Join Us for 40+ Breakout and All-Conference Sessions



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Robert Scheer

Founder, Comfort Cases

Rob Scheer entered foster care carrying a trash bag. “Aged out” of foster care at the age of 18, he was homeless, and again carried his possessions in a trash bag.

When Rob chose to grow their family by adopting from the foster care system, his children arrived with their belongings in trash bags. How, after 40 years, were children in the foster care system still carrying their things in a bag used for trash?

Comfort Cases was born. Ten years later, 200,000+ backpacks filled with essential goods for youth in foster care in the US and UK have been distributed.

Rob is the host of the weekly podcast Fostering Change, ranked the #1 Podcast for Adoption and Foster Care issues for consecutive years and author of A Forever Family: Fostering Change One Child at a Time, his memoir.

Since being founded in 2013, Comfort Cases has been featured in numerous national media including The Ellen Show and The Today Show, and The View. In 2017, an Upworthy video featuring Comfort Cases received over 150 million views and in 2018 Rob Scheer was named one of CNN’s Heroes.

Rob lives in Maryland with his husband Reece and their five children (all who were in the foster care system).

Read full bio here


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Angel Pérez

Chief Executive Officer, NACAC

Dr. Angel B. Pérez is CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). In this role, he represents more than 26,000 admission and counseling professionals worldwide committed to postsecondary access and success. He is the primary voice of the association to government, media, and global partners. Pérez is recognized as a national thought leader and is a sought-after speaker on issues of educational equity, access, and success in American education. 

Prior to joining NACAC in July of 2020, Dr. Pérez served in secondary and higher education leadership positions across America, most recently, as Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success at Trinity College in Connecticut. Dr. Pérez’s passion for teaching led him to serve as a faculty member at Trinity’s Educational Studies Department, UCLA’s College Counseling Certification Program, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In addition, he was a visiting international faculty member at Rikkyo University in Japan. He has served as a Trustee at the Berkshire School (MA), United World College in Costa Rica, Hartford Youth Scholars (CT), Tuition Exchange (DC), Scholarship America (DC), and was elected the youngest Chair of Diversity in the history of Skidmore College’s alumni association. He currently serves as a steering committee member for the Washington Higher Education Secretariat

He holds a B.S. from Skidmore College, an M.A. from Columbia University, a PhD from Claremont Graduate University, and a Teaching Certification in Higher Education Pedagogy from the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard University. 

Read full bio here

Breakout Sessions

Advising High School Students with Disabilities
Advising high school students with disabilities (learning, sensory, mobility, health conditions, and neurodivergence) who plan to attend college can be overwhelming. Join this overview session to learn more about how to approach the unique challenges of these students including the changes between the IDEA and ADA, and the need for a plan for independence in advocacy and academics. You will leave with resources to support your advising.

Advising Students and Parents to Make the Most of Their Campus Visits
When families visit campuses they are better able to determine whether a particular college is a good fit, and their feedback is invaluable to IECs building students’ college lists. In this session, participants will learn to prepare their clients to fully engage in the information session and tour and to actively explore the resources and amenities offered on and off-campus. Presenters will address how families can identify campus culture, use the visit to focus on their student’s unique academic and mental health needs and extracurricular interests, and ensure that students take the lead in the campus visit process.

Australia and New Zealand: Doing a Degree Down Under
Beyond exotic animals and stunning landscapes, Australia and New Zealand are home to world-class universities. Known to students for their affordability, shorter duration, transparent admissions and quality of life, a journey to Oceania offers a wonderful option for students. Learn about entry requirements, admission processes, finances, and term dates. Gain a deeper understanding of the rich academic and social experiences that Aussie and Kiwi ‘unis’ offer, all to help you identify the best fit for your students.

A Cautionary Tale: How Colleges Respond to Disciplinary Action
Unfortunate social media posts? Academic dishonesty? A Title IX Violation? This session will feature real-life stories of college admission committee dealings with challenging disciplinary or behavioral scenarios. Learn ways to caution and advise students and families about the mistakes, and the way mistakes are managed, that can make or break admission decisions.

