College coach and VoicED founder Ava Mariya Gencheva is feeling quite positive about the future of college admissions. Her curriculum and course admissions rhetoric are being touted as one of the foremost avenues that a prospective college student in the USA has for gaining perspective and acceptance.
Focusing on the individual traits that colleges search for, her classes have noticeable clout and weight and she was kind enough to sit down with us and discuss her thoughts on the pandemic stricken education system as well as share her thoughts on the principles of online learning, the common mistakes made on college applications, as well as her ambitions of going global with VoicED.
Hello Ava, let’s start with the fundamental question: What is different about VoicED Academy than another college coaching institution?
College consulting services have gained enormous popularity in the past decade due to the increasing complexity of the admissions process and most importantly the increasing competition among students from all continents. Roughly 3 million high school students enter colleges for undergrad every year in the USA alone. That is insane supply and demand considering the fact that most of these students apply to only the top 40 schools in the USA…and then there are foreign students trying to gain admissions to the very same schools too.
VoicED is different in many ways but I will list three main differences: massive expertise, accountability, results. Once a student begins the process with us, they become aware they are dealing with experts who hold themselves accountable, and experts who are relentless in their pursuit for excellence until the results are evident and satisfactory.
Nothing about the student is outsourced and I don’t resort to hiring “helpers” from other countries or college students, as I see so many other companies do to cut down costs. There are no shortcuts here!
I have over 20 years of experience in working with students. From the very first meeting with my prospective families, I can chart out a profile and I know the talents or the struggles a student is experiencing. In all these years, I have been able to guide a countless number of young people to their success stories.
How has COVID impacted the typical high school student looking to go to a four-year college?
COVID-19 has done more damage than most realize or acknowledge at the moment. Most high school students are worried about their profiles due to changes in SAT/ACT and standardized testing possibilities in general. Many have had to self-study all year long and fight for a strong GPA, while others had an easier time earning inflated grades, all depending upon the high school they are attending. Either way, no matter on which side of the spectrum these students fall, their confidence is low. Teens are not meant to self-study for AP Physics C and inflated grades are a bad precursor for lack of knowledge.
The real impact, however, is felt once the applications start to roll in and the decisions start to roll out. The admissions landscape currently is muddy and dark— there is no clarity about criteria, scores, expectations, or actual statistics. It’s an unfair battle that a teenager can easily lose without support.
Extremely important. Colleges do not assemble classes based on numbers and statistics alone. Colleges assess personality in many different ways and this is one area that usually escapes students. I’ve seen many disappointed valedictorians who question the process and unfortunately remain oblivious to the fact that they did not showcase their personality well. No student lacks in personality, there is only the inability to reflect, grow, take feedback, and showcase the “hero” in you.
I have many students who enter the program unsure of who they are, some have a specific talent but they don’t know what they want to be or do, some are over-achievers, but angry and unhappy. By the end, after they do the work, the results are astonishing. Of course, starting the process early produces the best results. Personality is a major factor in admissions, and it is one area where most have a blind spot— parents and students alike.
What’s the most common error you’ve seen on a typical college application?
The college application is multi-faceted. The possibility of errors is undeniable. The most common mistake would be not completing the common app and not listing the grades where and how they should be listed. The common app, in particular, has many little traps. Another one is the essay section, where the students usually copy-paste their personal statement. I am yet to see a student who can write, edit and proofread their own work. So much can go wrong and there is no turning back once it is submitted. There are, of course, many other areas, almost every page allows for several mistakes or inconsistencies.
This, again, is one reason why I am so confident about the benefits of my guidance, as I know how to avoid possibly every mistake and how to enhance the application where the student would not anticipate is possible.
With the advent of affordable online education and the growing prices of in-attendance colleges, do you see a shift happening to an online system in the future?
The shift, as you said, has already happened and it is unavoidable. The online education is perceived to be cheaper than traditional education but that is not the case. Schools have significant costs on their technology end, it is timesaving for lecturers but not in any way easier to teach, assess progress, and grade students. So, I don’t think the current prices are sustainable in a long run but only time and more competition will show. The question is how effective is online education. There are certainly more options today to take classes and become informed, however, not everyone can benefit equally from online platforms. In many ways, online education is more informational but not transformational. With the vast variety of online courses and degrees, the selectivity will only increase. Selective institutions that have rigorous curriculum will have to make the admissions process even more complicated in order to hand-pick qualified students who can withstand the rigor and deliver results.
I’ve been conducting my sessions online and now, I offer college consulting courses that anyone from around the world can access. The benefits of technology are amazing and in many ways, I am grateful for the opportunity to interact with people from around the world and benefit students from all backgrounds. However, I am always very careful to not allow technology to take away from the personalization of my lessons or sessions.
In my opinion, utilizing technology to teach will provide more options and it will be up to the student to decide the best path, and up to the employer who they should best hire. At the end of the day, it is about results.
Can you walk us through the process of your admissions planning and the course?
I work with students individually and guide them so they can discover their passion, amass portfolios, make a change in the world whilst keeping a high GPA and test scores. Additionally, I offer yearly masterclasses and courses. The courses are accessible to anyone around the world and are comprehensive. I cover everything needed to prepare for the college applications, including wiring the college essays for the common app, coalition app, and the UC System.
The majority of my students for my private practice come through referrals. This allows me to have very dedicated students and parents who are result-oriented. I always start with a one-hour meeting during which I introduce my system and outline strategies, and I also answer questions. This is my opportunity to help the family and the student(s) and give them some immediate direction and tips.
We are kicking off the summer with a Masterclass on Writing the College Essay starting on June 12 at 1:00 PM PST. My workshops and webinars are always packed with information and materials, I keep them educational and not commercial.
What has been the most important lesson you have gained from being a facilitator of admissions in your tenure?
The most important lesson for me has been the realization that teenagers, more than any other age group, need the right kind of role models, coaches, teachers, guides who lead and inspire them to a long-term happiness by choosing the right education and profession. If we are going to care about our planet, economy, health, and development as a civilization, then paying attention and supporting teens is our first and most important responsibility. There is a selfish move in this too, these are the people who will be in control of our technologically run world, so if we are placing our safety and well-being in the hands of our new generation, we better build a strong moral and emotional foundation first.
What’s next for VoicED?
Growth and expansion, preferably on all continents. There are students around the world who can benefit from finding their voice with VoicED and making a difference in the world. I invite anyone interested to be a part of the coaching program to get in touch with me directly.