Meet the College Essay Whiz Team of Consultants!
Devon Schwartz is our West Coast member of the College Essay Whiz team. Devon is a graduate of Yale University, where he majored in Theater Studies, Psychology and Philosophy. He has been tutoring through Hayutin & Associates (based in Santa Monica, CA) since 2004, and has a great deal of experience working with students from many exclusive private and public schools.
In addition to his specific academic background, Devon is highly skilled at providing support in English, writing, math (through Calculus), history, science, Spanish, and standardized test preparation (ISEE, ACT, SAT). He is also very adept at teaching Executive Function skill building, including study skills, time management and organization, and he excels with students who have diagnosed learning differences. Based in Los Angeles, Devon is also a working actor and writer, one who always honors his deep commitment to his students.
Devon has built more than a decade of experience with dozens of private students as well, referred only by word of mouth. Many of these (as well as a number of Hayutin clients) involved extensive assistance with college applications: on the main Common App essay, supplemental essays, and special University of California essays. The vast majority of these students were accepted to their first-choice schools (with Yale, NYU and USC among the recent success stories).
Devon is particularly proud of one student whose essay for the University of Florida yielded a special letter from the admissions office asking the student for permission to reprint the essay as a model for future applicants.
Rachel Shulman is a passionate teacher, and her students often comment that this passion and excitement for her subjects makes them more interested, sometimes in spite of themselves. She began her teaching career as a Ph.D. candidate, teaching undergraduate history classes in American and European History. She began tutoring in 2009 while she was also working as a librarian at the University of California in Irvine. While her early specialties were AP US, European, and World History, she quickly expanded to the Reading Comprehension, Writing, and Essay portions of the SAT and ACT. Soon, she began working with private college counselors in Irvine on their students’ college application essays. After realizing that coaching her students on study skills, time management, and goal setting was a natural part of her work, Rachel now offers coaching as a stand-alone service.
Based in the Boston area, Rachel has had hundreds of private students and has assisted with hundreds of college application essays. While she helps students with a variety of tasks, she finds her work as a writing coach writing to be the most satisfying. Rachel focuses on helping students figure out what stories best express their individuality, as well as on the craft of writing. She is proud that all of her essay students leave not only with excellent application essays but also as better writers. In recent years her students have attended Mount Holyoke, Stanford, Duke, Brandeis, Harvard, Northeastern, Skidmore, Hobart and William Smith, NYU, and others.
A graduate of Bryn Mawr College, Rachel also holds an MA in History and an MS in Library and Information science from the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign. When she is not working with students, she enjoys swimming (especially in the ocean), reading, and attending concerts, from Mumford and Sons to a cappella Renaissance music.
Valentine Sergon is a Pomona College graduate who loves the written word. Originally from the Washington, DC area, she received her degree in Political Science but also prioritized language learning, taking classes in Arabic, Spanish, and Swahili; in her junior year, she spent a semester in the Middle East and the other in Latin America.
Valentine deeply believes that profound learning often happens outside of the classroom, in the spaces that make us uncomfortable and unsure. To this end, upon graduation, she moved to Abu Dhabi to teach English, an adventure that was challenging, joyous, and an opportunity for real growth. Just recently, Valentine moved back to the Washington, DC area after working on refugee resettlement in Toronto, Canada, an experience that she regards as her most difficult and rewarding thus far.
Recalling her own college application experience, full of uncertainty and missteps, always reminds her of the importance of a thorough college search to ensure that each student finds the right fit. To this end, she has worked in education with many high school students to help them explore options and enhance their applications. She brings to the College Essay Whiz Team a real love of working with students and the belief that there is a ‘perfect school’ for each student.
Amardeep Bhatia, College Essay Whiz’s international consultant, currently resides in Bangalore, the IT capital of India. Always academically inclined, Amardeep earned a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering, an MBA, and a Master’s degree in Education from California State University, Northridge. An associate member of the IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association), she is currently working towards achieving her College Counseling Certification from UCLA.
Amardeep grew up in India and later spent more than a decade in Los Angeles. She worked as a software developer for many years in LA, but ultimately found her calling to work in education. Having worked in the corporate space in the US and having lived here, she is able to help students not only find the right university for them but also to prepare them for the life experiences that they will have when they are away from home in a foreign land. Her own academic and professional journey took a few detours before she found her calling; therefore, it is her mission now to provide students with appropriate guidance starting from their early high school years. Through her consultancy, she has been helping students in India and other countries; her multiple college counseling certifications enable her to help students with admissions in different parts of the world such as the United Kingdom, Singapore, India, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, New Zealand as well as the U.S.
