Academic Dean and Director of Guidance
St. Christopher's School (VA)
How long were you in your most recent admissions position at St. Christopher's School? How long have you been in admissions/college counseling?
I started in admissions at my alma mater, Randolph-Macon, right after graduation in 1976 (which suddenly seems like a long time ago). with the exception of a couple of years in graduate school and three years working as an admissions director at an independent school, I've been in college counseling ever since. This is my 25th year at St. Christopher's.
How did you get started in college counseling/admissions?
During my senior year in college, I was approached by the late Ed Cox, the admissions director at Randolph-Macon, about my interest in working in admissions after graduation. I didn't tell him, but my initial response to myself was "I would never do that," which has since become the principle that seems to guide my career. I aspired to a newspaper career, and had been all but promised a job at a good local weekly, but on the very same day I didn't get that job and got the offer to work in admissions. Given what's happened to the newspaper industry, someone was looking after me.
What's your favorite admissions/counseling memory?
In the early 90's we had a student here who had a difficult junior year personally and academically, including shaving his head, running away from home and having two minor honor offenses at the end of the year. The honor council recommended expulsion, but the Headmaster and I decided to see if we could get him into college instead. We were successful, and four years later he wrote him a thoughtful note of appreciation after he graduated. By coincidence, he e-mailed me yesterday to say he will be here today to look at the school for his five-year-old son.
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue leadership in PCACAC and/or NACAC?
My involvements in PCACAC and later NACAC have not only made me better at doing my job, but have also been fulfilling and given me friends and colleagues at other schools and colleges. That's important because college admissions and college counseling can be lonely jobs on your own campus. No one really understands what you do (although they think they do), and as a result all of us need a network of support among colleagues. I am by nature willing to serve but hesitant to volunteer, but I've always had the good sense to take advantage of a good opportunity. I'd encourage everyone to look for ways to serve the profession (which I consider a noble calling), and be more willing to put yourself forward than I am inclined to be.
If not working in admissions/college counseling, what else could you see yourself pursuing?
Not sure. I was always good at identifying all the things I don't want to do, and not as good at figuring out what it is I want to do. College counseling felt right from the first. I would probably be pursuing my interest in writing in some form.
What's one thing that most people don't know about you?
Two possibilities--1) I won the Richmond "World Series of Trivia" a number of years ago, winning a cruise for my wife and me; 2) there is a children's book named Jim Jump, published the same year I was born. It's about a horse.
What's a current trend or future issue you're passionate about right now? And why?
I am passionate about trying to focus attention on the developmental importance of the college search and choice processes. The college process should help a student think about whom they are and what they want from life, and should serve as a bridge from adolescence into adulthood. Right now a lot of forces in the college admissions process (acceleration/pressure on colleges as businesses) work against this, but I believe it's an essential part of a young person's journey of self-discovery.
*** 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 email@example.com to get started.***