Our Commitment to Ethical Academic Guidance

Firat Education’s co-founder and Chief Educational Consultant Ibrahim Firat is a professional member, board member, and Treasurer of IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association), an international professional association representing experienced independent educational consultants.  All Firat Education consultants are either active or impending members of the IECA in order to promote the highest quality independent educational consulting to students and families seeking skilled, ethical, academic guidance.

In response to Netflix’s docudrama Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal, IECA commends its members commitment to the highest standards in ethical college advising while calling for greater transparency in the college application process.

The Netflix film takes a deep dive into the 2019 college admissions scandal, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” involving a criminal conspiracy to influence undergraduate admissions decisions at several prestigious American universities. The scandal led to more than 50 high-profile arrests, including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. The conspiracy spotlights William “Rick” Singer, who claimed to be an educational consultant and used millions of dollars from wealthy parents of college applicants to fraudulently inflate entrance exam test scores as well as bribe college coaches and administrators.

Problems in the College Application Process

While the Varsity Blues scandal exposed the specific efforts of wealthy, privileged parents to ensure their children’s admission into the nation’s top colleges, it brought to light broader problems in the college application process:

How Firat Education Consultants Help Students and Families Navigate College Admissions

Firat Education consultants work to assure families understand the drivers in college admissions and help them navigate its complexities in order to find a “best fit” college that meets a student’s unique set of academic, social, financial, and career needs.

Firat Education consultants believe there are many great postsecondary options for every student, and no student should be made to feel that they must become something they are not to get accepted. Being and presenting one’s authentic self and demonstrating one’s own talents and abilities are ways of ensuring the right college fit. This is central to what an ethical independent educational consultant does.

As members of the IECA, Firat Education consultants offer an unequalled level of expertise, competence, and professionalism. Each undergoes an extensive application process. They must have a master’s degree (or equivalent), at least three years of admissions counseling experience, experience working with scores of students, and have visited 50 campuses before they can be considered for professional membership. In addition, all members must agree to abide by IECA’s Principles of Good Practice and submit their marketing materials for review to ensure they accurately reflect the independent educational consultant’s role.Firat Education consultants sign an annual pledge that governs their interactions with colleges, students, and parents. They agree to avoid any action that distorts or misrepresents a student’s record or interferes with a university’s ability to accurately evaluate a student. Because Firat Education consultants are committed to the highest ethical standards of practice, they have the student’s best interest as their sole focus.

F-A-F-S-A. The five-letter “F” word that high school seniors around the country inquire about, what is it?! Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Why is it important…keep reading! 

The FAFSA is, as indicated in its title, an application – a form. This form requires important personal and financial information from students and parents. It is then processed by the Federal Government to help determine a family’s Expected Family Contribution, EFC. Yes, this is where the formidable “alphabet soup” continues for high school students applying to college. The alphabet soup, as many in the field like to refer to it, is a laundry list of acronyms for important decision throughout the college admissions process – COA, ED, EA, RD, and so on – FAFSA and EFC are a continuation of the long list of acronyms that are important for a student’s future. 

Ok, enough of a tangent let’s get back to the matter at hand – FAFSA. The EFC is a dollar amount that the federal government decides, after putting your information through a complex algorithm, you should be able to reasonably contribute to your student’s educational journey. Then, this number is sent to the colleges of your student’s choice – the colleges that your student is applying to where the institution will utilize this “reasonable” dollar amount to determine the level of need. Financial need is the key to unlocking federal aid such as grants, student loans, parent loans, and federal work study. 

This key also grants access to institutional grants that may be available to students. The formula that is utilized at most colleges to quantify the level of need for a student is: COA – EFC = NEED. (Yes, the relentless alphabet soup is back! COA, Cost of Attendance, is the amount of money a college/university states it will cost for all things associated with a specific school. For example, this number includes tuition, room & board, books, supplies, travel expenses, personal items, and more. This number is not a static number, it is also commonly referred to as the “Sticker Price”.) Need is an interesting word in the college admission process. Students often say to me “I NEED to get into X college”, or “I NEED to get an X on my ACT”. The reality of the word “need” implies something far different than the reality it reveals. In the Financial Aid world, “need” implies the amount of money that the federal government or a financial institution will offer a student so that student is able to attend their school. The storm of implication and reality can leave many students confused as to their next steps. At least, this was my experience (slight shoulder shrug). 

