Meet Our Panel of Experts

Akil Bello

Senior Director of Advocacy and Advancement at FairTest, Founder of Bell Curves, test preparation company focused on underserved groups

In his three decades in test preparation and college access, Akil Bello has been intimately involved in the management of almost every element of the business of helping students gain access to educational opportunities from high school to graduate school. Bello has helped launch two companies, developed preparation programs for more than ten different high-stakes tests, managed dozens of employees, trained hundreds of instructors, and helped thousands of students achieve success.

In all that he does, his focus is, and will always be, to help build stronger relationships with and provide greater support for low-income students, underrepresented minority groups, public schools, non-profit organizations, and community-based organizations. 

Tiffany Blessing

Principal College Admissions Counselor at IvyWise.

Tiffany is a former Assistant Director of Admission at MIT, Assistant Dean of Admission at Colgate, and Graduate Assistant at UVA, from which she received her BA and MA. Throughout her career, Tiffany has worked at a wide range of institutions, giving her insider knowledge on the admissions process at a small liberal arts college all the way to a large research university. 

At Colgate Tiffany also worked in multicultural recruitment, reading applications for students who identified as multicultural or underrepresented. 

Tiffany specializes in students applying to highly selective schools, STEAM students, students interested in a wide range of schools, and underrepresented minorities.

Jon Boeckenstedt

Vice Provost for Enrollment Management and Marketing at Oregon State University

Jon Boeckenstedt joined Oregon State University in July of 2019. Jon has over 35 years of experience in higher education, including supervisory responsibility for admissions, financial aid, graduate recruitment, registrar, new student orientation, career services, higher education opportunity programs, community outreach and academic support. 

Jon is a frequent contributor to the national discourse on the state of college admissions and financial aid. Most recently, he served as Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing at DePaul University.

At Oregon State University, Jon is responsible for setting and fulfilling OSU’s enrollment goals. He oversees the offices of admissions, financial aid, the registrar, and scholarships as well as degree partnership programs and precollege programs. 

Nancy Dunn

College Access Advisor at College Now Greater Cleveland

Nancy Dunn is an experienced College Access Counselor who understands the issue of how to pay for college. She grew up in eastern North Carolina in a family whose unwritten rule was everyone will go to college. Taking advantage of an affordable public college tuition and the generosity of her parents, Nancy graduated with a BA in Religious Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill.

She earned a full tuition scholarship to attend Brite Divinity School at Texas Christian University where she graduated with her Masters of Divinity degree. After working in ministry for 15 years, Nancy returned to school for her Masters in Social Work from the University of Akron which she paid for with the help of student loans. Since the fall of 2016, Nancy has assisted high school seniors as they navigate the waters of college admissions, scholarships, and financial aid. She currently works for College Now Greater Cleveland as the Top Scholar College Access Advisor.

Carla Y. Emanuele

Co-chair of the DEIA committee with the Gap Year Association

Carla Y. Emanuele has been an educator for over ten years after graduating from Drew University with a degree in theater. Stage experience cultivated a love for story-telling and a passion for helping students reflect on their own stories no matter where they are in life. She believes opportunities to learn belong to everyone and works to champion projects that produce such opportunities in new and innovative ways. Her specialties include new program development and implementation where she seeks to ensure holistic student experiences are met with accessible programming and quality engagements. She is also the co-chair of the DEIA committee with the Gap Year Association and is enjoying working on smaller-scale projects to expand inclusion initiatives in other spaces of education. 

Kedra Ishop, Ph.D.

Vice President for Enrollment Management at University of Southern California

Dr. Kedra Ishop is Vice President for Enrollment Management at University of Southern California where she oversees the admissions, financial aid, and registrars’ offices.

She came to USC from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, where she served as the school’s first Vice Provost for Enrollment Management from 2014-2020. During her tenure there, she advanced a student-centered vision. To support this work, she expanded the Enrollment Management support structures to include Marketing and Communications, Enrollment Research, Data and Analytics, Strategic Initiatives, and Operational Effectiveness. 

Dr. Ishop is a nationally recognized expert, speaker, and advisor on issues in higher education focused on issues of access and opportunity for low-income and students of traditionally under-represented backgrounds, recruitment and enrollment practices, standardized testing, legal and policy issues in admissions and enrollment, and curriculum development.  

