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The Big Picture

Hallmarks of Excellence for Educational Consultants

The field of educational consulting has grown tremendously since I began this work many years ago. In 2009, a nationwide study by the marketing research firm of Lipman Hearne showed that 26 percent of high-achieving, college-bound students hired independent educational consultants to advise them on their college search. That number has only grown. The Independent Educational Consultants Association, the leading organization for establishing professional ethics and standards, estimates that the number of full-time educational consultants has tripled over the past five years, from fewer than 2,500 to more than 7,500 nationwide. In addition to serving college applicants, educational consultants help families identify boarding schools, independent day schools, and educational paths for students overcoming adversity. Across all these niches, the hallmarks of excellence are focusing on fit, professionalism, and integrity.

This work requires a deeply rooted belief in the power of education to promote personal growth and help young people become their best selves. Adolescence is a time of tremendous change, which educators see as inherently full of opportunities to reflect and develop each individual’s emerging values, skills, and sense of purpose. It is this educator’s lens that explains a top-notch consultant’s emphasis on finding “best fit” schools. The experience of seeing many young people blossom in various school environments can only reaffirm the wisdom of celebrating each unique student and helping them find coursework and programs that complement their outlook and interests.

From signature academic programs to Advanced Placement courses, from studying abroad to curricula that integrate outdoor experiences, high school students have never had more opportunities from which to choose within the independent school realm. In higher education, candidates can choose from 3,000 four-year colleges nationwide. Within this universe of options, it is easy to get distracted by the opinions of others, boastful bumper stickers, and media headlines. Indeed, families often look to educational consultants for perspective to reduce the complexity and the anxiety of a school search. It is our job to offer families the expertise they need, when they need it, so that candidates know how and where to put their best foot forward. No consultant can ethically promise a specific outcome. Rather, striving for a healthy process is at the core of what it means to be a professional in this field. In doing so, consultants help students and their families discover the joy and confidence that come from embracing a school search as a chance for self-discovery. 

Integrity is vital to this work. Successful mentoring means taking an honest look at the candidate’s needs, talents, and aspirations. During this process, families must trust consultants to provide accurate information, offer relevant feedback, and to have a student's best interests at heart. Schools must trust that consultants respect their mission and support candidates in being their authentic selves.

At The Bertram Group, we hold sacred the trust that students, families, and schools place in us. We understand that the experiences accumulated during the teen years will become touchstones that resonate for a lifetime. We cherish the role of mentoring young people on their journey to success, and we pledge to continue this work while adhering to the utmost honor and professionalism.

Cammie Bertram, founder and president of The Bertram Group, is highly respected within the educational community for her dedication to helping families accomplish their educational goals. She has more than twenty years of experience assisting students through both traditional and therapeutic advising at junior, secondary school, and college levels. She can be reached at