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Meet Joan Koven

Joan Koven headshotJoan Koven
Independent Educational Consultant, Academic Access (PA)
Leader of the Independent Educational Consultants SIG

What drew you to the world of college counseling?
I have been a student of colleges for over 38 years as a spouse of a college professor. We have lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Berkeley, California, and outside of Philadelphia in Havertown, Pennsylvania (right near Villanova). I was a store manager for a decade with Crate & Barrel and then worked as a principal for a marketing and promotion firm. I have always been attracted to understanding what makes colleges tick; and I’m good at finding—and helping others create—a clear path through the clutter of life. Clarity and curiosity, a love of adventure, and a strong sense of order animate me. Visiting colleges with my husband began as our hobby; but then our friends and family began asking me for advice and help as their kids approached the daunting prospect of applying to college. The path to becoming an IEC was clear when I quit my job on my birthday in 2003. I committed to intensive training, along with the intellectual personal growth so essential to becoming an IEC. I completed UCLA’s certificate program in 2006; I joined NACAC, IECA, and HECA immediately. I invested heavily in my own education. I joined colleges tours, sometimes creating my own. Even before I had my first client, I got my office in perfect order each morning, dressed professionally for work, and kissed my family goodbye for the day.

What is your favorite part of the job?
I adore my students and families. I love learning about their lives, dreams, and hopes—and, of course, helping them manage the fears and anxieties that inevitably accompany identifying and eventually applying to colleges. I am truly grateful for their openness in trusting my process and expertise. After visiting over 500 colleges and universities across the United States and Canada, finding the right-fit college for a student still remains amazing and exhilarating. It doesn’t get any better than that.

How did you get involved with the Independent Educational Consultants SIG?
Eight years ago Mark Sklarow, CEO of Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA), asked me if I would be interested in heading up the SIG. He and NACAC’s Joyce Smith were seeking an active leader in the field and a member of all the professional organizations: NACAC, HECA, and IECA. Up to that point, the SIG had no structure. It was a very fraught forum for consultants to gather together. I decided to accept the challenge and wanted to help turn the SIG for IECs into a supportive, bridge-building forum that tackles urgent issues facing us, our students, their families, and higher education in general.

Why is the IEC SIG important to you?
The SIG meeting at NACAC’s national conference is the only time in the calendar year where ALL independent educational consultants have a chance to gather together in one room. Those unaffiliated with any professional organization, along with members of HECA and IECA, join as one to discuss our profession, hot topics in college admission and higher education, and the absolute importance of ethical consulting.

Why should counselors and admission professionals get involved with a NACAC SIG?
We continue to work very hard to be recognized by the college community, high school counselor community, and other professionals who deal with teens and their path to higher education. NACAC’s SIG creates a time and place each year when we can express solidarity with and learn from one another.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
There are so many myths about independent educational consultants, what we do, and who we serve. Many feel we are hired to only serve the privileged and target only colleges that accept less than 15 percent of their applicants. Certainly, there are some consultants that give our profession a bad name for the huge sums of money they charge or their unethical path of gaming college admissions. It only takes a few IEC’s that are not affiliated with any professional organization to create ill-will and undermine the good work we do in our field. Most of us spend over 20 percent of our time doing pro bono work and visiting colleges on the road, with a goal to create a path to higher ed options that are the best fit for students' social, financial, academic, and emotional needs. I look forward to the day when all independent educational consultants, college admission offices, and high school counselors can sit around ONE table and know that we all share the same goal.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
Friday is my personal day where I don’t meet with students or families. This is my day to spend time on one of my long-time hobbies, collecting vintage from the 1950s. I have an extensive manual typewriter collection, a guest bathroom that looks like an old-fashioned pharmacy, old Singer sewing machines with Coats and Clark thread and Simplicity dress patterns. My collection has grown over 35 years and I love the hunt and challenge of finding a tube of Prell shampoo that elicits memories of summer camp. I have three children in their 20s and 30s and thoroughly cherish spending time with each of them either in New York City, San Francisco, or locally in Philadelphia. My husband Seth and I love to travel and most recently spent time in India, Morocco, Glacier National Park, and Iceland. Pilates, gourmet cooking and entertaining, and making my home as hygge as possible are all part of who I am.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Carrie Bradshaw from "Sex in the City" is someone I admire for her authenticity, courage, honesty, creativity, and “boss lady” style. She always tries to speak the truth and stand up for what she believes.

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