Monday, November 24, 2014

Hot News in College Counseling

Hello from the Current Trends & Future Issues Committee! We've skimmed the latest articles centered on our profession, and want to bring a few to your attention. Take a look at these articles, share them with your colleagues, and let us know what you think!


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Letter from the Chief Delegate: Mike Carter

Letter from the Chief Delegate,

I want to thank all of the members of the PCACAC Delegation for their service, wisdom and thoughtful contributions to this year’s NACAC National Assembly.

2014 PCACAC Delegates


High School Delegates:

Barbara Conner, Foxcroft School (VA)

Jenifer Evans, Broadneck High School (MD)

Heather Jeter, The Steward School (VA)

Robyn Lady, Chantilly High School (VA)

Scott Mayer, St. Christopher’s School (VA)

Kathleen Martin, Wilmington Friends School (DE)

Chris Miller, Glenelg Country School (MD)


College Delegates:

Karen Felton, George Washington University (DC)

Lou Hirsh, University of Delaware (DE) (retired)

James Pennix, Radford University (VA)

Sam Shoge, Washington College (MD)


Executive Committee Delegates:

Mike Oligmueller, The Potomac School, (VA)

Kelly Farmer, Stevenson University (MD)

Mike Carter, St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School (VA)


Alternate Delegates:

Jayne Fonash, Academy of Science, Loudoun County Public Schools, (VA)

Aundra Weissert, Washington College (MD)

Matt Boyce, George Mason University (VA)


Our Delegates represented PCACAC in fine fashion at the 2014 NACAC Assembly.  As we discussed in our caucus, NACAC’s Statement of Principles of Good Practice (SPGP) is the standard for our profession, but is also very much a “living document” that needs to grow as our profession grows.  Much of the hard and necessary work of the delegates in assembly is to vote on amendments to the SPGP to ensure the responsible growth of our standards. 
This year PCACAC Delegates worked on several key issues.  We continued to hone the language passed in the 2013 Assembly involving international agents to further clarify a resolution enforcing accountability, transparency and integrity in the use of international agents in college admissions.  Similarly, the delegates voted to strengthen language regarding institutionally-affiliated financial aid and scholarship offers.  The third major issue tackled in the assembly was particularly rewarding for PCACAC and dealt with safeguarding students and families in wait-list situations.  It was especially gratifying to complete the language on this issue, as the original motion for this change was initiated by our very own Jake Talmage, Director of College Counseling, St. Paul’s School for Boys, (MD), current PCACAC Secretary and Executive Committee member when he was a delegate in the 2011 Assembly.  Jake’s motion was to protect students offered admission through the wait-list by ensuring that there was an appropriate amount of time for a student and her/his family to consider such an offer.  Ultimately, the assembly voted to mandate that a student be given a minimum of 72 hours to decide on whether to accept a position off of a wait-list.  This year, the NACAC Admissions Practices Committee, (which includes PCACAC member and delegate, Lou Hirsh), further amended “Jake’s bill” to close some loopholes, and strengthened the standard to read “allow students a reasonable amount of time (at least 72 hours or May 1, whichever is later) to respond to an offer of admission from that institution’s wait list and gain admission to that institution’s incoming class.  This offer of admission should be a written or electronic communication to the student.  Postsecondary institutions should also strive to fully inform wait list students of their financial aid and housing opportunities, if different from their normal policies.  Postsecondary institutions should not require a commitment from a student until the financial aid award and housing options, if any, have been provided.”  The passage of this on Saturday September 20th, (which became effective immediately) is a tremendous example of how NACAC, PCACAC and counseling professionals like Jake Talmage, work tirelessly to serve and support our students and their families.  Thanks Jake!
The 2014 Assembly also witnessed one of our own, Sue Rexford, Director of College Counseling, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (MD) run for the office of NACAC President-Elect.  Sue ran a spirited and energetic campaign, attending a year’s worth of NACAC Board events, meetings, NACAC’s Leadership Development Institute, and a myriad of pre-conference and conference sessions, “meet and greets” and “speed-dating” interviews.  She epitomizes the best of Potomac and Chesapeake Association for College Admission Counseling and we were so proud to have her represent our region as a candidate for President-Elect.  While the election did not have the results that we had hoped for, it was nevertheless a wonderful opportunity to highlight Sue’s leadership.
The delegates also had the opportunity to elect three new members of the NACAC Board.  One of those elected was Amy Jarich, former PCACAC Member and PCACAC Technology Chair, who is currently the Director of Admission at the University of California- Berkeley.  Congratulations to Amy!
The hard work of the PCACAC Delegates in the NACAC Assembly is a testament to the strength of our association and reflects tremendously on the ethics of our profession.
Thanks for your faithful service,
Mike Carter
PCACAC Chief Delegate

The Washington Post: The people behind college matchmaking: School counselors and admission officers

Article published by The Washington Post highlighting the NACAC 2014 conference featuring PCACAC members.
“It’s not our job to ‘get everyone in.’ It’s our job to craft the right match. At the end of the day, I want to have credibility in matching kids to the right places.