Emily Levitt

VP Education at Sylvan Learning, Over 20 years in curriculum development and education technology

Emily Levitt, Vice President of Education at Sylvan, started as a classroom teacher and holds a BA in Secondary English Education from the University of Maryland and MS from Towson University. She taught middle school reading and writing in public schools in Maryland. That’s important because at Sylvan, we know how important it is that the supplemental help you get your child must have a direct link to school performance. 

Emily also worked for over 20 years in curriculum development and education technology. She ensures the Sylvan Education team stays up-to-date and delivers programs that will help your child learn the different approaches that are expected in class. 

Jeff Levy

Co-founder, Big J Educational Consulting, Focus on college affordability and financial aid

Jeff Levy is an educational consultant based in Santa Monica, California. He works with high school students helping them accomplish their college dreams, and with parents on how to make college affordable. He has been quoted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, USA Today, US News & World Report, and has been interviewed on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. Before becoming a college consultant in 2008, Jeff spent over two decades working in the film and television industry as a lighting guy (officially called a gaffer) on movies, TV shows, documentaries, commercials, and music videos.

Julie Lythcott-Haims

Author of "How to Raise An Adult" and "Your Turn: How to Be an Adult"

Julie Lythcott-Haims believes in humans and is deeply interested in what gets in our way. She is the New York Timesbestselling author of the anti-helicopter parenting manifesto How to Raise an Adult. Her TED Talk on the subject has more than 5 million views, and in 2020 she became a regular contributor with CBS This Morning on parenting. Her second book is the critically-acclaimed and award-winning prose poetry memoir Real American, which illustrates her experience as a Black and biracial person in white spaces. A third book, Your Turn: How to Be an Adult, will be out in April 2021. 

Julie is a former corporate lawyer and Stanford dean, and she holds a BA from Stanford, a JD from Harvard, and an MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts. She serves on the board of Common Sense Media, and on the advisory board of LeanIn.Org, and she is a former board member at Foundation for a College Education, Global Citizen Year, The Writers Grotto, and Challenge Success. She volunteers with the hospital program No One Dies Alone.

She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her partner of over thirty years, their young adults, and her mother. 

Cyndy McDonald

Founder of HECA (Higher Educational Consultants Association), Teacher at UCLA college counseling certificate program

As the first in her family to attend college, McDonald recognizes the challenges many families and students face as they plan and prepare for college. She understands how important finding the money to pay for college is. 

As a credentialed high school counselor who has worked at the high school and the middle school level, McDonald understands the challenges high school counselors face as they assist students in this process. 

McDonald is an adjunct faculty at UCLA for their college counseling certificate program. As the founder HECA (Higher Educational Consultants Association), she loves working with students, parents and the community in the college admissions process. 

Wendy Mogel, Ph.D.

Clinical psychologist, New York Times best selling author and international public speaker

Dr. Wendy Mogel, clinical psychologist and New York Times best-selling author, serves on the scientific advisory board of Parents Magazine and is frequently invited to weigh in on issues of the day by national and international media.

Mogel is adding podcaster to her lengthy bio. Bringing 40 years of experience to "Nurture vs Nurture," she provides therapy for one family. Each week Mogel gives practical advice and support that will resonate with listeners.

In a starred review Publisher’s Weekly described her—now classic— first book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, as “Impassioned, lyrical and eminently practical...a real treasure.” Her second release, The Blessing of a B Minus, addresses the challenge of parenting teenagers in a culture of increasing anxiety and rapid change. Critics emphasize its wit, wisdom, compassion and common sense.

Her last book, Voice Lessons for Parents, explains the most effective ways to talk about your child to teachers, coaches, nannies and caretakers, grandparents, partners and...your ex.

Sydney Montgomery

Founder of S. Montgomery Admissions Consulting

Sydney Montgomery guides high school students through the college admissions process and helps students navigate the law school admissions process. As the daughter of military parents and a Jamaican mother, she knows first-hand how daunting the college admissions process can be. Through S. Montgomery Admissions Consulting, she can ease the process for other students. 

Montgomery received her Bachelor of Arts in English and a Certificate in French Language and Culture from Princeton University, and her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. She completed the Independent Educational Consultant Certificate from UC Irvine, Division of Continuing Education. 

In 2020, IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association) named Sydney one of seven inaugural recipients of the “Making a Difference Award” for positively contributing to the profession and membership. 

