Coffee Break: Laura George, founder and CEO of Laura George Consulting, LLC
Q: Describe your company.
A: Laura George Consulting (LGC) is a premier high school and college consulting firm that provides comprehensive support, instruction, and coaching through all aspects of the journey to college for families with students in sixth-12th grade. LGC's mission is to help students chart a Clear Path Forward to their best-fit colleges. Our team includes experts in the fields of high school and college consulting, ACT/SAT tutoring, SSAT/HSPT/PSAT tutoring, and essay and application guidance.
LGC is unique in that we do not employ the standard multiyear model that most educational consultants use. Thus, instead of requiring that a family sign up in eighth or ninth grade and work with us for the next 4-5 years, we offer an à la carte menu of services and packages so that families can elect to invest in only the services and support that will truly enhance and inform their child's journey to college.
We pair every family with a knowledgeable parent liaison who acts as a partner and concierge for the family throughout their work with us.
Q: Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?
A: We have an optimal employee number at present that affords us two things: the flexibility to accommodate multiple types of service requests and not have to turn families away because our roster is full and the ability to maintain the small company ethos and high-touch service model on, which I founded the firm when I started in on my own seven years ago.
We are investing in new service offerings, however, that will allow us to extend support and instruction to a wider audience. For example, three of our expert tutors developed and filmed a comprehensive ACT course that will be available for sale on our website starting in June.
While our business model has featured predominantly one-on-one services to date, we recognized that a recorded offering would allow far more students to benefit from our amazing tutors in an on-demand format and at a different price point.
Additionally, our course allows students to watch our video modules at their own pace, re-watch them to solidify comprehension, and benefit from the robust suite of printable follow-along materials and practice problems that we have paired with the course videos.
Q: What will your company's main challenges be in the next year?
A: The college landscape has changed drastically over the past few years due largely to the pandemic. The test-optional policies that colleges adopted in response to the inability to sit for the ACT or SAT have endured for most schools.
The resulting drastic increase in applications has driven down the acceptance rate significantly, particularly in selective and very selective institutions. These circumstances have spawned many challenges for families and students that LGC continues to shoulder alongside our clients.
Most critically, the need to determine whether to take the ACT or SAT, when to submit scores if a student does test, and how to develop a college list that is properly diversified in both selectivity and cost to allow students to attain successful outcomes.
At LGC, we continue to study college trends, speak to admissions representatives at a variety of colleges, and remain flexible so that we can stay ahead of the curve and provide the best guidance and support to our clients in the coming year.
Q: What's the hottest trend in your industry?
A: While not necessarily a trend, a significant change that will affect our industry in less than a year is the College Board's overhaul of the SAT. In December of this year, the final paper SAT will be administered. Starting with the next test date in March 2024, the SAT will switch to a shorter, online, adaptive test.
While this model may sound attractive for multiple reasons, given the challenges College Board has faced in the past couple of years with online AP exams and the lack of any precedent for the validity of the results of this new test, I am reserving judgment about the advisability of taking this online format until it can develop a proven track record.
I will personally advise students to seriously consider taking the ACT, which will remain a paper test. I prefer the ability to skip questions and go back to them, make notes and use strategies we have taught students, and benefit from a firm understanding of the test layout that the paper ACT affords.
Q: If you had one tip to give to a rookie executive, what would it be?
A: Seek a mentor, ask questions, and remain open to constructive criticism. Learn as much as you can and don't be afraid to fail -- failure is simply the first step in the journey to success.
Q: Do you have a business mantra?
A: At LGC, our mission is to help students chart a clear path forward to their best-fit college. We strongly believe in only advising families and students to invest in services and support that will truly benefit them, and we also devote enormous energy to helping families look past college rankings and names to identify the colleges and universities in which their students will truly thrive.
For some, this may indeed be a highly recognizable college and for others, this may be a hidden gem that was not previously on their radar.
Q: From a business outlook, whom do you look up to?
A: I admire female entrepreneurs who have reinvented themselves one or more times. Perhaps they have taken time away from a career to raise their children and then taken a leap of faith to start a business in order to re-enter the workforce. I have met many such women in the Chicago area through networking groups, and I am always fascinated by their stories of courage and perseverance.
Q: What is one interesting fact about you or your company that most people may not know?
A: As my family and close friends know, I can quote just about any John Hughes film on demand (whether they asked me to or not).
Q: Was there a moment in your career that didn't go as you had planned? What lesson did you learn from it?
A: In the first company I started, UniBEARsity, I obtained licensing from 35 colleges and universities to sell prints of original college-themed artwork featuring teddy bears and blocks spelling out the school's name that my mother had painted.
This company was truly a family labor of love, given my mother's generosity in painting 35 original works and my father's hard work and dedication in photographing all of them and digitally customizing them using computer software. After two years of traveling to trade shows and selling to college shops, I ultimately closed the business because it was not sustainable.
While I had hoped to make UniBEARsity successful, I learned a great deal about starting and running a business that I applied to the founding of Laura George Consulting.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: I have four sons ranging in age from 8-20, and I love sports as well as board games that make you think, so I love to hang out with my boys engaging in these and other activities that we all enjoy.
Q: What book is on your nightstand?
A: The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I love the message about seizing and enjoying the life you have rather than dwelling on the paths you did not take in your past.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: So many things -- ensuring I am making the best decisions for my business so that I cultivate the best experience for both my clients and my colleagues, thinking about whether I am spending enough quality time with my boys, and dreaming of the new opportunities I want to pursue in business and in life.
Q: If you were not doing this job, what do you think you would be doing?
A: I love empowering young people, and I would find even more ways to invest my time and energy in doing so. I enjoy my volunteer work as a team mentor with the Lake Forest High School Business Incubator Program, which teaches students about entrepreneurship.
I also enjoy my role on the Development Committee for the Stevenson High School Foundation, where I use my marketing background to help the Foundation develop events and fundraising efforts to support first generation and underserved students in my community through programs like Stevenson 2 College.
Q: What was your first paying job?
A: At 16, I worked in the accounting department for my father's manufacturing business in northeast Ohio, where I was raised. I quickly learned that I did not envision a future for myself that involved accounting.
Q: If you could put your company name on a sports venue, which one would you choose?
A: Some of my fondest childhood memories involve driving up to Municipal Stadium in Cleveland with my dad to attend Cleveland Indians games. As the older of his two daughters, I was the child who tagged along when he suggested a summer outing to watch America's pastime and bonded with him over our shared love of sports. In honor of those wonderful memories with my dad, I would rename Progressive Field where the recently renamed Cleveland Guardians play.
Founder and CEO
Laura George Consulting, LLC
Two area offices at 300 Village Green S., Suite 235, Lincolnshire, IL 60069 and 509 W. Main St., Barrington, IL 60010
Industry: College Consulting, Test Prep, and Essay/Application Guidance
Number of employees: 25
Family information: Married, mother of four sons ages 8-20