Friday, January 29, 2016

Profile: Aaron Arenas

Aaron A. Arenas
Admissions Counselor, Freshman Admissions
Enrollment Management & Student Success
Drexel University

How long have you been in admissions/college counseling? Share your journey story!
Professionally, this is my second year working in admissions for Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. I’m originally from Virginia, but made my way to Philly for this job at Drexel. I knew a lot of friends from college who were from the Philadelphia/South Jersey area and were always raving about how great it was, so I thought I’d check it out myself and haven’t regretted my decision.

How did you get started in college counseling/admissions?
My first taste of college admissions was actually during my undergrad experience at George Mason University when I was a student ambassador for the admissions office there. That experience, as well as other experiences I had as a student leader in undergrad, had an impact on me in trying to figure out what I wanted to do after I graduated from college. I knew I wanted to work in education and work closely with students to help them figure out what their future plans should be after they graduated from high school. This all lead me to explore a possible job in admissions, which landed me at Drexel.

What's your favorite admissions/counseling memory?
Although I’ve only been working professionally in college admissions for two years, I’ve developed a ton of memories and experiences that would make it seem as if I have been working for 10+ years. Out of all of them though, I don’t think anything tops working an Accepted Students Day at Drexel. I find myself driven by excitement and “hype”, so being able to see hundreds of students who are excited to be at Drexel and are looking forward to going to college is definitely a reminder as to why I’m so passionate about education and student life. Seeing students walk into our admissions office who are ready to submit the enrollment deposit, then seeing the smile on their face after it’s done, knowing they were going to be a Drexel Dragon, is probably one of the most rewarding looks you could ever see on a student’s face. That makes this job all worth it.

What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue leadership (or membership) in PCACAC and/or NACAC?
Do it! I think the network opportunities and the amount of knowledge you can get by attending conferences and college fairs is definitely helpful in professional development. A lot of us who work in education, constantly tell students to get involved and become leaders. It’s only right that we practice what we preach!

If not working in admissions/college counseling, what else could you see yourself pursuing? 
Hmmm….. I have SO MANY interests that it can be a bit difficult to point out one thing that I could possibly pursue at any given time. At this point in time, I think it would be something in either politics or sports. I don’t see myself running for a political office and being the face of a campaign, but to be able to work on a campaign and game plan behind the scenes is definitely something I would enjoy. I am also a sports junkie, so pursuing something in professional sports or college athletics, like scouting or athletic recruitment, is something I would like to do.   

What's one thing that most people don't know about you?
I think it would be that my number one passion is cooking. It’s definitely a great stress reliever and a way to just remove myself from the “real” world for a moment. Being able to try out new recipes and altering others is a great way to get my creative juices going. I’m by no means a five-star chef nor do I see myself as the best cook in the world, but, in terms of passion, I like to see myself as a poor man’s Gordon Ramsay with a lot less yelling and cursing.

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

Something that I’ve always been passionate about is college preparedness and retention within a higher educational institution. There are a lot of students out there who are not necessarily ready to tackle the college experience and sometimes drop out or fail college because of this. This definitely isn’t the fault of any one particular section of the student lifecycle, but to be able to work in conjunction with high school counselors, admissions representatives, student affairs staff, and college academic departments to help bridge any gaps is definitely something that I think is important for both the college and the student’s sake.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Profile: Olander Fleming

Olander Fleming
Assistant Director of Admissions

Longwood University

How long have you been in admissions/college counseling? Share your journey story!
I’m in my sixth year working in admissions at Longwood University.

How did you get started in college counseling/admissions?
Being an admissions counselor wasn’t on my radar as a potential job after I graduated.  A friend from college called me a few weeks after graduation and said his father (then Dean of Admissions at Longwood) was wrapping up a search for a bilingual recruiter who didn’t mind traveling Maryland through Connecticut.  I graduated with a degree in Spanish from Hampden-Sydney College and knew I wanted to use the language in my profession, as long as it wasn’t teaching, so I applied.  I went through the interview process and was hired as the Admissions Counselor for Emerging Populations at LU.