The dilemma is this: the EFC listed is not an actual amount that my parents (or I) can afford for college, yet obtaining a college degree is necessary for success, so now what? As part of a financial aid package, students are often offered loans to help make their higher education dreams come true. In November 2019, an article was published on cnbc.com discussing this very topic. In the article, the author states that “student loans are now the second-largest category of household debt in the U.S., trailing only home loans. The amount of outstanding student debt is approximately $1.4 trillion dollars”. This is a staggering reality. How many high school seniors (fall of senior year is when you apply for the FAFSA, and spring of senior year is the latest that students will receive their aid package letters) think through paying back the loan, plus interest, after their college degree is completed? Or, again as in my case, are students thinking about their “need” to attend X college and are loans part of the solution? It is a question worth asking.  

I am not saying that student loans are evil, my goal in sharing this is to educate students and parents so that each family can make the best choice for the future. My career, my passion, is to help students find the right “fit” college which includes maximizing GPAs, SAT/ACT scores and curriculum in order to qualify for the most merit aid available at each institution. I, often, counsel with families, students and even financial advisors about the reality of need based aid vs. merit aid. Knowledge is power! 

I was a first-generation college student when I applied to colleges, and didn’t have either a college savings plan or access to a financial advisor. My parents had a dream for me, though, to complete a college education unlike them. As a result, they encouraged me to take out student loans because that was the only way to make the dream a reality in my family. Both of my parents were hard working middle-class folks, and academic scholarships were not an option for me (that is a story for another day), and since I didn’t have access to a college counselor, I deferred to my parents knowledge and said YES to student loans. I attended a small private college in Portland, OR and am thankful for the opportunity. I, then, went on to earn a Master’s degree in Business. To this day, I am working to pay off my student loans. While I am extremely thankful that my parents had a dream for me, in retrospect (which is always 20/20) I would’ve made some different decisions. But, the decision to forgo college would NOT have been the option. Opportunities have been bountiful because of my education. 

Don’t forget – Firat Education is here to help plan for your future by finding the right fit college. Contact us if you need assistance. 


David caught up with Ibrahim and asked if a few questions regarding the PSAT scores being released today.


Ibrahim: Oh, hey, David. Good morning. I didn’t know you were here.

David: Hey, morning. How’re you?

I: Good.

D: Do you know what day it is by chance?

I: Today is December 10th, Monday. PSAT scores come out today.

D: So, what exactly is the PSAT? Is it a practice SAT?

I: You could say that, it’s a practice SAT.  It’s shorter and easier than the SAT. It gives sophomores and juniors a chance to take a standardized test.

D: Oh ok, gotcha. I think your coffee is done.

I: Okay, awesome.

D: Hazelnut?

I: No, French Roast. I’m not a huge fan of flavored coffee.

D: Oh, well… to each their own I guess.

D: So, what exactly does a good PSAT score look like?

I: A good PSAT score is somewhere you can score in the 98th percentile or above- so that was about a 1480 last year. It changes every year. That’s out of 1520, and each section is scored out of 760.

D: Oh wow, cool. So, is that national merit?

I: Yes, actually 1480 is considered national merit and that could get you scholarships for college.

D: So, if someone does well on the PSAT- does that mean they will do well on the SAT?

I: Ideally, they should, but that’s not necessarily the case. Because the PSAT is shorter and easier, students tend to struggle more on the SAT so we recommend they take the ACT as well to kind of get a better sense which test is better.

D: Gotcha, so ideally everyone should take a practice SAT and a practice ACT to find out which test is better suited for them.

I: Bravo, you got this.

D: So let me ask you another question. So, do colleges get to look at the PSAT at all?

I: They only do if you would like them to see it because you scored quite high and you qualify for a national merit scholarship.

D: Well, I know you’re a busy guy so I should probably stop asking you questions now.

I: You’re fine. In fact, I have a junior who has just taken the ACT practice test and I’m going to compare their score with the PSAT that just came out.

Schedule a free practice test. 

