Parents consider alternatives to their child's current school for a variety of reasons: the need for individualized attention; the desire for more structure and discipline to learn better work habits and study skills; or the dissatisfaction with the quality of available educational options. Boarding schools provide an exciting 24-hour learning environment, away from immediate distractions, where students can thrive and learn to do more than they ever dreamed. The right school can provide countless academic and extra-curricular opportunities to maximize a child's potential and develop new interests, skills and life-long friendships.

Boarding schools differ in setting, size, philosophy and structure. Teaching and discipline styles, religious affiliation, and the role of arts and athletics are additional elements that define each school. What other factors should be considered when choosing a boarding school? How does your family know if your child will feel comfortable? Will the school adequately meet your child's unique needs? Who will be your child's friends and role models?

Educational consultants are trained professionals who possess extensive knowledge of educational options. This expertise, combined with a caring approach to understanding your child, helps families identify a school which is both academically and socially appropriate.

An educational consultant meets personally with families to discuss their unique concerns. To find the right "fit" for your child, the consultant learns as much as possible about your student and family. Consultants help you clarify your child's educational needs, identify strengths and weaknesses, and consider interests and dislikes. Placing your child in a boarding school can be an emotional decision but one which most often leads to an enriching experience. A consultant can help facilitate the process of selecting the school in which your child can be happy and successful.

The consultant helps you understand what to look for in a school. Every school's image is beautifully displayed in brochures, videos, or CD-ROMs, but how do you uncover the schoolÍs true profile? Because a consultant knows your child well and has a thorough knowledge of which schools meet your family's needs, he or she can formulate a customized list of appropriate options. A consultant can then point out specifics about each school such as admission criteria, student-teacher ratio, dorm arrangements, academic and extra-curricular activities and various other characteristics of the student body and school community which aid you in your decision.

The consultant has firsthand knowledge of boarding schools. Educational consultants enhance their knowledge by touring hundreds of campuses, spending time meeting with admissions officers, and exploring schools' living environments. Many consultants have also worked in admissions and all work to establish a professional relationship with school administrators. Additionally, an educational consultant has valuable experience resulting from years of educational planning with a variety of students.

Consultants serve the immediate and long-term interests of your child. Many consultants also specialize in learning disabilities, special needs and college planning, and can assist in formulating long-range goals for your child. The consultant stays in touch with you and your child to ensure that the placement is successful and to assist you in developing an extended educational plan.

An educational consultant listens to your special concerns, helps you thoroughly investigate the options, and continues to monitor your child's progress to ensure a successful boarding school experience.

The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) is a professional association of full-time experienced independent educational consultants who work with families on school placement issues. 3251 Old Lee Highway, Suite 510, Fairfax, VA 22030, 703/591-4850