Amardeep believes that “one size never fits all” and that each student is truly special and deserves individual attention. She works diligently to ensure a customized experience for each student, encouraging them to explore colleges for an individual fit rather than to apply to the “best ranked” schools. She helps each student with psychometric assessments to truly understand his or her personality, strengths and weaknesses. She is driven to expose students to the endless fields of study available to them besides the typical handful that students and families more often tend to look at. “The world has plenty of room for all of us” Amardeep explains, “and with a little help and guidance every student is sure to find the right place.”
In her spare time, she enjoys music, impersonators, working with her two daughters on social causes in India. She also enjoys teaching them the five languages she speaks fluently: English, Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi and Sindhi.
Liz Krane has spent the past ten years balancing her two passions: theater and education. While an undergraduate at Harvard University, where she earned a B.A. in Literature, she managed live theater productions during the school year and worked as an instructor and program manager at EXPLO Summer Programs during the summers. As she struggled to choose just one as her career, she moved to New York City after graduation to pursue theater management by day and continue her involvement in education outside the office.
Liz feels that she has been fortunate to have had wonderful experiences in the theater industry: She has assisted with the launch of the performance venue Feinstein’s/54 Below, served as an executive assistant to two Broadway producers, and managed Off-Broadway productions. She now works as a financial manager for Broadway, Off-Broadway, and touring productions.
Throughout it all, Liz has continued to enjoy preparing numerous students for the SAT and has helped high school juniors from under-served communities to plan for the college application process. Now, as a member of the College Essay Whiz team, she combines her skills to inform college applicants and their families about the nuances of financial aid and scholarship opportunities and to assist with the accompanying paperwork. Liz is practiced at communicating thoroughly, distilling information for others, and guiding teams through complex projects as a theater manager; she also understands the varying needs of high school students and looks forward to tailoring plans to each individual.
In her spare time, Liz is true to her literature degree and reads, attends live performances, and catches up on the latest films, but she also likes to go on adventures. A couple of highlights from the past year include a spontaneous trip to Staten Island (an adventure for someone who lives in Manhattan!) and backpacking from one rim of the Grand Canyon to the other.
Valerie Wattenberg’s mission is not merely to get her student clients into college; her approach is personalized, collaborative, and growth-oriented. By drawing out her students’ perspectives on their academic and life experiences, she helps students explore their aspirations for college and beyond, identify the schools that best fit their priorities and learning styles, and she coaches them as they establish and compile portfolios that illustrate to admissions offices how students will contribute to the life of the university.
Based in New York City, Valerie works with her clients both face-to-face and remotely, and accommodates student schedules across a 15-hour range of time zones. Valerie has studied, worked, and traveled in dozens of countries, and hosted students and visitors from across Europe and Eurasia. She knows what it is like to start life in a new environment, and she loves helping students and professionals prepare for that life by developing skills and strategies for educational, personal, and professional development in new and challenging settings.
A graduate of New York University and the University of Maryland School of Law, Valerie brings to her mentoring decades of experience as a tutor, writer, editor, and translator, fluency in Russian and French, familiarity with Italian, Spanish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, and Georgian, as well as her firsthand experience at NYU, George Washington University, Yale University, Occidental College, and the University of Maryland. She has coached, encouraged, and inspired students from California to New York, Eastern Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Valerie uses her linguistic and cross-cultural experience to help US students, first-generation Americans, and international clients find the right ways to demonstrate their unique qualities to university admissions teams. Her clients have been accepted to schools around the United States, including Northeastern University, Tufts University, Middlebury College, and the Monterey Institute, as well as small liberal arts colleges and state universities.
Although applying to colleges can be an intimidating and anxiety-provoking experience, Valerie’s students have remarked that her belief in their abilities minimized their stress, kept them on track, and made the process enjoyable and successful. (That also makes the work fun and rewarding for Valerie.)
College Essay Whiz is always on the lookout for other professionals who have expertise in specific areas that are essential to college applicants and their families. Fortunately, we are lucky to have a professional connection with a financial aid coach who has always been most gracious and helpful providing guidance and information in this regard.
As the cost of college continues to increase, applicants usually turn to the internet for answers. Sometimes those answers are cogent and clear, but other times, they leave the reader in a state of anxiety. And so we wish to introduce you to our colleague, Blaine Blontz!
Prior to founding Financial Aid Coach, Blaine Blontz worked for several years in the financial aid industry as a counselor for students and families at schools including Millersville University, where he completed a degree in education, and La Salle University, from which he graduated with an MBA in Finance. In his capacity as a financial aid counselor, Blaine was able to learn firsthand the ins and outs of financial aid, and he has developed a network of resources in the field.
Given his background and resources, Blaine can help families navigate the college planning process, lessening the anxiety of preparing for college and connecting them with other great resources in the field.
Blaine works primarily remotely with his clients, who reside across the country and even abroad. Most communication is done via phone call and email. The best way to reach Blaine is via his website to set up an initial phone call to discuss how you may be able to work together.