Contact us: 713-871-1048  info@firateducation.com



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The Thanksgiving holiday is fast approaching but #admissions events are up and running with no signs of stopping! #Applicationdeadlines are primarily at the beginning of the year so get your #admissions events in the rest of the year to help you #findthebestfit and get that application in on time!


#Admissions events are winding up again for the fall so it’s time to get to work. From #OpenHouses, #CampusTours to #PreviewNights, we’re sure you’re ready for the #admissions journey.  Don’t forget to check out @FiratEducation’s #FiratGuideOnlinePackage on our website to help you in your decision-making process.



Hey Everyone!

We’re doing something a little different this week. Usually, our blogs have been focused on college prep or test taking tips, but this week…. We want to brag.

Not about us… but about YOU!

We didn’t think we could be prouder of our 2017-2018 students who took the ACT this past year, but recently, we discovered something truly incredible.

A couple weeks ago- The national average for the ACT was released.



Every student begins with a practice ACT test at Firat; this helps measure the areas you need the most assistance. From there, we identify your gaps, align your goals, and provide solutions with our test prep.

Our tutors work with students one-on-one and take practice tests over time to track their improvement so that we achieve greater results across the board.

At Firat Education, we are always looking within to improve our test scores. On average, we are able to increase a student’s ACT score by 5 points. But something we looked at this year is how we measured up against the nation.


How do Firat students compare to the national average? Take a look.

Overall, we averaged 7.2 points higher!


We are able to implement our test prep by identifying goals, providing solutions, and achieving results.

This is our reasoning for bragging. Our students rock! We also want to brag about our tutors for connecting with their students and finding the most effective way of teaching them the concepts.

Connecting with students is one of the ways we are able to achieve these results. We also find our students improve on their tests when working towards a specific score.


Again, we just wanted show off how well you all did.
But there’s always room for improvement. We’re looking forward to raising those scores even more. 2018-2019 Firat Students…. Think you have what it takes?



Through the many open houses I have both hosted and attended, the question often comes up about after school sports for Lower School (elementary) students.

When looking for sports and/or activities for our children we need to keep in mind what we are looking for in a league or organization, and maybe more importantly, what your child wants to do and/or is capable of.  When asking schools about sports, we need to keep both of these in mind.  What do we want out of this league for our child?  Enhanced skills and high levels of competition?  Or socialization and having fun?

A simple answer to this is that most elementary or lower school programs will be focused on the latter, socialization and fun.  Many schools do not focus on winning and being more competitive until the middle school years, while others do not focus on this until high school.  If you are looking for a highly competitive league in the younger grades, the best bet is to look for a competitive league in your area outside of the school teams.  Club, travel, and select teams will be much more focused on what you are looking for.   The school teams will encourage improvement, but probably not to the level of what the club teams will do.

Below I will break down recommendations for each age group:

Toddlers and young children ages 2 – 5 are still learning gross motor skills; running, throwing, kicking, etc.  Additionally, most of the children this age have a very short attention span, and besides the pure desire to “win” struggle to follow the in and outs of the game for its full length.  Many children of this age do not fully understand the rules of the game anyway.  So, a “lighter” league or even just skill camps may be better for your child.  Additionally, there is no evidence that supports starting children at this age in a sport will give them any advantage over their peers that did not play that sport at this young age.  However, there are more competitive leagues at this age, but probably will not be a school league.

Children ages 6 – 9 are a wonderful age to start organized sports.  Their interest, attention spans, and throwing, running, and kicking abilities improve.  However, that being said, it is very easy to put to much pressure on a child at this age, especially if a parent or sibling is very interested in success at sports.    Both team and individual competition can teach children many wonderful life skills that will help them as they grow into adults.

Children ages 10 and up, begin to have a much more mature view of sports and the world.  They are able to handle much more complex sports and competitions, recalling techniques and strategies when necessary.  However, many schools and clubs become much more competitive at this age so playing time and being placed at the correct level for their skills becomes much more of an issue.

So again, it all depends on what you as a parent want for your child and making sure the school or club team matches those expectations.  I would not recommend trying to change the school or club teams culture or goals after joining the team.  Decide what you want first and then find the right team.