Ethan Sawyer

Nationally recognized college essay expert, author of the Amazon bestsellers College Essay Essentials and College Admission Essentials

Ethan Sawyer is a nationally recognized college essay expert and the author of the Amazon bestsellers College Essay Essentials and College Admission Essentials. Each year he and his team reach more than one million students and counselors through the College Essay Guy blog, online courses, workshops, books, and one-on-one work.

Raised as an MK in Spain, Ecuador, and Colombia, Ethan has studied at seventeen different schools and has worked as a teacher, curriculum writer, voice actor, motivational speaker, community organizer, and truck driver. He is a certified Myers-Briggs® specialist, and his type (ENFJ) will tell you that he will show up on time, that he'll be excited to meet you, and that, more than anything, he is committed to helping you realize your potential.

A graduate of Northwestern University, Ethan holds an MFA from UC Irvine and two counseling certificates. He lives in Los Angeles with his beautiful wife and their amazing daughter.

Jeff Selingo

Author of “Who Gets in and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions”, New York Times bestselling author and higher education strategist

Jeff Selingo is a New York Times bestselling author of three books. For more than twenty years, his in-depth reporting and powerful storytelling has provided insight about the inner workings of universities and a practical roadmap for higher ed’s future. Selingo's newest book, “Who Gets In & Why: A Year Inside College Admissions,” was named among the 100 Notable Books of the year by the New York Times. 

Selingo writes regularly for The Atlantic, the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education and is co-host of the podcast, FutureU. His reporting and research focus on the changing nature of work and its impact on education, paying for college, the financial sustainability of the residential campus, and shifting expectations for what the public wants from colleges.

Jeff is a special advisor for innovation at Arizona State University, where he is the founding director of the Academy for Innovative Higher Education Leadership. 

Nat Smitobol

Master College Admissions Counselor at IvyWise

Nat is a former Associate Director of Admissions and Director of Multicultural Recruitment at his alma mater, Skidmore College. Nat also served as a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at New York University and, most recently, at the hyper-selective NYU Abu Dhabi. 

While at Skidmore, Nat pioneered many new recruitment techniques, including the integration of Facebook in college admissions. At NYU, he worked on diversity initiatives and served as a member of the scholarship committee. 

Nat specializes in students seeking K-12 admissions, student athletes pursuing the recruitment process, international students, underrepresented minorities, and students interested in a wide range of schools.

Allison Slater Tate

Director of College Counseling for Lake Mary Preparatory School in Lake Mary Florida and College Consultant for Dunbar Educational Consultants

Allison Slater Tate advises college-bound students and their families to help them find college homes where they will thrive and grow. She splits her time between Dunbar Educational Consultants and Lake Mary Preparatory School, where she is the director of college counseling. She is also a freelance writer who covers college admissions for national outlets. 

She graduated with a degree in English Literature and American Studies from Princeton University.

With extensive experience in test prep and personal essay writing, Allison focuses on finding the fun and the positive in what can be a stressful process. She loves to help each student find their voice and their story through the college application journey.

In her former life, she worked in television, film, and even musical theater in New York and Los Angeles. 

Belinda J. Wilkerson, Ed.D.

Founder of Steps to the Future and Vice President of Ethics and Professional Practices for the Independent Educational consultants Association

Belinda Wilkerson has more than 30 years experience in education ranging from a social studies teacher to a school counselor at the secondary level to the coordinator of the Rhode Island School Counseling Project, a statewide school counseling program.

Now, she has come full circle as an independent educational consultant, providing a direct service to students that assists them with attaining their educational and career aspirations. As the founder of Steps To the Future, Wilkerson helps families eliminate random acts of college planning. 

Active in her community, she currently serves as the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Cumberland County Public Library and information Center and the Vice President of Ethics and Professional Practices for the Independent Educational consultants Association.

Julia Rogers

Founder of EnRoute Consulting

Julia Rogers is an experiential education expert, a TEDx speaker and an accredited gap year counselor with 12+ years in the field of emerging adulthood. She is a current board member and President Emeritus of the Gap Year Association, a US-based nonprofit dedicated to the intentional growth of the gap year option through research, standards-setting and advocacy efforts.

Julia works with educators, service-learning organizations, non-profits, government entities and families to develop creative educational pathways that result in young adults being better prepared to succeed in college, life and work. As the founder of EnRoute Consulting, Julia oversees a social enterprise dedicated to fueling the gap year movement and developing a generation of compassionate, driven and resourceful global citizens.