Capitalizing on a Successful Transition from High School to College
The enrollment deposit is paid. Now what? In this interactive session, college achievement coaches and campus administrators will offer tips for the transition from accepting the admissions offer to arriving on campus. Our experts will lead case study exercises to help determine how to best help students who struggle with the complexities of landing at college softly. We will offer insights on what contributes to academic and personal success for the first year of college.

Capitolize Your Experience to New Levels
New or relatively new to being an IEC? Are you ready to “Capitolize” on experience to find business strategies, tech tools, and collaborations! Attend this open forum breakout session packed with practical tips and sage wisdom with two IECs from different backgrounds, experience levels, and expertise: Ellen Kuppersmith, Founder of College Kupp in LA with a specialty helping students apply to universities abroad, and Cheri Barad, HECA Past-President, a 24-year veteran with two offices (Kansas City and Boston), and 20 years of teaching experience with the UCLA College Counseling program. Attendees are guaranteed to leave this session HECA-STRONGER!

Changing the World: Public Research Universities as a Path for Changemakers
Engaged, insightful students who want to change the world don’t often know the exact path to achieve their academic and professional goals. Top tier public research universities can be a playground for these students to get support, explore a variety of majors and co-curricular opportunities, and network with large alumni networks. IECs will learn about how students will benefit from flexibility, top career services, groundbreaking teaching ideas, access to undergraduate research opportunities, and interdisciplinary options.

ChatGPT & The College Essay
When it comes to college essay coaching, gimmicks and shortcuts don’t work – including ChatGPT, the latest shiny object generating buzz inside the world of college admission. Think best college rankings; essays must be better for the Ivies; test optional; essays are now more important than ever. And now, we have the bot. Will your students cheat? Will you know?

In this interactive educational session, we’ll discuss the many distractions inside this college essay world, and how to put them into context, so we can help our students deliver meaningful college essays admissions teams will want to read.

College Advisors + Funding Experts = Brilliant Outcomes
When paired with a knowledgeable IEC, college funding experts add tremendous value to the student’s college process. They determine how to pay for college without compromising parent’s retirement or current lifestyle AND keep the student’s best academic and personal fit in mind. Attendees will learn when to engage with a financial expert, even if the family assumes they will not qualify for need-based financial aid. We especially help those that will “make it work” when expected to pay full tuition but have a funding gap from EFC to COA.

Competitive UK Universities: Making a Strong Application and Finding the Right Fit
With the UK UCAS system being based on one application and only five university course choices, how can students ensure they are applying to the right universities for them and giving themselves the best chance of a successful application to competitive programmes? Our panel of selective UK institutions will cover not only UCAS, but also the potential differences between how applications are assessed in a collegiate system such as the University of Cambridge, vs a specialist institution like Imperial College London or a Scottish university such as the University of Glasgow.

Connect with Common App: Trends, Updates, and Conversation
What’s App, Common App?

Join Meredith Lombardi, Director of Education and Training, at the Common App. The Common Application Board and staff will just be concluding their annual retreat the week before our conference. All the ‘new’ news will be coming to us live with Meredith. There will be a presentation regarding proposed changes to the Common Application and then a short Q&A.

Meredith has been kind enough to offer to present the same presentation on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Please only plan to attend one session to ensure other members have the opportunity to attend. 

Creative Kind with Futures in Mind: A Design Thinking Approach to Higher Ed and Career Discovery
All too often the path to career success is believed to be a linear one where students check off all the “right” boxes to get into the “right” college which leads directly to the “perfect” career. However, as we know, that path excludes a wide variety of students, and it doesn’t fit with today’s college and career reality. A Design Thinking approach that incorporates career development practices, allows students to get clearer about their own unique capabilities and then take a hands-on iterative approach to build their own college and career plan. In this interactive workshop, you will learn how to incorporate design thinking strategies into your college and career planning business.

Deep Dutch Dive
The Netherlands has been a hot destination for some time and continues to welcome international students. However, the lowlands are not for every student. Learn more about how the overall education system works and which students may be a good fit; get a road map to application processes and admissions to help guide your students; and gain insight into the challenges and changing landscape of Dutch higher education.

