rely on education consultants to support them with the big questions, including where to apply and how to get in. There are over 2500 independent schools to choose from in the UK and each one is truly different: from Gordonstoun, with 500 pupils in rural Scotland, to St Paul’s, with 1500 in central London.
An education consultant can help you see past glossy brochures and shiny websites to ensure that you find the right fit, factoring in not just academic excellence, but also the school’s values, its location, and day/boarding provision. Consultants can accompany you on school visits and handle all the paperwork on your behalf, ensuring the whole process runs smoothly.
No two children are the same, from the theatre enthusiast searching for a first-rate drama department to the budding scientist looking for great lab facilities, or from the boy whose parents are relocating to the UK to the girl with a sister already at an independent school. The job of a consultant is to find the solution that matches your own unique circumstances.
The admissions process depends on the school you choose and your child’s age. There is also the question of timings, with some of the most competitive schools requiring registration many years in advance. To enter Eton or Westminster in Year 9, for instance, you will need to register in Year 5 at the latest. 45% of independent schools are academically selective, so it’s important to know whether your child will be assessed and if so, how.
A good consultant will be familiar with the most popular schools’ admissions processes and may recommend a course of tuition to give your child the best chance. A word of warning, however – we occasionally hear horror stories of consultants insisting on several hours’ tuition per day for children as young as six! Make sure your consultant is well placed to give you sensible advice and introduce you to the right tutor.
Perhaps our most common consultancy request is regarding university applications. Little wonder, because as the choice available to students has widened, the decision has become more difficult. There were only 46 universities in the UK in 1991; now, there are around 150. By some counts, there are as many as 65,000 courses to choose from! And with more young people applying to university every year, the competition for places is sometimes fierce. For example, the offer rate for applicants to study Medicine at Oxford is 10%, while it is as low as 8% for Economics applicants at LSE.
An education consultant can guide you through every step of the process. They could help you find the course that best aligns with your interests and career aspirations. Consultants know that this may not necessarily be at the most prestigious university, but should be where the teaching, academic programme or networking opportunities are best. Once you’ve settled on your course choices, a consultant can support with the detail of your application, including helping you present the best version of yourself in your UCAS personal statement.
At Simply Learning Tuition, we always recommend that parents start the university application journey a few years before submissions are due, ideally in Year 10 or 11. At this point, consultants can advise you on the subjects to study at IB or A Level to help you win a place on your chosen course. The best consultancies will also have specialist Oxbridge programmes to prepare you for the unique rigours of admissions to these elite universities.
Studying abroad is more common than ever. There are six times more international students at university in the UK than in 1994, while between 2015 and 2018, the number of British students studying abroad rose by 10,000. Some consultancies will offer tailored support to international students. Having expert knowledge ‘on the ground’ is perhaps even more important here, especially if you cannot visit the university in person before you apply. Furthermore, navigating unfamiliar education systems and assessment processes can be daunting. The advice of a consultant who specialises in admissions to the country you are considering can make all the difference.
What to look for in an Education Consultant
Before you work with a consultant, check whether they receive commission or an introductory fee from schools or universities. They may be well informed and highly qualified, but their advice simply cannot be independent and impartial if they do.
A good consultant will show you testimonials from families and students they have helped. Ideally, you will be looking for experience specific to the schools and universities you are considering – though bear in mind that no one individual, no matter how experienced, can be an expert in every institution. That’s why it’s worth working with a consultancy that will devote a team of advisors to your case. Even the most impartial of us have our subjective preferences, and the benefit of a second or third opinion can reassure you that you have made the right decision.
Schools, universities, and admissions processes change all the time, so it is crucial that consultants keep up to date. Ask them if they regularly go on school visits and personally speak to admissions staff – that way, you can be comfortable that they aren’t relying on outdated reputations and can truly offer you more than you could read on a website or in a prospectus.
Once you’re satisfied that your consultant is independent, experienced and knowledgeable, consider whether they have taken the time to really understand you and your child’s needs. Each family and student is different, and a one-size-fits-all approach is bound to be unsuccessful.
This could be a relationship that lasts years or even decades, so it’s worth making sure that you and the consultant are the right fit for each other. We’re proud of the fact that many families return to us throughout their child’s education, from their first steps into nursery school to their final days at university.
Simply Learning Tuition and Consultancy offer expert advice and support for families and students at every stage of their education. Our award-winning in-house team of consultants work with a wider group of inspiring and well-connected head teachers, sixth-form heads, Oxbridge admissions tutors and US university specialists. Together, we really do know the system better than anyone else – that’s why we’re trusted by hundreds of families to provide practical guidance on everything educational.
We were very pleased with the services provided by Simply Learning Tuition. As non-locals, the general set up of schools in the U.K. were completely foreign to us. We aimed to learn the basic foundation and the various paths we could choose, ultimately with a short-list of nurseries for us to consider. All of those goals were met with clear communication and efficiency. If we need further guidance, we will not hesitate to contact Simply Learning Tuition again.
Mrs G, Primrose Hill, Nursery Placement
Thanks to Simply Learning's kind and attentive assistance, Ella has managed to secure a year 8 chance vacancy space at Francis Holland. Katie the advisor was always available on the other end of the phone, offering both practical and moral support (!) in what is inevitably a very involved process. I will be looking forward to working with her again when preparing for my eldest's sixth form applications.
Mr B, Washington D.C., UK Senior School Placement