Ten Valuable Take-Aways from The HECA Conference in Philadelphia June 2016

I met many knowledgeable and caring professionals including other IECs (Independent Educational Consultants), college presidents, college admissions representatives, vendors and authors at the HECA conference in Philadelphia last week.  I toured eight college campuses, attended nine workshops and listened to leaders in the field speak about college admissions, Liberal Arts Colleges, the current and future state of higher education and the Coalition for Access and Admission in Higher Education. The conference was extremely valuable and information rich. These ten valuable take-aways offer only a glimpse of what was offered.

Ten Valuable Take-Aways from the HECA conference in Philadelphia June 2016

(- not all new information, but information that I feel is valuable for my students and families to know)

  1. Checking the box indicating that you are applying for financial aid in the college application can cause your application to be considered incomplete to the college until all financial firms are submitted.
  2. It is important that after registering for any future SAT test, students check the email associated with their College Board account. The College Board implemented a new plan in June 2016. Selected students who register for the test will receive an email stating that they are required to submit a Verification Form by a given deadline. If the form is not submitted by this deadline, College Board will cancel the student’s registration and credit the registration fee back to the credit card. Avoid the surprise of showing up for the SAT only to find that you are not actually registered.  Students MUST check their email often.
  3. There are three different routes to the military: Service Academies, ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) and OCS (Officer Candidate School)  Each path has different requirements
  4. There is a company called New Frontiers in Learning that is full of trained professionals to help students with learning difficulties navigate the transition to college and learn to self advocate.
  5. HECA members as a whole are dedicated, collaborative, extremely caring and knowledgeable professionals in the field of college consulting.
  6. Liberal arts students are in demand: CIC Website For higher ed professionals - LiberalArtsPower For students and parents-  LiberalArtsLife Can you see yourself in this environment- @smartcolleges twitterfeed
  7. Purpose fuels GRIT and experiencing failure is essential to building resiliency
  8. Colleges want to admit students who will succeed there. If there is a concern about that, some colleges give the student a chance to try it out before committing. (Passport Program- St Joseph's University)
  9. Colleges and Universities have priorities in building their class each year. Their goal is to build a community of students who will help the university continue on its mission.
  10. Each college/university has special qualities just as each student does. The staff and faculty at those colleges really want their students to take advantage of all the school has to offer.
  • A pre-med student really can actively pursue the arts in college as well. Muhlenberg College, Swarthmore College
  • A women's college can be made as coed as the student desires it to be.
  • Traditions are strong on most campuses (Bryn Mawr /Haverford/ Lehigh/Lafayette)
  • Engineering and business can be combined. (Lehigh IBE, Villanova SBI)
  • Pass fail evaluations require exceptional knowledge of a given subject and/or field. (Swarthmore College Honors Program)
  • Intellectual curiosity is very important - Haverford College
  • Jesuit colleges have the mission of developing students of giving character with a strong appreciation of differences. (Villanova University, Saint Josephs University)
  • Not every arts focused student needs to present a portfolio for admission. For schools that do require it, specific types of art are required and the admissions staff is there to help students through the process. (Muhlenberg College, Tyler School of Art at Temple University, University of the Arts in Philadelphia)
  • There are colleges who aim to provide both admission decisions and financial aid awards to early admission applicants by December 20. (Drew University)
  • Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators LLC


    Five Essential Components for Success on the ACTScreen Shot 2015-11-30 at 10.29.02 AM


    Attitude - Success requires a positive attitude.  Think, “If it can be done, I can do it!”.  You need to really WANT to do well and you must squash the ANT (Automatic Negative Thinking) Eliminate all negative thinking during prep and during the actual test.  There is no room or time for negative self-talk during the ACT.  

    Application - Work through retired ACT questions and take retired ACT practice tests before sitting for the real test. Understand the correct answer to every question you miss as question types repeat themselves on standardized tests.


    Content - Fully understand the content that is being tested

    Commitment - Make the test a priority.  Commit yourself to dedicated preparation and focusing on areas of weakness.


    Time - Finding time for quality test preparation is usually the biggest challenge in the life of high school students today. ACT success requires quality focused preparation time:dedicated work on content and retired ACT questions, timed full length practice tests, time put into reading and studies. Testing time is tight on the ACT.  You must work at a fast pace. Pace increases when you know what to expect on the test and have confidence solving similar questions - practice questions from retired tests.  Pace increases with practice under timed conditions - time yourself when taking practice tests and working on practice test sections.  Read this post for suggestions specific to increasing reading speed.

    Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators LLC

    The Secret to Effective Time Management on the ACT

    ACTThe ACT is a test of content, speed, focus and time management.  Once the content is learned and preparation is complete, the test of time management remains.  A last-minute concern about running out of time on this test can quickly derail all preparation. To manage time during the ACT, I provide my students with an ACT watch.  This gives them the security of knowing that they will be able to pace themselves through the ACT and always know exactly how much time has lapsed and how much time remains in each section.  This video shows how this ACT approved watch works.

    Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators LLC

    C or T?

    BlankI heard the question "C or T?" at Ashley Merryman's Keynote Address at the IECA Conference earlier this month.  The more I thought about this question, the more relevant it became.  This simple question can be applied to many aspects of life, including standardized testing and the college process. C stands for Challenge and T stands for Threat.  These words can be applied to the way we approach almost anything in our lives.  The word we choose to follow has a proven impact on our performance.

    Is the task at hand a challenge or is it a threat?

    • If it is a challenge, the energy exerted is positive.  The task is approached with excitement.
    • If it is a threat, the energy exerted is negative.  This negative energy can lead to mistakes and panic.

    Whether you are sitting for a test, auditioning for a play, applying or interviewing for a job, school or college, playing an important game or match, or walking on stage for a presentation, think CHALLENGE, not threat.

    Sandy Aprahamian EDNavigators LLC

    Gap Year Information, College Affordability Information, Standardized Testing Updates, College Admission Represenatives ... all in one place

    Since the role of an Independent Educational Consultant is still unclear to many people, I thought I'd share some of the sessions that I attended at the IECA Fall Conference last week.  The conference included break-out educational sessions, two keynote addresses, hosted receptions, round table discussions, committee meetings, a vendor hall, a college fair and numerous other networking events.

    I attended the following Break-out Educational Sessions:

    • Gap Years:  What’s Out There, How to Structure One, and Simple Vetting Options
    • Testing College Readiness:   What are the Redesigned SAT and ACT Measuring and How Do We Best Prepare Our Students
    • Anatomy of a Financial Aid Award
    • The Fading of Facebook: the Evolution of Teenage Online Social Interactions

    I heard Keynote Addresses from:

    • Justin Bachman - 17 year-old high school senior with Tourette’s Syndrome, severe ADHD and dysgraphia
    • Ashely Merryman - Best-selling author and award-winning journalist (NurtureShock:  New Thinking About Children Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing)

    I attended Hosted Receptions/ Presentations from:

    • University of New Haven
    • Oak Meadow Independent Learning
    • Warren Wilson College

    I Visited the Following Booths at the Vendor Hall:

    • Colleges That Change Lives
    • American Gap Association
    • Summit Educational Group
    • YouScience
    • IECA Foundation
    • American Institute of Certified Educational Planners
    • College Affordability
    • College Cost Navigator
    • Guided Path
    • Wintergreen Orchard House
    • Human eSources, Ltd.

    I Met Representatives/Admissions Representatives from the following Colleges and Universities:

    • American University
    • Bucknell University
    • Eckerd College
    • Rollins College
    • University of Miami
    • University of Richmond
    • University of South Carolina
    • New York University
    • Quinnipiac University
    • Ursinus College
    • Susquehanna University
    • University of New Haven
    • Warren Wilson College

    It was an action-packed educational week.  I met great people and learned a lot.  In future posts, I will share, more specifically,  some of the key information I learned.

    Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators

    Some October 2014 SAT Scores are Delayed

    Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 9.03.23 PMSome high school students recently learned that the reporting of their October SAT scores is being delayed.  This Washington Post article provides an overview of the situation.  With many Early Action and Early Decision deadlines only three days away, seniors who were counting on these scores to complete their application may not make the application deadlines.  The score delays affect students who took the SAT in China, South Korea and, possibly Singapore.  Students who find themselves in this situation should call or email each school directly to ask how the delay will be handled.  Some colleges will give a grace period due to the circumstances - some will not.  This is frustrating all-around.  At EDNaviagotors  we encourage students to complete their testing by the end of their junior year of high school.  For high school seniors, this removes the testing burden, the uncertainty of where test scores will fall and whether or not scores will arrive in time.  High school seniors are busy enough focusing on grades, essays and applications in the fall.

    Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators

    Homework, Sleep, Habits

      Ghandi - HabitsEdutopia's blog post today,  Homework, Sleep, and the Student Brain was right in line with a recent discussion I had with my students - about what homework was like “back when I was in high school”…a book, a pencil, a notebook - no phone, internet or social media distractions…It was easier to go to bed by 11PM in high school, stay healthy and earn good grades.

    The distractions technology presents to students today can not be eliminated.  Students need internet access to complete school assignments.  For today's student, time management and the ability to stay on task are essential skills for success. To ignore distractions, students need a positive Mindset and powerful habits.

    Books I recommend that address these topics include:

    Sandy Aprahamian, Independent Educational Consultant, EDNavigators, LLC

    Rising Seniors - Summer Timeline for College Applications

    College Application Checklist for Rising SeniorsFirst semester senior year is busy.  Class rigor and grades for senior year count toward college admissions. EDNavigators encourages students to remove some of the senior year stress by beginning applications over the summer. What can a rising senior do over the summer in preparation for college applications?

    June and July: 1. Plan and adjust college by researching and visiting colleges. 2. Prepare for the SAT or ACT if taking it in the fall. 3. Go to the website of or call the college of interest to find out: • If it accepts The Common Application - If yes, are supplements required? Are they available yet? Supplements to the Common Application become available on a school-by-school basis. Princeton University’s Supplement to the Common Application for the Class of 2015 is available now as well as Purdue, Amherst and Penn. • If it accepts The Universal College Application - If yes, are supplements required and are they available yet? • If it has its own application - If yes, is it available? For schools with rolling admission, the sooner you complete and submit the application, the better your chances of getting in. Penn State's application becomes available September 1. There are different application requirements and different timelines for each school. The only way to get the information you need specific to each school is to go to the school’s website or call the school’s admissions office. 4. Write the common Application Essay. The Common Application Essay prompts will remain the same as they were last year. They are available now. 5. Take time to do things you enjoy

    August: 1. On August 1, The Common Application and The Universal College Application go live for the next school year. Complete the core sections during the month of August. The Common Application and The Universal College Application for Fall 2015 will be available August 1, 2014 2. Continue to adjust and revise the college list 3. Continue with test-prep 4. Take time to do things you enjoy.

     Specifics for the Classes of 2016 and 2017

    How to Access Free SAT Math Test Prep on Khan Academy

    Next week, on April 16, the full blue print and sample questions of the New SAT will be revealed. We were told in March that Khan Academy will be providing free SAT test-prep. Khan Academy has already loaded SAT prep to their site. Khan Academy is a valuable tool which I recommend that all of my students take advantage of.  Fifteen to thirty minutes of independent practice a day goes a long way.This two-minute video shows how to access Khan Academy and use its free online SAT Math preparation materials.


    Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators

    Essential information about the SAT Writing Score and the Essay

    Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 10.23.14 AMSAT scores are back today.  Many students got up at the crack of dawn to check scores.  If you got the score you hoped for, congratulations!  If not, stay confident.  Don't let this score define you.  You are more than a score.  Sign up for the next test and continue to prepare.  A positive attitude is essential. After working with many students on SAT Prep, I have seen that SAT scores CAN be improved with dedication, practice and a positive attitude.  It takes a lot of time and a lot of work. There are strategies, but not shortcuts.  It takes TIME.  The SAT is a standardized test.  There is only one correct answer to each question.  With practice and preparation, it becomes easier to find that correct answer.

    The one exception to the 'one correct answer' is the essay. The essay is graded subjectively and has many possible answers.  This article, written by Debbie Stier, the author of The Perfect Score Project, is an essential read for all students (and parents of these students) who are taking or have taken the SAT for ACT.  After seven attempts, she, a published writer, could not get a score of 12 on the writing.  Her friend, whose books have been USED ON THE SAT CRITICAL READING SECTION could not score a 12!!!  (On a much more positive note - you can still get a perfect SAT score with a 10 on the writing)

    On a separate note, I highly recommend Debbie Stier's book, The Perfect Score Project to parents of students who are taking standardized tests.  It will make you laugh and give you a glimpse into the testing world of teens today.  My review of the book can be found here.