Disaster Recovery: Helping Students Overcome Poor Decisions in Admissions and Retention
This session is for counselors on both sides of the desk. We will explore how poor student decisions affect college admissions and enrollment management. Institutional protocol around disciplinary records will also be considered. After exploring research, key trends, and best practices, attendees will discuss case studies. The goal is a deeper understanding of disciplinary issues, trends, research, and considerations that can be applied to supporting students and institutional leadership.

Ethics of Artificial Intelligence in College Admissions Counseling
In this session, we will delve into the role of AI in college admissions and its impact on digital citizenship. The session will examine both the benefits and challenges of using AI in the admissions process, and participants will leave with a deeper understanding of how AI can be used to enhance the college counseling process and support student success. With a focus on ethical considerations and best practices, this session will provide practical strategies for incorporating AI into the college admissions process and promoting digital citizenship in higher education.

From Bagpipes to Stethoscopes: Your Guide to Studying Medicine in Scotland
This session will provide HECA members with concrete steps for assisting students applying to Scottish direct-entry medical programs. Presenters will review the application process and requirements, provide a list of universities offering programs, and explain timelines and test requirements. In addition, the presenters will lead a discussion about the decision-making process for students looking to study medicine and focus on the re-entry process for returning to North America to practice medicine. The presentation will include a case study example. Participants will be better prepared to discuss direct entry medical programs in Scotland and guide their students through the application process.

Gap Year/Post-Graduate Programs for Students with Learning Differences
Students with learning differences such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia frequently struggle with executive functioning (e.g., organization, planning and time management), as well as independent living and/or social skills. They can enhance these skills–and increase their chances of success in college–by attending a gap year or post-graduate program designed for neurodivergent students. In this presentation, IECs will learn how to determine which students would most benefit from a gap year, what the key benefits are and how to help families select a program.

How to Help Your Students Earn College Scholarships
Escalating college costs make it more challenging than ever for students to pay for college. What can educational consultants do to help students find and secure scholarships? In this educational session, a diverse panel including admissions representatives, scholarship readers, test prep experts, and essay coaches will discuss ways to help students find scholarship opportunities, get motivated to apply, write compelling scholarship essays, and secure much needed dollars for college.

Is it REALLY a Good School?
As IECs we constantly hear from clients that they only want to hear about “good” schools; they feel some are “good” while others are not. But perceptions of “good” can change, as can a school’s reputation. Therefore, we recommend analyzing a school in depth, to see upon what, exactly, its value can be assessed. This requires studying a school’s Common Data Set and other factors. This session will examine SPECIFIC tools and DATA we use, and how we communicate methodologies to encourage clients to research lists in a nuanced way. We will share info and leave time for Q&A.

Let’s Get Digital! Preparing for the New P/SAT
The digital, adaptive P/SAT debuts the fall of 2023. Although College Board boasts that the new format will be met with fanfare from students, counselors have understandable concerns about the transition. To bring clarity, Compass will share its firsthand experience offering a digital PSAT to thousands of sophomores last fall. Additionally, the presenters will provide an up-to-date review of the testing policy landscape, admission outcomes, and guidance regarding score submission.

Liability to Asset: Harnessing the Power of Parents During College Application Process
Harnessing the power of parent involvement during the college application process is essential for ensuring the best outcomes for a student’s future. With so much riding on the outcome of college applications, it’s important to leverage all available resources to ensure the best possible results. In this session, we will explore concrete steps to shift the mindset from parents as a “liability” to parents as an “asset.”

Living in a Test-Optional World: Current Landscape and Navigating Clients Through It
The widespread adoption of test-optional admissions is driving a new normal in college admissions. In this session led by George Fan, Founder and CEO of College Kickstart, we’ll delve more deeply into the impact of test-optional on the current landscape based on original research conducted on over 300 institutions. After setting context, we’ll then turn to a panel of experienced IECs who will share their approaches for advising clients about when to submit test scores.

Mental Health and College: What to Know When Applying and Attending
In the 2020–2021 school year, 60% of college students met the criteria for at least one mental health issue according to the Healthy Minds Study, which collects data annually from 373 campuses nationwide. This session will focus on the unique needs of students with mental health issues during the college search and application process and supports that are available to students attending college. An IEC who specializes in mental health and a college admissions officer will share their experiences to help participants more effectively support students with mental health needs.

