By Keith Berman, Ed.M., M.S.Ed., CEP, President, Options for College, Inc.
When I was first certified as a CEP, life was… very different. I had just gotten married, was living in Cambridge, MA, and had just come off a six-year whirlwind that included working in both the Harvard and Yale undergraduate admissions offices, completing my commitment to the New York City Teaching Fellowship, writing articles on special education technology issues of national importance at the American Institutes for Research, surviving my first year in practice, traveling to India to work with the Princeton Review ACS team, and even getting a nod from Boston Magazine, where an elite college admission was linked to the sin of pride with a delightfully snarky tone.
I felt I had done things the right way, so to speak. I had taught in schools, earned my Masters, worked in admissions, written policy memos, and was ‘officially ready’ to give advice. The only problem was that, well, no one cared whether you did things ‘right’ or not…
… until I found the American Institute of Certified Educational Planners. Despite all my credentials, I felt like I hadn’t ‘started’ as a consultant, beyond deciding that, in my 20’s, I was going to enter the field of educational consulting for a good long time (I started my 18th year this March). That’s what AICEP meant – the “right start” – some acknowledgment that, indeed, I had made a commitment to a profession, not just a business.
The next few years, and recerts, would see me consult with urban districts, form a relationship with Johns Hopkins CTY, work in schools running guidance offices, and travel the world as a speaker, all while working as an Independent Educational Consultant (IEC). I even found a voice and style and wrote a curriculum that I still use.
Much of it comes back to those nervy moments I sent my CEP application to a group of veritable strangers. Holding my background and skillset up to a group of experts was the most significant step in launching me forward – the right way to verify that I was indeed ready to advise families and students. Now my life is very different, back in my beloved New York City, with a bigger family and established practice, much more interested in finding calm than remaining in the whirlwind, an AICEP Commissioner about to complete his first term. But one thing has not changed at all. The significance of certification continues to be one of my most valued credentials, and it brings with it the peace of mind that only belonging to a community of practice with high standards can.