Editor's note: The many "to do" items that you need to check off during the college or private school admission process can be daunting, especially for families new to school search. It leads some to turn to placement advisors for help in navigating the admission waters.

But how do you find the right independent educational consultant (IEC)? What questions should you ask to determine if he or she's a fit for your family?

The Independent Educational Consultants Association offers 11 questions for you to pose while interviewing different IECs. We recommend working through each one with any potential consultant. Remember, retaining a consultant's not inexpensive, so don't shy away from doing your due diligence.

11 Questions to Ask an Educational Consultant
  1. Do you guarantee admission to a school or a certain minimum dollar value in scholarships?
    (If the answer is yes, don't trust them!)
  2. How do you keep up with new trends, changes, laws? Do you get out and visit
    (The ONLY way to know about the best matches for you is to be out visiting schools regularly)?
  3. Do you belong to any professional associations? (NACAC and IECA are the two associations for private consultants) Or, are you a Certified Educational Planner?
  4. Do you attend professional conferences, training workshops, etc on a regular basis?
  5. Do you ever accept compensation from a school in exchange for placement?
  6. Do you adhere to the ethical guidelines for private counseling established by IECA?
  7. Are all fees involved stated in writing, up front, indicating exactly what services I will receive for those fees?
  8. Will you complete the application for admission, re-write my essays or fill out the financial aid forms on my behalf? (no, they should NOT)
  9. How long have you been in business?
  10. What was your background prior to going into private counseling? (Helping to get their own child into Princeton is not the answer you're looking for!)
  11. 11. Will you use personal contacts to get me in to one of my top choices? (The answer should be NO. A consultant doesn't get you admitted--they help you to demonstrate why you deserve to be admitted).