Onboarding New Clients: How, When, and What Next?
Getting started with a client is often the hardest part of being an IEC. How do you handle inquiries? Is there an industry standard? Is there an easy way to start new clients? What role does technology play? What role did covid play? Two IECs set out to find the answer to these and other questions on onboarding new clients by surveying people in the college counseling industry. Learn what they learned from the survey and receive resources to use when evaluating your process.

Preparing a Family’s Budget to Help Build the College List!
Creating a budget for college is imperative. Examining college costs and potential student/parent debt can be essential for some families in choosing a college. IECs should be able to counsel families about the importance of a budget and know how to integrate the results to build college lists.

IECs will learn to utilize a budget worksheet for use with their clients. The worksheet will show the effect of tuition on their financial situation to determine if cost is a factor. Will review how EFCs can help to choose schools.

Race Conscious Admissions: How Will the Supreme Court Decision Affect IECs?
While we may not know the Supreme Court ruling until the end of June, we can consider how the decision will impact the students we advise.

America’s higher education institutions have long acknowledged the educational benefits of diversity. For over four decades, the Supreme Court has recognized the essential role that diversity serves in achieving educational missions and outcomes.

After a brief history of the Supreme Court on Affirmative Action, two experts in the field will offer their “up to the moment” insights on how this affects the work we do as IECs and the broader field of college admission.

Should I Stay or Should I Go: Introduction to American Universities Abroad
In this session, presenters will introduce the American Universities Abroad network, examine the benefits of pursuing a liberal arts degree abroad, and explore student profiles that would best fit this experience. The presentation will include discussion-based learning to help participants better understand all aspects of this unique college option so that they are equipped to advise their clients on the realities of an international education experience at a US university abroad.

Success and Happiness as an IEC: Ways to Evaluate Your Practice
Take your business to the next level by identifying ways of making your practice more effective and efficient. In this interactive session, participants will gain tools, tips, and insight into evaluating their practices in areas such as counseling strategies, business and professional goals, and personal enjoyment and lifestyle. Participants will leave with the Antonoff Assessment of My Practice and be ready to evaluate 59 areas important to success as a consultant. No matter what stage of practice, you will walk away with ideas for using your strengths, overcoming obstacles, and setting goals to be a happier, more successful IEC.

Life on College Campus in the UK – From Support Services to Sports and More!
Two experienced UK university representatives will outline the various support services available to your students whilst they’re studying in the UK. The presenters will cover various support services including mental health, medical health, disability, academic, religious, cultural, LGBTQAI+, careers and employment, sport and performance, and more. Join us and find out all the reasons why studying in the UK might be the best fit for your students.

The 2-for-1 Package: Managing Parent Expectations and Involvement in Your Practice
A critical job in our role as practitioners of college admissions success is empowering students and navigating parental expectations. Often, we find ourselves working with parents who have different ideas about their students’ aspirations. In turn, students may feel torn between following their dreams or pleasing their parents. As IECs or service providers, we may feel caught up in conflicting expectations, unsure of how to navigate these familial rifts. 

In this session we will explore tools to empower parents to give their student autonomy, avoid unrealistic expectations, and, ultimately, explicate the IEC’s role in the familial dynamic.

The Invisible Minority: Increasing Confidence When Working with Students with Learning Differences
Educational consultants are diversifying their practice to ensure they can work with one of the largest minority groups on college campuses: individuals with learning, attention, and neurodevelopmental disabilities. This panel discussion will explore practical tools and strategies to enhance your practice to meet the growing needs of students with learning disabilities and their families, while exploring methodologies of assessing college readiness, post-secondary programs, and other factors that can help this invisible minority group.

The Military-Connected Student: College Success and Education Resources
There are more than 2 million children in classrooms whose parents are active-duty military service members, National Guard, reservists, or military veterans. The children of active-duty service members move an average of six to nine times during their school years. Contending with frequent moves, new schools, and the deployments and separations, these military-connected kids carry a unique weight — often invisible, often unacknowledged. Most educators and counselors — just like most Americans — don’t have personal experience with the military or know the resources available to these students, in high school and during the transition to college.

