Julia Surtshin, MS, CEP

Certified Educational Planner / Independent College Counselor / Founder

College Ahead

Formerly at UCLA, I now provide students and families with individualized college search, application, and college affordability services.

InCall® Rates

Duration Price
6 minutes (SixFree Call) $0 (No charge)
15 minutes $45.00
30 minutes $90.00
60 minutes $175.00


Application guidance Essay review Financial Aid advising College Selection Essay Development Higher Education Student Affairs Resume writing Student Counseling Affordability Certified Educational Planner


Julia has devoted her entire career to supporting students pursuing higher education. Her professional experience includes counseling, teaching and university administration at both two- and four-year institutions, including five years as Assistant Director of Student Affairs at UCLA’s Samueli School of Engineering. Her newspaper column, College Corner, was published for 12 years.

In 1995 Julia founded Surtshin College Counseling, now College Ahead, with the goal of helping students and their parents navigate the college search and admission transition with confidence and optimism. In 2010 Julia was awarded the Certified Educational Planner designation. She now sits on the Board of Commissioners of the American Institue of Certified Educational Planners.

As one of only three Certified Educational Planners in the Oregon, Julia provides comprehensive college search and admission services including student assessment, college identification and research, application management, and final decision-making. Her holistic approach engages students as maturing young adults and focuses on having them gain admission to colleges that fit their academic, personal and financial needs and preferences.



College Ahead (formerly Surtshin College Counseling)
December 1995 - present

College Ahead (formerly Surtshin College Counseling) was founded with the mission of helping students and families navigate the college search and admission process with both confidence and optimism. This is done by providing individualized and comprehensive services which:

Organize the process, making it more transparent, less intimidating, and less stressful for both students and parents.

Encourage students to explore a wide range of college options and identify institutions that meet their academic, personal, and financial parameters.

Support students in using college applications as opportunities to highlight their qualifications and fit, thus maximizing their changes of gaining admission.

Utilizing a proven four-step method, all students have gained admission to one of their top three school choices.


Assistant Director of Student Affairs

UCLA Samueli School of Engineering
July 1985 - October 1990

Provided Co-supervised staff providing academic advising and counseling services to 2,000 students: educational planning, graduation certification, academic assistance and some personal counseling. Prepared and managed non-salary expense budget. Assisted with publications development, recruitment, accreditation, and commencement.


Barnard College, Columbia University

Bachelor's Degree
1972 - 1975


University of Southern California, School of Education

Master's Degree
1976 - 1978

MSEd in College Student Personnel Services. This interdisciplinary program combined counseling and student affairs coursework resulting in a broad understanding of adolescent and young adult development and post-secondary education.



Working knowledge of Spanish.


Certified Educational Planner

American Institute of Certified Educational Planners
June 2010 - June 2020



American Institute of Certified Educational Planners
June 2017 - present

6/14/2018 8:20:47 PM,
Julia Surtshin, MS, CEP replied:

With all the buzz surrounding early applications, it's easy to get caught up in the frenzy. It's not uncommon for students to say, "I want to apply early, but I just don't know where". When that happens I suggest that they're putting the cart before the horse.

You should focus less on early application opportunities and more on identifying colleges that actually meet your academic, personal and financial parameters. Only after you've thoroughly researched colleges and identified several that meet your needs,  should you begin to think about early applications. If you'll want to compare financial aid offers, steer clear of early decision. In all cases, carefully read the early decision and early action program stipulations, including all restrictions.

Best wishes for your college search.

6/16/2018 8:28:29 AM,
Cindy Laubenstein replied:

Hello.  This is a great question!  The various Early Action and Early Decision plans offered by colleges can be quite confusing.  In addition, it can be difficult figuring out which option is best for you.  Many resources provide information on admissions deadlines for each of the admission plans offered.  One website that I recommend is collegedata.com.  Enter your college name and click on the 'Admissions' tab. It will give you admissions deadlines for each of the admission options for that institution.  Another reliable method is to google admissions deadlines for your specific college.  Another way that I highly recommend is to work with an Independent Educational Consultant.  IEC's generally pay for a resource that helps students organize their admissions options and identify the schools to which they will apply with which plan.  This helps students prioritize and lay out a timeline.

Keep in mind that only one college can be applied to under an 'Early Decision' plan as that option is binding in the event that you are accepted to that institution.  Early Action is a method that I highly recommend for any college that offers that option as you can apply early and receive notification earlier than the Regular Decision applicants.  It can relieve a lot of stress early!

I hope that helps.  Good luck with your college search!