Thursday, January 15, 2015

50 for 50: Jake Talmage

Jake Talmage
Director of College Counseling
St. Paul's School (MD)

How did you get started in college counseling/admissions?

Like many admission people, I started by volunteering as a student in the office at my alma mater, William and Mary. Back then, students were needed to open mail, file papers, stuff envelopes, etc. That experience evolved into becoming a tour guide, then an internship. Through that internship, I had the opportunity to be a part of the admission committee, run an open house, evaluate applications, attend college fairs and much more.  I loved it. As I graduated, I moved to University of Vermont and confirmed that I loved working with students through this process. After eight years on the college side, I had the opportunity to move to the other side of the desk which seemed like the right move at the time.  I have now been a college counselor for fifteen years. I am not sure it matters which side of the desk I am on—I have enjoyed helping students throughout.

What's your favorite admissions/counseling memory?

Wow. This is tough. There are so many. They range from the silly—between the travel and working with teenagers, there are lots of laughs—to the impactful.  I have met students and colleagues who have done amazing things. But, my favorites can be grouped together. Whether on the college or high school side, I really enjoy when a student returns a year or two or more later and says, “Thank you.”

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

Get involved at the level that works for you. When I first returned to PCACAC after being in VT, I was an admission officer at Johns Hopkins. Given my duties there, I did not have the time to fully engage myself, but I still did what I could. I met wonderful people and learned a lot from my engagement. I moved out of region for five years, but then returned. As I returned, I had more time and could get more involved. I volunteered more and over time Co-chaired Professional Development. Then, I had to step back for a couple of years due to other time constraints. Now, I have the opportunity to give more and am happy to serve as Secretary, Vice-chair for Admission Practices and on faculty at Summer Institute. 

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

Those that know me know I love the outdoors, specifically fishing. During college and high school, I was the first mate on a sport-fishing boat. My dream was to own a small inn somewhere like the Outer Banks or Florida Keys and run a fishing guide/charter service through it.

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

A few years ago, my wife gave me a 1 gallon make your own beer kit and I have really gotten into it. At first, I followed prescribed recipes closely, but now I am experimenting more. My best attempt was an orange-infused summer ale while my most creative was a charred, bourbon-infused apple-wood IPA. I didn’t plan to char  the wood, but it proved very interesting. Maybe I could pursue a job in the craft beer industry if fishing didn’t work out.

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

Given my involvement in getting the waitlist on the NACAC National Assembly agenda, many would think that I would discuss the growth and use of waitlists. But, I think waitlist and other ethically grey areas are a symptom of a bigger concern. The real issue is that there is a lot of pressure on admission offices and counselors and this pressure is growing. Therefore, I am passionate that we remember that we are working for and with individuals who are growing. I believe the college search and selection process is part of that development. If we remember that, then we will be able to meet NACAC’s (and therefore PCACAC’s) mission to “advocate and support ethical and professional practice in helping students transition to postsecondary education. NACAC promotes high professional standards and social responsibility through collaboration, knowledge and education.” 

*** 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.***  

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