Robyn Lady, Director of Student Services at Chantilly HS 
One key message, Wolfe said, was “to help counselors see that counselor and teacher recommendations should complement each other.” Sometimes, he said, they overlap too much. That’s especially true for teachers who are prone to rehashing the extracurricular activities of students instead of writing about how they excel in the classroom.
Timothy Wolfe, Interim Associate Provost for Enrollment and Dean of Admission at William & Mary College

To read the full article, click here.

50 for 50: Anthony Ambrogi


Anthony Ambrogi
Director of Admissions and Enrollment Research
Randolph-Macon College (VA)
How long have you been in your current position at Randolph Macon? How long have you been there total?
I’ve been Director of Admissions and Enrollment Research for 8 years (since 2006). I’ve been at R-MC for 13 years (since 2001).
How did you get started in college counseling/admissions?
Like many people in this profession, I just sort of fell into it. I worked at my high school in Richmond before coming to R-MC, and I spent a year as a fill-in college counselor until a permanent replacement could be hired. That was my first introduction to the profession, and I was hooked. It also introduced me to other counselors and college admissions reps, and the more I talked with them, the more interesting it seemed. And then, there was a little bit of luck involved; when I started looking for a new job, Randolph-Macon was hiring. It was the right kind of college for me and near where I lived, so things just worked out.
What's your favorite admissions memory?
In one of my first years at R-MC, I was working with a student from northern Virginia who narrowed down her choice to us and another Virginia college. She was completely torn, and during the week before May 1, we traded emails, phone calls, and chat messages back and forth as she tried to make up her mind. We had a lot of good conversations about what she wanted and which college might be the best fit. She ended up choosing the other college, but I felt like I really helped and made a difference for her. (There’s also the NACAC New Orleans conference with my staff, but those are stories for another day!)
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue leadership in PCACAC and/or NACAC?
Don’t be afraid to step up. I think it can be intimidating sometimes, especially when they see people with decades of experience in leadership roles, but we all had to start somewhere. One of the best parts of our organization is that we are so welcoming to new people and so open helping members grow into leadership positions. So if you want it, go for it!
If not working in admissions, what else could you see yourself pursuing? 
I was a high school teacher before coming the admissions world, and I always enjoyed that. In fact, I teach a history class at R-MC every fall – it’s fun for me and helps me stay in touch with the student body. Besides, I’m too old to play professional baseball anymore.
What's one thing that most people don't know about you?
I was on Jeopardy. I came in second, but I got a photo of me with Alex Trebek and a free pen…so that’s something.
What's a current trend or future issue you're passionate about right now? And why?
What an appropriate question for the outgoing Current Trends/Future Issues committee chair! One big concern for everyone involved in college admissions is financial aid. There’s no good solution to the inequity and the rising college debt among students, but PCACAC members can help with educating our students and families about what aid is available, how the process works, and how it will affect the student beyond graduation. So many families – and even some of us in college admissions – simply don’t know how financial aid works, and we can help bridge that knowledge gap.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Notes from a PCACAC Summer Institute First Timer

