Director of College Counseling
Norfolk Academy (VA)
How long have you been in admissions/college counseling? Share your College counseling journey story!
My how the years have flown. This year marks my 18th in the profession, the first 15 of which were spent in partnership with incredible people doing important work on the college side, most recently as Associate Dean of Admission at the College of William and Mary. In November of 2012, I transitioned to the other side of the desk to serve as Senior Associate Director, and then Interim Director of College Counseling here at Norfolk Academy. This spring I am experiencing the joy of a formal transition to our office’s Directorship and am elated to have the opportunity to lead the fine team of professionals who support our students and community. As the college admission landscape continues to become increasingly more sophisticated and confusing for students and their families, I look forward to serving as a guide and helping to shape institutional philosophy and tone in all the areas of our work.
How did you get started in college counseling/admissions?
Interestingly, my dad worked in college admissions, so one could say it’s been in my genes. Like many of us however, I was also tour guide, an interviewer and a summer intern in the admission office at my alma mater, the University of New Hampshire. I enjoyed every moment of sharing my enthusiasm for a school I had grown to love. I also appreciated the passion I observed as I watched the professional staff work with families and extend information about the institution. They loved to talk to people, made connections easily, appreciated all different kinds of learning, understood what a powerful time in the life of a young person being a high school senior is, and were down right FUN. I quickly realized it was a profession I wanted to be a part of and one where my ENFJ personality type might thrive. Following graduation I had the opportunity to work for several small private colleges before landing in Williamsburg, Virginia for my graduate work and a position as Assistant Dean with the William & Mary admission staff. After more than a decade as a member of the Tribe I transitioned to the other side of the desk for the opportunity to lead and to engage with families in a more
What's your favorite admissions/counseling memory?
Gosh, this one is almost impossible to answer. There. Are. So. Many. The thank you notes I treasure, the weeks on end of powerful committee conversations each spring, the ways I've been tested and pruned and strengthened by incredible students and colleagues on both sides of the desk. I could talk about the waitlisted student I fought for, certain he would be an incredible contributor to campus despite a lower than ideal numeric profile, and the joy it was to watch him take campus by storm over the course of his subsequent four years at the College. I think my favorite however, is the story of my oldest daughter’s birth. She arrived on a day I was scheduled to present an essay writing workshop to the juniors and seniors at a local high school. Unexpectedly, and four weeks early, my water broke while I was meeting with the Headmaster and Director of College Counseling. Needless to say it was a life changing personal and professional moment. I’ll never forget the silence on the other end of the phone when I called a colleague to say, “Unfortunately, I don’t believe this workshop is going to take place today.”
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue membership in PCACAC and/or NACAC?
Dive right in. Start by attending a conference and make sure to take part in the first timer’s session. PCACAC and NACAC are organizations full of people ready and waiting to pull you into the fold, eager to have your help, your support, and take advantage of your expertise. Be an active listener. There are so many people to learn from. Take the time to hear the perspectives of others and at the same time, know that your opinion matters. Building a professional support network is an incredible way to enrich your day- to- day work experience and establishing connections through these organizations is a great way to begin.
If not working in admissions/college counseling, what else could you see yourself pursuing?
This one is also tough. I love to be creative. To write, to take photos, to appreciate the outdoors… but for much of my life I was very actively involved with athletics, primarily as a gymnast. One of my dreams was to do work for the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, making use of my Exercise Physiology degree. So, perhaps something supporting the training and coaching of athletes?
What's one thing that most people don't know about you?
I have an abnormal and somewhat irrational fear of sharks. I’m convinced, *not really* that it’s because I was born in September of 1975 immediately following the Jaws craze. My mom spent some time at the beach that summer, reading the book, not swimming, definitely not swimming. Whatever the cause, I’m not going out any further than the furthest person in the water, ever. I know, I’m working on it.
What's a current trend or future issue you're passionate about right now? And why?
The elephant in the room on this one is the rising cost of higher education and the many related issues surrounding equity and access to college. It seems to me however, that so many of these are connected to a larger issue related to our collective definitions of success and fit in the college search process. So many students and families begin their college search with the idea that success will only be achieved if they are admitted to one of the most selective, and therefore “most prestigious,” schools in the nation. I’m so pleased to hear more and more industry conversation about the value individual students bring to their own college experiences and about the breadth of incredible educational paths students can and should consider. I’m hopeful that we can continue to expand this understanding.
*** 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 firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.***