    Sandy Aprahamian - Principal, Educational Consultant, EdNavigators


    The College Put Me on the Wait List. What Does that Mean? What Should I Do?

    cropped-gold-boy-in-grad-cap.jpgI attended an outstanding webinar today hosted by Cyndy McDonald of Guided Path and delivered by  Peter Van Buskirk  of Best College Fit . Peter shared many valuable insights into the college admissions process from the perspective of the school’s enrollment management and yield. Peter Van Buskirk holds a wealth of knowledge.  I encourage you to visit his website BestCollegeFit to see when he presenting at an event in your area. Below are some key points Peter shared about Wait Lists.

    • Many schools use the wait list as a means to improve the yield that they report for rankings.
    • You are still in the game, but you need to continue to play your best.

    If you are truly interested in a school that puts you on its Wait List:

    • Act NOW.  Don’t wait.  Some schools go to the wait list as early as mid April.
    • Get on the radar screen of your regional recruiter.
    • Visit the campus.  Yes, AGAIN if you have already been there and be sure the admissions office knows you made the visit.
    • Clarify your need for financial aid.  If you have figured out a way to pay for the college without financial aid, let the college know this in writing.  Money matters when it comes to the wait list.
    • If you make it off the wait list, he school will most likely call you and ask you if you would like the spot.
    • Be ready because you most likely have only 24-48 hours to respond.  Your official offer won’t arrive until you verbally accept the spot.

    Most importantly, remember, the best college for you is the one that fits YOU best.  Don’t be swayed by glitzy advertising and don’t let a college’s decision shape your opinion of yourself.


    Sandy Aprahamian, Principal, EDNavigators, Independent Educational Consultant

    Making Sense of the Testing Options and Requirements for College Applications

    HELP-Standardized TestsGone are the days of simply taking the SAT to meet college application requirements. Today, students are presented with a variety of exams, some required, some optional.  These exams include:

    1. SAT (New SAT for class of 2017 and beyond)
    2. ACT
    3. SAT Subject Tests (also known as SAT II Tests)
    4. AP Exams:

    (In effort to make this article a manageable length, the above list does not include IB testing or major-specific exams.)

    The Basics

    • The majority of four year colleges require applicants to submit scores from the SAT OR the ACT.
    • Some highly selective schools require or strongly recommend that applicants submit scores from two or three SAT Subject Tests.
    • Some schools accept the ACT with Writing in lieu of the SAT and SAT Subject Tests.  For more information on this complicated decision, please read these articles written by Nancy Griesemer who has done extensive research on this topic.

    With all of these testing requirements, it is important to create a testing plan in high school.  Freshman year is not too early to plot out the test plan since some tests may be taken then.

    Possible Testing Timeline beginning Junior Year

    • SAT OR ACT :  Take one of these tests Two times between January and June (This leaves September/October of Senior Year available as additional test dates if needed.  Ideally, however, all testing is complete by the end of Junior Year - Senior year is very busy with applications and essays.)
    • SAT Subject Tests:  These should be taken May or June of the year the subject is studied
    • AP Exams:  These are given in May of the Year the subject is studied
    • Class of 2017 suggested SAT/ACT prep timeline

    EdNavigators recommends the following:

    • Take a full length practice ACT and a full length practice SAT to see which test you prefer.  Prepare for the test you prefer and plan to take the test "for real" at least twice.  *Many students select to take both tests...in this case, two additional test-prep sessions would be required to discuss content and strategy for the test the student did not prep for.  The content covered on the SAT and ACT is very similar (EDNavigators Test Prep Packages are described on this page - Package 2 is to prep for the SAT OR the ACT, Package 2B is to prep for the SAT AND the ACT)
    • Take the SAT Subject Tests and AP tests around the same time because they can test similar information.   It also makes sense to take them right after completing the course.  (If a student takes Honors Biology as a Freshman, he/she should take the test(s) Spring of freshman year.)

    If you feel your standardized test scores don't represent your abilities, don't panic. There are also FairTest Schools.  A recent study revealed that students who chose not to submit standardized test scores for entry into college still performed well in college.

    For now, however, many colleges do still require standardized test scores.  It is worth the time and effort to make a plan and prepare.

    Sandy Aprahamian, Owner, Consultant, EdNavigators

    AP Exams - Quick Facts

    AP Exams are the cumulative final exam for students who take AP classes in high school.AP Exams 101 Test takers do not have to have completed an AP course to sit for the exam.

    For some colleges, AP exams can earn the student college credit.  For other colleges, AP courses and successful exam scores are expected for admission - no college credit is earned.

