Recent controversy behind celebrities and the wealthy “buying” their way into colleges and universities raised many questions. For many parents and high school students the news is concerning especially for us who follow-by-the rules and respect the process. Majority of us encourage our kids to earn their way onto the next level of education based on their own merits. We tell them that if they work hard, they can achieve great things in life. We hope for positive experiences and lasting friendships. It’s a lot to take in.

Exploring post secondary education options can be overwhelming and we aren’t just bound to what’s in Canada. There are options beyond our borders that may open a new set of doors for your child. But what do you need to know? What are the steps to take? Doing your research now can help to make important decisions for later. So, where do you start?

If your child has dreams of attending a US school, the first step is to visit the school. The US College Expo (April 13,Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto) is an efficient way to have access to many US college and university representatives in one location right there in the city. It is the only student recruitment fair in Canada that exclusively provides students face-to-face access.

US admission representatives from Hofstra University, Michigan State University and others, as well as admissions experts, and specialists in emotional intelligence, an emerging area of importance proven to fuel student success in the age of disruption, will be onsite to guide students through the complex application process that significantly differs from applying to a Canadian university. Admission is free. Visit to pre-register and for more information.

We had a chance to chat with Joanna Severino, Founder & President, US College Expo and Prepskills to find out more…

With all the controversy around the US colleges and universities, what do the school administrations want people to know now?

JS: I understand why families may question the integrity of the U.S. College admissions, but the good news is that hard work, genuine talent and honesty wins. There are more extraordinary applicants who tip the scale and take the front door approach to US College admissions than those who cheat the system. Applying for a US college is certainly involved and complex, but experts can help students and family navigate the holistic and merit-based process that goes far beyond good grades!

What are some of the commonly misunderstood things about applying to US colleges/universities?

JS: Many think that a perfect SAT score alone guarantees entry into Ivy League schools. It can be very disappointing when families learn far too late that is just not the case. Investing in preparation course like those offered at Prepskills guides them through the admissions process that is based on the full academic record from Grades 9-12, standardized tests like SAT or ACT, and in some cases SAT subject tests. In addition, the student’s character, values, passions shine through the application process and interviews. Student athletes have the added challenge of meeting eligibility requirements in addition to meeting admissions requirements. For NCAA eligibility, they will need to complete 16 core courses and the SAT or ACT and meet a baseline eligibility threshold based on 16 core courses and SAT or ACT. That said, the admissions team requires all elements described – that means community work, volunteering and participation in extra-curricular activities during high school are all weighted. Also, I want to debunk the myth that students may think they need to wait until the fall of Grade 12 to write SAT. The earlier they get started the better. Students should prepare and write the SAT in the spring of Grade 10 or Grade 11. This leaves the fall of Grade 12 with the focus of applications, school visits, and  interviews.

What should families factor in when researching their options?

JS: Families can visit websites, campuses and ask questions as well as connect with the Canadian admissions contacts directly. The truth is, it’s not easy and can be a very daunting and time-consuming process for busy families. That’s why I founded the US College Expo which takes place across Canada this April. It’s the only student recruitment fair in Canada that provides students with face-to-face access to US college and university representatives all under one roof.

What are some other tips that we can give our Canadian students and their families when looking into US Colleges/Universities?

JS: There are many, but one that I strongly recommend and that I help families develop through Prepskills, is a personal statement essay. It can help your child stand out and isthe perfect opportunity for Colleges to get to know students as real people who have made an impact on their community. Students should write about something that speaks to their character, values, morals and experiences and how they will make a difference in that College’s community. As well, when it comes to references for applications quality counts versus quantity. They should speak to “soft” factors that focus on the student’s extra-curricular involvement, leadership, passion and core values. I also suggest families look beyond household names and college rankings. Investigate courses offered, professors and extra curriculars on and off campus. What services are offered for students, what groups can they join?

What else may be of interest to our families?

JS: Actor Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. ‘The Rock’, Elon Musk, CEO Tesla, filmmaker James Cameron, musician David Foster, basketball players Steve Nash and Cory Joseph, and 15th Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau are all Canadians who studied at US Colleges. Simply put, a degree from a US College can put the meaning of success into an elite, lifechanging category, particularly for gifted athletes, and those interested in the arts, film and medical fields. Small class sizes at most Colleges ensure students get to interact and form a deeper bond that will further support their educational opportunities for graduate schools and in career. Connections and opportunities open doors in their professional journey that includes significantly more income. Networking with bright minds to further your success in the future. While the cost of American Colleges may be expensive in terms of the “sticker price”, there are financial aid options, merit and scholarship opportunities.

US College Expo will be at Roy Thomson Hall, on Saturday, April 13th, 10 am to 2 pm. There will be guest speakers including Dr. Sanjiv Chopra (Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School) who will be speaking about EQ who will speak about What are the keys to success and lasting happiness: How you can lead in exemplary ways. In addition, special appearances at the Expo include Haley Irwin, 3 times Olympic Gold Medalist, Katie Weatherston (Olympic Gold Medalist),Ria Mae (singer-songwriter), and Elan Divon, Harvard-trained author.