Contributed by Michelle Illar
Admissions Counselor, Stevenson University (MD)
My third week as a college admissions counselor called for a 2.5 hour car ride with a new colleague, spending two nights in a dorm room at a college I had never been to and being surrounded by tons of people I had never met before. I had no idea what I was in for.
My adventure began on Sunday night when we arrived at the University of Mary Washington and were greeted by the smiling faces of their admissions staff. It was a nice touch that allowed us, as new visitors, to feel welcome as soon as we arrived on campus. After checking into our rooms, my colleague Brett and I decided to venture out for some dinner. We took a self-guided tour through campus where we thought we were lost at least a dozen times before finding a great Mexican restaurant across the street. We told our waitress that we were on campus for a conference with other admissions and school counselors and she could not stop gushing about how amazing that was- what a great opportunity! I thought it was pretty exciting as well but still did not know what those two days were going to hold for us.
Sleeping in a quiet dorm room and having breakfast in the dining hall took me right back to my college days before the first session of Summer Institute 2014 was underway. The first general session was all about building relationships with counselors on the other side of the desk. The panel really set the tone for the next 48 hours; that admissions is all about relationship building- relationships with fellow college counselors, high school counselors, parents, students, coaches, data, and anyone else involved in the admissions process and decision.  The panel really honed in on the fact that meaningful relationships are the most beneficial for all parties involved.
After the panel, I went to a session focusing on how to leverage parents in the process of college admissions. Parents nowadays want to be more involved in the college process then their own parents were with them, so making sure that the parents trust and confide in you as an admissions counselor is important. As a new admissions counselor, I definitely took note of this trend and plan to communicate with parents as well as the applicants throughout the fall. Another session on territory management focused on building relationships with other colleagues. They talked about creating relationships with alumni and current parents to be able to leverage them during the travel season. Having a loving relationship with data (and being able to read it) is also an important piece of the profession so that you can see what tactics or areas are successful and which ones are not. Again, fostering relationships with the counselor across the desk came into play. You need to get to know the counselor, high school, and the community to really understand and recruit the students.
As we sat on 495 in DC rush hour traffic on our way back to Maryland, I was able to reflect back on the whirlwind that was Summer Institute 2014. I realized I’m not sure how I slept on a dorm bed for two years and that the waitress at the Mexican restaurant was right- our profession and this conference is pretty cool. It was a great opportunity for us, as competing institutions, to get together and share best practices and ideas about admissions. It’s pretty cool that we can all come together either in a classroom, over dinner, or on a trolley ride around a beautiful historic city, to not only talk about our profession and our institutions but also to really talk to and get to know each other. All in all, Summer Institute 2014 was very informative, but the thing I enjoyed most was getting to know you all and be able to start building relationships. Because after all, isn’t that what this job is all about?  
*** Are you interested in contributing to The Anchor? Email Rosemary Martin at to get started! ***

50 for 50: Barbara Conner

Barbara Conner
Director of College Counseling, Foxcroft School (VA)
How long have you been in your current position at Foxcroft School? How long have you been there total?
I have been at Foxcroft School as Director of College Counseling for almost four years - I came midyear and my fourth class of seniors just graduated - time flies!
How did you get started in college counseling/admissions?

 I was working in Fairfax County Public Schools when I learned about the College and Career Center Specialist position in each of the high schools.  When I read the job description, it sounded like they had designed a perfect job for me and as soon as one of the jobs became available, I applied.  I was hired at West Potomac High School in Alexandria, Virginia and spent five years working with the incredible students and families in that school community. During my final year at West Potomac, I had a cadre of 23 weekly parent volunteers whose time and dedication allowed me to work with the students (2100 in all) in meaningful ways.
Prior to this, I worked in different areas including as a human resources director, an organizational consultant, a parent liaison, and a special education coordinator.  The common element I have found throughout my career is that I enjoy working with people, helping them discover their strengths and their goals then helping them develop strategies to achieve their goals.  Making connections has always been important to me.
What's your favorite counseling memory?
Wow - this is a tough question - there are so many incredible moments, conversations, and events which mark my time in college counseling.  When I left West Potomac, the parents hosted a bon voyage celebration and I was honored and stunned by the hundreds of previous students, current and former parents, and current students who attended.  To see the impact my work had on these individuals was humbling.  During the celebration, one of my football players came over picked me up off the ground and whispered, "It won't be the same here without you.  Those Foxcroft students better know how lucky they are to be getting you!" which made me cry. I will cherish that memory as one of my most poignant.

What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue leadership in PCACAC and/or NACAC?
Being involved in PCACAC has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my professional career.  I want everyone to have this experience.  Imagine an organization where when you walk into a meeting, people cheer and hug you.  The networking opportunities are unparalleled and the opportunities for personal growth are boundless.  How do you make this happen in your life?  Step up. Volunteer.  Talk with current PCACAC leadership to learn about the different opportunities.  Fill out and submit the online volunteer form found on the PCACAC website.  No matter what your interests, there is a PCACAC opportunity for you.

If not working in college counseling, what would you do?

I plan to do this forever, but if I HAD to change fields, I would go back to being a Human Resources Director.  I loved the staff development and training aspect of that work and found it very fulfilling.