What's your favorite admissions/counseling memory?
One of my favorite memories happened during an Accepted Student Open House a few years back.  Rewind a couple months before the program to mid-January when we did the “fun” phone-a-thons encouraging students to apply.  I called an individual to encourage her to apply as we had her transcripts and test scores and her application was the last document we needed to make a decision.  Fast forward to the Open House, her mother approached me to thank me for the call to her daughter.  I was unaware the student was suffering from a variety of health issues her senior year and with each set-back, saw her dream of attending college slowly fade away.  My phone call encouraging her to apply brightened her day and motivated her to finish the year off strong.  I was glad she approached me as it helped show there are some things in admissions we sometimes don’t care to do and aren’t as motivated to complete but if we give it a 100%, it could mean the world to a student.

What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue leadership (or membership) in PCACAC and/or NACAC?
Don’t be afraid to network. If you have a passion or consider yourself an “expert” or “the best” on that subject, seek ways you can participate in regional or national leadership/conferences to offer your expertise.  If you aren’t sure where to begin, approach someone who holds a leadership position and ask them about their journey from where they began to where they are now. 

If not working in admissions/college counseling, what else could you see yourself pursuing? 
One of my minors was in International Affairs and as a final project I researched and presented on the disappearance of the Afro-Argentine in Argentina.  If you’ve ever visit the country, you’ll notice it isn’t a very diverse country when it comes to skin color.  What I found that while the color of their skin was much lighter than most of Latin America, some people had physical features more similar to those of African descent.  There isn’t much published information available on the subject so if not working in admissions, I could see myself in Argentina conducting more research on the Afro-Argentine. 

What's one thing that most people don't know about you?
I love to collect baseballs from stadiums, museums, theme parks and cities I visit as I travel.  I’ve been doing so since high school and have them displayed in my house. 

What's a current trend or future issue you're passionate about right now? And why?
I’m very interested in providing information in Spanish to Hispanic families who need it.  The parents are a very tricky group to present to as some speak Spanish, others don’t. Some never attended college, others did but in another country.  A small percentage is undocumented or under DACA status. No matter what their background is, the Hispanic population is growing and consists of a large number of individuals who don’t know much about the higher education system here.  There aren’t many resources available in Spanish that cover the college search process and financial aid and I enjoy being called upon to help share information on the process.

Profile: Hannah Wolff

Hannah Wolff
College & Career Center Specialist
Langley High School (VA)

How long have you been in admissions/college counseling? Share your journey story!

I have been college counseling for seven years in Fairfax County. I started at West Springfield High School, and transferred over to Langley four years ago.

How did you get started in college counseling/admissions?

Prior to moving to Virginia, I worked in New Hampshire as the Director of an early college awareness program for middle school students. Then I worked as a motivational speaker for a campaign working to increase teen aspiration rates in the state of Vermont. I traveled the entire state and met with over 9,000 students in grades 6-12. While I loved working with kids, I was never sure how much of an impact I was truly having on them, and I really wanted to pursue a job that allowed me to help students through the entire college process.

What's your favorite admissions/counseling memory?

I have several of them, but I think my favorite is working with a student late in his senior year, who had never really thought he was "college material". I helped him through the entire process, including studying for senior year mid-terms, as he was struggling with astronomy, a subject I know little about! He is currently in graduate school and already has a job secured after graduation.

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

Get involved! The networking and knowledge gained from being a part of PCACAC and NACAC make it easy to stay current in the world of college admissions. Attending conferences or drive-ins, volunteering for a committee, and utilizing the resources of PCACAC and NACAC will keep you feeling connected, supported and relevant.

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

I have so many ideas, although I am not sure I would enjoy them quite as much as I do my current job. Something in the medical field I think, working with kids, or perhaps something working with rescued animals!