Finally, the most important aspect to keep in mind.  Let your child have fun and enjoy the competition, their friends, and life skills they are learning.

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This week applications are due for 6th – 12th grade applicants at Awty International School, 5th – 12th grade applicants at St John’s School, and children of church members and siblings of current students at St. Mark’s Episcopal School. Check each school’s respective sites to ensure that you have all the correct submittals completed.

There are tours and open houses at Memorial Lutheran, Episcopal High School, St. Mark’s Episcopal, St. Francis Episcopal School, Strake Jesuit, Texas Christian School, and St. John XXIII College Preparatory.

Good luck to everyone taking the ISEE at The Honor Roll School and Westbury Christian on Saturday!
Registration for these ISEE exams has closed for this exam, but anyone interested in taking the exam on December 3rd at The Honor Roll School or  Westbury Christian must do so by Saturday November 19th.

Please note: Registration for the ISEE is available up to three weeks before the test for a fee of $105.00. Late registration is available after the three week deadline has passed up to two weeks before the test date for an additional $25.00. If you have questions about whether or not you should take the ISEE more than once, please contact us.

Please post comments here to let us know about your experience at these open houses!

We’ve all heard the benefits of hiring an educational consultant to help place your child into the right fit school.  The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) says, “An educational consultant meets personally with families to discuss their unique concerns. To find the right ‘fit’ for your child, IECA consultants learn as much as possible about your student and family. They help you clarify your child’s educational needs, identify strengths and weaknesses, and consider interests and dislikes.”  While I agree with this 100%, and it is definitely important when selecting an early childhood, lower school, and middle school, when you decide on a high school, you need to consider another factor: college.  Which school meets your requirements for college preparedness?

The last thing you want is to start the college admissions counseling process your sophomore or junior year in high school to realize that maybe you should have selected a different high school, one that would have paved a greater path to meet your college goals.  Independent college counselors know this world.  We know what it takes during your four years in high school to get into the best fit college.

Then big goal is college.  When your child was born, you were already thinking about saving for college, when he or she was bringing home grades in kindergarten through middle school, you thought about college, so when you are making the all-important decision of a high school, hire someone who is also thinking about college along with you.


Ibrahim Firat is an independent educational consultant who specializes in college counseling and high school placement.  He is the author of The Firat Guide, a guide to high school admissions in the Greater Houston Area.

We see parents and students struggle with managing the winter break.  Some parents want or give too much academic work for their children during the break, while others do not give any thought provoking work.  Neither of these approaches are necessary or useful.

I suggest, as with many things in life, we find a healthy balance between the two.  Most students, are worked hard enough during the year, so their time off should not be consumed with constant academic work.  At the same time, students should not be completely unengaged in critical thinking or problem solving.

Therefore, we should steer away from traditional worksheets, multiple choice style “busy work”.  Most students do enough of this during the school year, so they do not need more of this during the break.  Rather, the students should spend more time on application or projects, that they may not have time for during the school week.

Depending on the age of the student, parents can do a wide variety of projects with their children that involve creativity, exploration, and/or problem solving.  Examples could be:

  1. Build something together with the child reading the instructions and using appropriate tools for their age (some home improvement stores have age-appropriate “projects” for children to build bird houses, wooden cars, etc. with nails and screws)
  2. Cook something together, letting the child again read the recipe, measure ingredients, etc. (the child’s favorite meal, treat, or dessert are easy to get them interested in helping with)
  3. Instead of throwing an old appliance away, take it apart with your child and discover how it works or is put together (small appliances like blenders, dvd players, old computers are wonderful for this – discuss or if need be look up the different parts inside and then try to find them)
  4. Paint a picture, wall, or object (a new chair for his or her room).
  5. Plan a road trip and calculate miles and/or how much money is needed for gas, etc. (older children can plan the best route, and help with the budget)

These are just a few ideas, but the point is to keep them engaged, thinking, and active, and limit their time watching tv or playing on electronics.  While these may not be considered traditional academic activities, they are all vitally important to children’s cognitive development and often overlooked.  Additionally, the value of doing these activities with your child should not be overlooked, as you build a stronger bond and connection through shared experiences.

Winter break is a perfect time for all of this.