What's one thing most people don't know about you?
The saddest/coolest thing I've done - being a pall-bearer for my grandfather. With my brothers and cousins, I was honored to make that final walk with him at his funeral. Spending every summer on Cape Cod was the binding fabric of my early life which included 12 U.S./international moves (my Dad was in the Army).  Summers meant spending time with my Papou fishing on the boat, sitting with him at Fenway, or watching him regale a roomful of aunts, uncles, and cousins with hysterical jokes while tears of joy streamed down his face. He taught me about honor and integrity.  He showed me the value of family.  He lived his life fully every single day.
Current trend/future issue I am most passionate about right now?
Changing the language we use when talking with students about college exploration and the college application process.  The old model of "reach/zone/safety" no longer works in this unpredictable admission landscape.  When the old models no longer reflect the current reality, it is imperative that we adapt.  I've done this by using a different approach with my students for the past few years - Five First Choice Colleges.  By asking students to focus on at least five schools that MATCH their current academic profile, their social/cultural goals for college, and their financial realities, I have begun to shift (slowly, but steadily) the way our students and families approach the process.  My goal is better outcomes and less stress for students. I don't want to be a lone voice in the wilderness on this important facet of our work, so I will be submitting an article for the PCACAC website soon and I hope this will begin a conversation among folks on both sides of the college admission desk.

*** To Celebrate Potomac Chesapeake's 50th Conference Anniversary, we're highlighting some of our current members. Each week until the conference at The Homestead in Spring 2015, a new member will be posted. Interested in participating? Email Aundra Weissert at to get started.***

Monday, July 21, 2014

50 for 50: Greg Moon

Greg Moon
Admissions Counselor, Longwood University (VA)

How long have you been in your current position at Longwood? How long have you been in college counseling?

I have been working as an Admissions Counselor at Longwood University for two years. 

How did you get started in college counseling/admissions?

I was coming out of an internship in the fast-paced city of Chicago. Working in that city environment made me a very ambitious and poised college graduate. It made sense for me to have a job where I could both network and travel.

I grew up in the town of Farmville, VA where Longwood University is located. I always loved the community of people in the town of Farmville and I simply had to apply for the job because I knew it would be an enjoyable entry-level learning experience. Meeting new people and growing as a young professional were two things I really wanted.

Since having the job, I learned that not only do I have the ability to grow as a marketing professional, but I can also give back by guiding both students and parents through the college admissions process.

What's your favorite admissions/counseling memory?

There are so many fun memories I have made with colleagues at college fairs and high school counselors during my visits, but what I’ve really enjoyed most is having a current student at Longwood come to my office to let me know how much they are enjoying their college experience. You never want to steer a student in the wrong direction and it really helps to sometimes have a reminder that the extra effort you give to a student can make a huge impact.

What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue leadership in PCACAC and/or NACAC?

Take advantage of the conferences offered annually through the PCACAC and NACAC organizations. These conferences are the one place where you can be exposed to the different committees and leadership opportunities available. If new to the profession, make sure to leave an impression with every professional you meet during those conferences. You never know what leadership or committee position could become available.

If not working in admissions/college counseling, what else could you see yourself pursuing? 

On the way back from a NACAC College Fair in April I stopped at a local venue and auditioned for a chance to become the next Bachelor on the ABC TV show. I really felt in my place while I was there, so if not in college admissions, I could definitely see myself as the next “Bachelor”!

What's one thing that most people don't know about you?

I’m a really good “Van-Dancer!” On the way back from a college baseball road trip, a group of teammates and I made a Van-Dance YouTube video to  Ke$ha’s “Tik-Tok” single that received over a half a million views.

What's a current trend or future issue you're passionate about right now? And why?

The use of Social Media in college admissions is one of the more intriguing trends I’ve found throughout my time at Longwood. I use it very often as an Admissions Counselor to interact and connect with students. More students wish to be constantly in contact with their friends and up to date on trends and news. Social Media gives them the ability to do so. I have also found that Social Media is an effective method to not only bring a college campus to the student, but also to create more excitement on visitation days.

I would hope that more prospective students understand that when they make their Social Media profiles public, Admissions Officers have the ability to monitor their activity. In the future, more students should use their public profiles as a way to brand themselves as a job-ready professional.

*** To Celebrate Potomac Chesapeake's 50th Conference Anniversary, we're highlighting some of our current members. Each week until the conference at The Homestead in Spring 2015, a new member will be posted. Interested in participating? Email Aundra Weissert at to get started.***