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

I studied Radiation Therapy in college and I was an all New England saxaphone player (both of which were a LONG time ago)

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

Trying to convince families and students that rankings are not equivalent to best fit schools! I don't know if I will ever win that battle, but if I can get families to look beyond the rankings to see how many amazing colleges are out there, then I may be doing something right!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Early Decision second thoughts

As part of the AP Committee’s desire to proactively discuss ethics, we will be sending out monthly “case studies.” In these cases, we will offer a situation and discuss whether the issue is in compliance with NACAC’s Statement of Principles of Good Practices (SPGP). Thanks to Corey Fischer, Director of College Counseling at Fredericksburg Academy (VA) and PCACAC AP Committee Member, for this month’s case.
If you have a question about a situation or SPGP, please contact amember of the AP Committee.

January Case: Jimmy is an exceptionally strong student and it is very important to him and his parents that he be accepted to the “top universities.” He has not settled on exactly which of these colleges he wants, but decides to apply Early Decision to NumeroUno University. After submitting his application, he heeds his counselor’s advice to continue working on his other applications in the event he needs to submit them. As he does this, he realizes he might prefer a different college. He is accepted in December and sends his deposit, but he and his parents decide to have him submit the other applications. Since they are all on the Common Application and all his credentials have been uploaded, he does not mention the new applications to his counselor.

The college counselor at the school Jimmy attends  is under significant pressure from the administration to beef up the number of highly ranked colleges on the school’s college acceptance list. When the counselor notices on the Common App that Jimmy has submitted other applications and has deposited at the ED college she tells him he needs to withdraw them. Jimmy says, “I am not sure I want to go to NumeroUno Univ. and my parents told me to send the other applications so we can see where I am accepted and decide where I will go.”

Your turn: What should the counselor do? Is this situation compliant with NACAC’s SPGP?

Discussion: There is a lot of gray area in this situation. The ED Agreement the student signed says, “If you are accepted under an Early Decision plan, you must promptly withdraw the applications submitted to other colleges and universities and make no additional applications to any other university in any country.” And the counselor, via her signature on the ED agreement, said she “advised the applicant to abide by the Early Decision commitment.” But, these are application specific rules.

According to SPGP Mandatory Practice III, B. 3, “Counselors will sign only one pending Early Decision or Restricted Early Action agreement, when applicable, for any student.” The counselor has followed this statement. But, Mandatory III, B. 5 states, “Counselors will not reveal, unless authorized, candidates’ college or university preferences.” Furthermore, SPGP Best Practices III, A. 5 states,  “All counseling members should counsel students and their families to notify and withdraw applications from other institutions when they have accepted an admission offer.” Again, the counselor has followed SPGP.

Please note, SPGP Interpretations of Mandatory Practices II. B. 10 does define Early Decision, but does not address this issue.  As a result, the onus for enforcing the ED agreement falls to the school and counselor. As can be seen, for schools this is a difficult situation though. Enforce the Early Decision definition or let the student apply to more colleges?

Conclusion: While there is no clear answer to this case, school counselors should consider this situation before it arises as Early programs continue to evolve. For example, should a school have a set policy concerning ED admission?

As you consider this question, counselors may want to look to the guiding principles, or SPGP Core Values, discussed in the NACAC SPGP Introduction. Two of the Core Values could provide perspective: “Collaboration: We believe the effectiveness of our profession, college counseling, admission, and enrollment management is enhanced when we work together to promote and protect students and their best interests,” and “Trust: We believe our profession, college counseling, admission, and enrollment management is based upon trust, mutual respect and honesty, with one another and with students.”  How could a counselor help build policies at the school that would help build on these professional Core Values while also remaining student centered?

Want to review previous case studies?