The Power and Possibilities of Serving Neurodivergent Students in Post-Secondary Education
College is expensive. Four-year graduation rates are abysmal. As IECs, we are responsible for ensuring that our clients understand how underlying challenges may impact their college experience and trajectory (i.e., the ability to succeed and graduate). Understanding the options for all students, including those not (yet) ready for college, and having strategies in place to serve and meet them where they are will equip IECs to adapt to evolving student and family needs.

The Power of Transformative Education
Why were some colleges able to pivot easily and other colleges found it difficult, if not impossible to pivot, during covid? The colleges that already offered experiential, interactive learning experiences really shined. What lessons can we learn from colleges with an agile and innovative approach to learning in college? What are the outcomes if college focuses more intently on developing skills and knowledge through innovative methods than through traditional methods? Learn from two innovative colleges how they use experiential, interactive learning to engage students and enhance their college experience. What questions should counselors ask colleges about learning experiences?

The Top Five Things Every IEC Needs to Know about Appealing
Admission acceptances are rolling in followed by Financial Aid Award Offers. Now it’s time for families to look at the bottom line and decide if they are going to Appeal. Should your clients always Appeal? What’s the best way to approach an Appeal to be successful? Are families negotiating with the colleges? Can they Appeal if they applied ED? How do Net Price Calculators fit in? Come learn about this process from start to finish. We will share best practices to maximize the odds of a successful Appeal.

Title IX Over Time: Obama to Trump to Biden
What’s really going on behind the headlines about sexual assault on campus? An admissions consultant specializing in educational crisis management and a leading educational lawyer will talk about their real-life experiences working on close to 500 Title IX cases between them. We will talk about Title IX, the federal law banning sex discrimination on campus, and the changes under the Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations. We critique changes in the landscape that have set up perverse incentives and other unintended consequences. We call for a public health perspective to prevent sexual misconduct on campus.

To SRAR with Love … Why Some Colleges Require Self-Reported Transcripts
Whether you love it or hate it, come and hear why some colleges prefer to use the SRAR instead of transcripts in the application process. This panel discussion includes college reps and someone from SRAR to discuss best practices, and how to best help students fill out the form.

Transform Your Business with Relationship Marketing
How can you build an ongoing network of goodwill and customer engagement to strategically grow your business? Join us in this interactive session to learn how to leverage relationship marketing to expand your network, build strong connections, deliver great service, and gain consistent client leads from referrals. Relationship marketing can help you grow your business and your revenue easily and effectively. Learn 20 relationship marketing strategies you can implement today. We will breakout in groups to brainstorm and share additional relationship marketing strategies.

Using ChatGPT to Enhance Our Practices and Teach Students Better Writing
Artificial Intelligence tools like ChatGPT are revolutionizing writing. While there are moral and ethical implications, in this session, we show how college admissions professionals can use these tools to do their work better. We explain the results of experiments using these tools to help students learn to write more effective essays and responses, while still retaining their own voices. The use cases and demonstrations drive discussions of ways these tools can help enhance practitioners’ businesses and marketing. We will explain how these tools can be integrated into members’ practices using APIs. We will solicit feedback and discussion from the audience.

Wait! Don’t Study in the UK if ….
UK higher education has many virtues but it’s not for everyone. Some majors aren’t transferable to the US and others may require additional certification. This session will cover degrees that are not recommended to earn in the UK for those planning to return to the US; as well as interests and personality traits that would hinder students from a full university experience.

World Language Studies Give Students a Cutting-Edge in Competitive Arts Program Admissions
Few students understand how studying world language can give them a cutting-edge in competitive arts program admissions and careers. LanguageBird Admissions Coordinator, Megan Heavner will discuss the competitive world of admissions to selective arts programs and expectations they have of students for world language studies once admitted to prestigious programs. Megan, a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Peabody Institute in operatic studies, will recount her own admissions experiences, her studies at Hopkins and her later work at Hopkins in admissions. Dr. Karyn Koven, Founder of LanguageBird, will explore areas of study where languages are required at selective universities.

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