Choosing an Education Consultant
Once you have made the decision to study in Canada – and know definitively the school and program you can attend – it’s always possible to apply directly to that institution. If you are still undecided, however, it may be a good idea to start looking outward for practical assistance and advice. This information can come from friends and family; teachers and school counsellors, and – when chosen correctly – a private education agent.
What is an education agent? An education agent (sometimes called a consultant) is an individual – or an organization – offering education advice and planning to students and their families.
Education agents vary in scope and speciality. Some agents provide advising services for students looking to transition from secondary school to college or university; some specialize in postsecondary students looking to get into a Masters or PhD program; while others help families locate K-12 programs. A good number of education agents also work On behalf of students seeking to locate an English or French as a Second language program in Canada. Certain families also look to agents to provide guidance to children with unique gifts or challenges, while others specialize in recommending schools of a certain faith or spiritual direction. Because some students are targeting schools with specific types of facilities or athletic programs, many agents also offer a variety of private education providers, in addition to any public institutions they may recommend.
Before you decide to enlist any kind of help with your application, you should think carefully and strategically about your study and career plans. If you can articulate a clear idea of your goals – especially the types of courses that interest you and why – you will get better advice from others. This includes agents.
While considering these options, do not be embarrassed if you do not have a specific institution in mind. It can be very difficult to evaluate an institution and its programs if you have not first visited or had friends and family who have direct experience there. Similarly, with all the clever marketing and sheer amount of information online, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and sometimes even suspicious. A good agent can help you cut through the noise and gain some clarity into what institutions are likely to be a right-fit for you.
If you are interested in exploring a range of different education opportunities – and you decide to hire an agent – make this clear to that individual, and most importantly: make sure this agent is able to present you with an appropriate number of options given your specific profile and needs. Likewise, be careful if the agent appears to be steering you towards a very limited number of schools, and check to see if they have sent students there in the past or have even visited in person.
Agents may have a physical office in your country of origin (or current residence), be based inside Canada, or exist solely as an online company. In any case, these companies may be sole proprietors (just one person), partnerships, or corporations of considerable size.
Education agents’ main service offering is helping students select a destination school and assist in preparing an application for that institution. In order to do this effectively, agents should be proficient in the process of reviewing a student’s education history and credentials, and to understand the eligibility requirements for each program and school that the student may be interested in.
While agents may specialize in any number of school applications, it is expected that they can also provide:
• Advice about studying in Canada generally
• Alternative options, should students’ initial choices be unsuccessful
• Practical advice that will help the applicant avoid mistakes that may hinder or delay the school application process
• Guidance in preparing relevant supporting documents in advance of important deadlines
• Communication with the school to clarify processes – and if allowed – advocate For your application
Some education agents may add other levels of service, including tailor-made programs for travel, business and tourism; finding living arrangements; helping applicants can practical Canadian work or internship experience. Some education agents may also act as immigration consultants.
NOTE: If an agent is offering immigration advice or helping to prepare your visa or permit application – and they are compensated by a fee – check to see that they are a Lawyer in Good Standing of a Canadian Law Society or a Member of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). All other agents engaging in paid immigration counsel are in violation of Canadian law. Your decision to use these individuals may compromise your application and result in a refusal.
There are number of things that every student who appoints an agent should consider doing:
• Get a clear understanding of the services provided by the education agent. If you have any questions about fees or other matters, get answers in writing before proceeding with the contract or fee payment.
• Check to see if the agent is an authorized representative of a particular school. Many institutions list of their authorized representatives on the website. Most institutions also require the partners to maintain a valid contract an issue a certificate of representation.
• Always ask for a summary of costs. If your agent does not charge you a fee, this is most likely because they receive a commission from the school that they represent.
• Choose an education agent with experience helping students study in Canada – they will have a good knowledge of the Canadian education system and life in Canada.
• Have a third party or friend help you understand the documents before you sign any documents.
• Do not leave original documents – especially passports – with education agents. If you are using an authorized representative on your immigration matter, it may be required to leave original documentation with this individual; but they must give it back if you request it.
• You are applying a public college or university, do not pay fees directly to the agent. Your tuition fees will always be payable directly to these institutions.
• Be very careful of any messaging that sounds too good to be true.
• Never pay someone to help you with your Visa or Study Permit Application if they are not an “authorized representative.”
A well-chosen agent is someone likely to add significant value to your experience of studying in Canada and do the “small wonders” for you while you prepare yourself mentally for the journey.
But it is your decision, ultimately, to use an agent. If you choose a third party to help you, it is imperative to research and select a reputable agent. This individual is someone who puts your interests first and offers direct and clear advice, and who, for all intents and purposes, holds a good part of your destiny in their hands.
Choose wisely and you will have an amazing coach and mentor; choose poorly and you can be sure to have a few problems to fix at your expense.