College bound? This Chandler service might help The Chandler Arizonan

College bound? This Chandler service might help

December 4th, 2020 Chandler Arizona Staff
College bound? This Chandler service might help
Business
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ARIZONAN NEWS STAFF

Longtime Chandler resident Evonne Avalos has had an eventful career life.

She has been a journalist, an executive/personal assistant in the entertainment industry for a host of different stars.

Now she is using all the hustle and talent she brought to those jobs for her new business – one that parents and their college-bound high school students will find useful in the shadow of the pandemic and the wake of the college admission scandal.

Her boutique college and research guidance business, called Smart à la Carte, provides school profiles and the tools required to navigate the application, admission and post-admission processes.

Using a network of colleagues in higher education, Avalos guides families and students through the often-Byzantine world of academia’s admission and post-admission processes.

Saying there are “crucial gaps in communication between potential students, parents and higher education institutions,” Avalos aims to turn their questions “into well-informed answers.”

Families can learn more at smartalacarte.com or emailing info@smartalacarte.com. The Santan Sun News asked Avalos about her business.

What inspired you to start this business?

As the college admissions scandal unfolded last year, I reflected on my time as a first-time college student fresh out of high school and how much my dad and I weren’t aware of (like financial aid, FAFSA, scholarships and various deadlines).

Then I thought about the obstacles I faced when going back to school after an almost 10-year hiatus, this time as an adult and a wife, and later, as a university employee and working in the community college system. There are simply so many students to help but not enough passionate people with the time and dedication to help these students and their parents.

Plus, there are many departments to visit in order to get specific answers: Payment deadlines are typically handled by the registrar’s, financial aid from the financial aid department, questions on majors might be answered by either the admissions office or department the student’s major falls into.

I’ve never known of a service that helps you once you have been admitted to a college. There are even more deadlines to meet once you’ve been admitted.

I help guide parents and students through the different processes to help everyone make sure their i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.

What can a client expect from you?

I compile the basic information about the college that most people want to know when they are looking to apply to a certain school, along with the requirements a student needs in order to help determine if they might qualify for not only general admission, but admission to their program of study.

I also compile the school codes that students and parents may need when sending financial or standardized test results to the colleges they are applying at, a brief history of the school, and other various contact information that families will need if they decide to proceed with applying and eventually, get accepted.

A lot of this information is available from the school itself, but many times, you are put on hold, or told to apply first before your question can be answered, risk being transferred to another department, or worse, get accidentally hung up on.

I am a non-biased, one-stop shop for all of your college research needs. Combined with my previous experience as a personal assistant, nothing will stop me from finding out a specific answer.

I offer no “side door” to help students get accepted to any specific school. Rather, I help guide parents and/or applicants through the admissions, scholarship, and financial aid processes – very stressful, sometimes confusing and possibly overwhelming situations for families.

Are people buying some kind of packet of info or your direct consultation or both?

I don’t want clients to feel pressured into purchasing services they may not want to use, which is why each service is priced separately and how “à la carte” became part of the business name. I am always available for consultation as part of my services.

What gave you the idea for this business?

When the college admissions scandal broke last year, I reflected on my career in education: I was in international admissions, I was a financial aid student worker, I participated in a project that aimed to streamline the community college student experience, and looked back on my own experiences as an out-of-state college student straight out of high school, and as an “adult re-entry” student years later.

It would have been extremely helpful to have someone guide my dad and me, as we were bounced from one facet of my future college life

How does your service differ from what a high school guidance counselor would provide?

They perform such a wide range of assistance, from identifying any potential behavior or social issues that might need honing, to helping a student realize their natural gifts and talents through aptitude tests, etc. They can also provide information on when and where the next college fair or financial aid workshop.

There are plenty of services offered to high school students that help prepare them for the college application process, such as writing an engaging college essay, test assessment practicing, bootcamps or workshops on saving up for college, etc.

But what happens once your applications have been submitted? What takes a school so long to make an admission decision? Where does your financial aid information go once you (or your family) has filled out the FAFSA? What is a SAR? Is my school notified when I’ve received a scholarship? These answers are actually answered by various departments in charge of various parts of your college life.

My experiences as a college student and employee provide not only answers from the student perspective, but I can also explain what happens “behind the scenes” from the college perspective.

The services that I offer are akin to a tour guide before you go on the tour: I provide historical, program, deadline, and contact information on a college and degree program for applicants and parents, provide step-by-step instructions and deadline information after an applicant has been admitted, and can also explain what happens (behind the scenes) if or when certain deadlines can’t be met.

Not every school is the same, and not all of them have the same deadlines. Organizing this information in a customized school profile, will help parents and applicants in streamlining the college selection process, as well as throughout their college career.

What was the biggest challenge getting started?

I would have to say the research for similar businesses. While there are many that offer tutoring, financial aid or scholarship assistance, I was not able to find one that offered college information, financial aid, scholarships, assistance for international students, or deadline reminder services, all under one proverbial roof.

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