    AP exams are scored from 1-5  a minimum of three is required to earn college credit but many schools require a 4 or 5 on the AP exam to award college credit.  This varies by school, by subject sometimes by department within a school.

    AP exams are offered in high schools over a two week period in May.

    For a full description of AP exams and the dates they are offered, visit The College Board's AP Website.

    Sandy Aprahamian, Owner, Consultant, EdNavigators

    Prevent Panic on ACT Test Day

    ACT TIPSYou have been working hard and are academically prepared for the ACT.  Don't let last-minute logistics sabotage your confidence.  Below are last-minute tips to prevent test panic and maintain an optimal state of mind for testing. Two days before the test:

    • Print out your admission ticket and read it over.
    • Read and complete the Test Day Checklist
    • Read the Test Day Tips
    • Gather everything you need to bring to the test center.
    • Get directions to the test center.  Plan a test-drive to the test center if you are not familiar with the area.
    • Decide what time you will need to leave your house in order to arrive at the test center a few minutes early.
    • Plan what you will wear to the exam and lay it out. Pick something comfortable.
    • Plan your breakfast for test day and be sure you have the ingredients available.
    • Reviewing the big picture format and timing of the test.

    The day before the test:

    • Gather any test items that you were not able to find yesterday.
    • Make sure there is enough gas in your car.
    • Relax - Remind yourself that you ARE prepared for the test. Focus on how much you DO know.
    • Do NOT think about areas you feel you need work on.  Do NOT take extra practice tests.  If negative thoughts slip into your mind, delete them immediately.  Tell yourself you are prepared. Do NOT try to cram in information.
    • Go to the movies or do something that takes your mind off of the test.

    Unexpected Scenario 1:  Bad weather and power outages

    Unexpected Scenario 2:  Sick on test day

    • Don’t worry.  Colleges do not see that you registered for but missed the test day.  Obviously, is best to take the test when you are healthy. If you are unsure of what to do, is worth a call (319.337.1270) to ACT to explain your situation and discuss your options.

    If any other questions come up, go to the testing source, ACT.org.

    A relaxed brain performs.  In order to earn your optimal score, take ACT in a comfortable, relaxed and confident state of mind.

    Wishing you all the very best on test day.

    Sandy Aprahamian, Owner, Independent Educational Consultant, EdNavigators



    Building Strong Relationships with Teenagers

    teen and parentThe Power of Moms is one of my favorite "go-to" websites.  The Power of Moms recently published a podcast titled Strong Relationships with Teenagers. I enjoyed listening to the podcast and wanted to share it.  Since I work with teens and am currently parenting a couple of teens, I found the podcast to be both helpful and reassuring.  It's not easy but it can be really fun.   The write-up below from The Power of Moms website summarizes the podcast well. Enjoy the podcast, enjoy your teens and keep up the great work as parents:)

    Parenting teenagers is a whole new ball game!

    Power of Moms Co-Founder, Saren, and her sister, Shawni, who runs the popular blog,71 Toes, have three teenagers between them plus a couple of pre-teens. They share what they’re learning about building and maintaining strong relationships with teenagers.

    Some of the main tips they discuss:

    • Strive to see all the positive and fun aspects of parenting teenagers. Don’t buy into all the hype out there about how teenagers are so awful.
    • Ask good, specific questions and really listen to the answers. 
    • Embrace the notion that “if it’s important to you, it’s important to me.” Do your homework when it comes to their interests so that you can ask good questions and support what really matters to them.
    • Build up their self-esteem; give sincere daily compliments; look for the positive in what they do and who they are and make sure they know the good things you think about them. Make sure your eyes light up when they walk into the room.
    • Make sure they know they can talk to you any time about anything, that you’ll drop everything else to talk when there’s something big going on in their minds or in their lives.
    • Make sure you show physical affection to teens (a pat on the back, an arm around their shoulders, etc.).
    • Engage in at least one brief but meaningful one-on-one conversation with them each day (can be by text if need be!).
    • Ask for help. There will be many times that we’re faced with worries and issues beyond our own abilities. Pray. Ask for help from trusted friends and family members. Research possible answers.
    • Be humble. Explain and apologize when you realize you’ve been overly upset or overly demanding. Ask for their help. Let them know you want to do a great job as their mom but that there’s a lot you don’t know and you’d love to know what’s working for them and what’s not. Strong Relationships with Teenagers – Episode 65  by SAREN EYRE LOOSLI on Nov 5, 2013 • 10:16 am