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Dating-academy-approved tips for the busiest online dating time of the year

When you hear the word "academy," what comes to mind? Maybe the military, education, and maybe even the Academy Awards. But it turns out there's even an academy for dating, which is helpful considering January is the busiest time for online dating.

The Smart Dating Academy in Chicago, founded by Bela Gandhi, was designed with the sole purpose of helping single men and women find the partners of their dreams. "I started this business because I believe in love," Gandhi told TODAY's Joelle Garguilo. "I believe love exists for every person on this planet." 

Right now, in America, singles make up more than half of the adult population. With a team of coaches, photographers and a personal glam squad, the academy works its magic on its clients one at a time, and with packages ranging from $5,000 - $12,000.

But even if you don't have the time or resources for Gandhi's personalized training, she offered some of her best practices for online dating, which Gandhi is a big fan of because "40 to 50 million singles are online at any given time."

But Gandhi cautions, beyond what any profile can help, "the first thing you need to do is get to your positive self," she says. "If you don't believe that you're going to find love, guess what's going to happen? You're not going to find it."

And if you're in the best place to find love, read on for some of Gandhi's best-online-dating practices:

1. Good photos are key

Ninety percent of your online success is based on photos, and Gandhi says that goes for both men and women. The most important photo is your opening head-shot; it's the one that will get people's attention and make them click. Gandhi recommends the following: smile, look at the camera and have a clear shot of your face.

Beyond your headshot, Gandhi says you should have 5-6 total photos in your profile, which should include half-body and full-body shots. Photos shouldn't include bathroom selfies, and you should be alone in the photos (no friends, family, pets or babies). 

2. Dress to impress

Dressing up for photos in your profile will go a long way, Gandhi says. For men, wear a nice sport coat, crisp shirt and dark jeans. For women, Gandhi recommends doing your hair and makeup like you would for an important date. And wear pretty, solid-colored blouses and shirts that are fitted, but don't reveal too much.

3. Check your grammar

Poor spelling and grammar, Gandhi says, are pretty universal turn offs. Of 1,000 people surveyed by Smart Dating Academy, more than 60 percent of respondents said they would not respond to someone with poor grammar. 

4. Be positive

Avoid talking about your divorces, or expressly stating what you're not looking for. Gandhi says that showing your warm, fun side humanizes you to others.

5. Be concise

Gandhi says that profiles should be about 300-350 words, not too long and not too short. You should use those words to describe yourself and what you're looking for by showing, not telling (for example, write some adventurous things you've done instead of saying you're "adventurous"). 

6. Pick a great username and headline

Picking 3-5 adjectives that describe you can help come up with an interesting username, Gandhi says, giving the example that if you're a nurse who is also a great cook, "TopChefNurse" could be a great username. 

7. Refine your picker

Making what Gandhi calls a "marriage map" with the qualities you're really looking for, the ones you find in people you enjoy spending time with, will help you navigate the millions of people online. Think of it as your road map to dating.

8. Create a plan

Finding a plan you can stick with is the only way to really get what you want out of online dating. As Gandhi says, you're in it to win it, and that means spending 30-60 minutes each day working at your goal. It could mean emailing people online, going to a MeetUp group or a singles event, going on a date or volunteering, just make sure you're getting yourself out there!

9. Prepare your talking points

Just like in a job interview, it helps to practice what you're going to say. Knowing exactly how to talk about your job, why you're single and your family can help you both ease your nerves on that date, and also prevent oversharing. 

10. Believe that you will find love

And surround yourself with positive people who will help you in your search.