Starting a College Prep Business

Despite the rise of e-learning platforms like MIT Open CourseWare  and Khan Academy, the value of a traditional college experience can’t be overlooked. After all, higher education isn’t just about getting a degree. A big part of college is meeting people, networking and gaining life experience in the process. Many parents are willing to pay a tidy sum to get their kids into the most prestigious schools possible. If you’d like to cash in on this reality, starting a college prep business can be extremely lucrative.

Identify a Primary Niche
A profitable college prep consultancy business can take many forms and it’s important to determine which area of college preparation you’d like to zero in on. For instance, some college prep consultants focus on prepping students for the SATs, the ACTs or another major exam. Others will coach students on how to interview well when meeting with college admissions officials. Quite a few help high schools students flesh out their applications by suggesting extracurriculars and additional coursework. In any event, being a specialist rather than a generalist is the key to maximizing your profits in the end.

Set Yourself Up for Success
Once you’ve narrowed your focus to a particular area of expertise, it’s time to get serious about setting up your business. You may want to become a licensed Certified Educational Planner (CEP) to boost credibility. The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) is a terrific resource for information on where to look for training and certification classes. Beyond that, you’ll obviously want to register an LLC or subchapter S corporation for your business, get a business license from the local authorities and set up an acceptable home office to work from.

Attract Those First Clients
Educational consulting is a tough racket to break into due to the relatively small size of the market and the intense competition you’re likely to encounter within it. According to the aforementioned IECA, there are roughly 6,000 college preparation counselors operating in the United States at present. The industry boasts an impressive $400 million a year in revenues, so there’s plenty of money to be made if you can get your foot in the door. Begin by working at a reduced rate on an informal basis with local high school students in your community to gain confidence and experience.

Promote Your New Business
Getting those first few clients shouldn’t be all that tough. Expanding your presence and making a name for yourself will be harder. If you’re already a high school guidance counselor or at least know a few, you’ll find it easier to woo potential customers. In addition to a web presence and social media marketing via Google+, Twitter and Facebook, you should leverage word-of-mouth buzz to raise your profile. Network with admissions personnel from local colleges and universities who can channel business in your direction.

Boost Reputation & Revenues
It goes without saying that the better your protégés do at getting into good schools, the more money you’ll make. A good college prep consultant can make upwards of $150 per hour advising students on SAT preparedness, sound interview techniques and building an attractive college application. Professional credentials may help to attract clients but results are what ultimately matter the most. Don’t be afraid to tout your record when it comes to placing students in selective schools and degree programs when marketing your business.

Stay Ahead of the Curve
Like any other arena of entrepreneurship, the college prep industry is one where learning to change with the times is the key to long-term sustainability. Keeping your finger on the pulse of the industry will help you to adapt to new trends. The most popular and profitable colleges, majors and professional fields are constantly changing. To provide your customers with the best service and in turn keep your business healthy and thriving, you’ll have to adapt to new realities in education as they emerge.

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