View all of the Admissions Practices Case Studies on The Anchor here.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

SOTU Inspiration

During the President’s final State of the Union address last Tuesday, my family and I invented what we thought was an amusing game. We have a DVR-equipped television, so we entertained ourselves by pausing the action on the faces of audience members when the camera would cut away from Barack Obama to pan the crowd for reactions. Then, like a bad episode of Mystery Science Theater, we would give voice to these expressions (quite honestly, there were moments when I felt the camera operators themselves were playing this game, looking for the most dramatic, sarcastic, poignant, or ironic contortions).

But when Obama mentioned issues related to education – which he did at several points throughout the 58 minute address – we turned to each other and said, “I’ve got nothing.” We couldn’t poke fun, because each expression seemed genuine in its support, excitement, or approval of positive change in this arena. As professionals in the field of education, PCACAC members can take comfort in knowing that genuine smiles accompanied the statements that Obama made about access to opportunity, higher graduation rates, job-readiness, and cost of attendance, among others.

As we ready ourselves to attend this year’s regional conference in Ocean City, I thought it might be interesting to highlight some of the President’s points about education. Perhaps one of these has inspired a session at PCACAC, which in turn might inspire you!

- Janet Weller, Associate Director of College Counseling, Roland Park Country School (MD)

“Real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job. The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start, and together, we’ve increased early childhood education, lifted high school graduation rates to new highs, and boosted graduates in fields like engineering.”

“We should build on our progress by providing pre-K for all, offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one, and we should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids.”

“We have to make college affordable for every American. No hardworking student should be stuck in the red. We’ve already reduced student loan payments to 10% of a borrower’s income. Now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college. Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year.”

“They’re out there, those voices (of unarmed truth and unconditional love). They don’t get a lot of attention; they don't seek a lot of fanfare; but they’re busy doing the work this country needs doing. I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours. I see you, the American people. And in your daily acts of citizenship, I see our future unfolding… I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late at night to finish her science project, and the teacher who comes in early, and maybe with some extra supplies that she bought herself, because she knows that that young girl might someday cure a disease.”

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Profile: Kathleen Voss

Kathleen Voss
Regional Director
Office of Undergraduate Admission
Georgia Institute of Technology

How long have you been in admissions/college counseling? Share your journey story!
23 years. I started in admissions at Regis College in Weston, MA in 1993.  Working at Regis, which at that time was a small women’s college, gave me the opportunity to wear many hats.  If you want to know what hard work is…work at a women’s college!  My experience at Regis provided me with the fundamentals of college admission, as well as discovering the importance of mentorship, both giving and receiving. 

After leaving Regis as the Associate Director in 1998, I ventured out into the corporate world… banking no less. I worked at Fleet Boston Student Loans until getting married in 2001.   It was an incredible, beneficial experience, albeit cut throat and stress inducing.

In 2002, we moved to Virginia and Bill Bissett was kind enough (considering I was 7 months pregnant) to hire me as a Regional Rep for Manhattan College in New York City. Manhattan College was one of the first schools to use regionals in the area.  Bill had found success with the program in New England and saw the potential in the mid-Atlantic.  Manhattan College offered me the opportunity to join PCACAC and meet many of you.

I have been with Georgia Tech since August of 2013, and can honestly say that I have never been happier.  I feel as though I have come full circle, starting at a school that admitted 250 women in 1993, to a school that reviews over 30,000 applications in a year!  I learn something new every day… it’s like I am a rookie again and I love it.

How did you get started in college counseling/admissions? 
My dad, Chris Kiernan, worked in admissions for many years at Assumption College in Massachusetts, Saint Joe’s in Maine and finally at Salve Regina University in Newport, RI.  I grew up on college campuses, stuffing search pieces and licking envelopes over the summers in my dad’s office.  It sort of just fit.  I may be the only person in the field who actually planned to get into admissions as a career.

What's your favorite admissions/counseling memory?
Watching Josette Auguste from West Roxbury High School graduate from Regis College in the mid 90’s.  She was a brilliant kid and a beautiful person with a dream of becoming a doctor. She was a member of the first class that I recruited.  We had worked together during the admissions process and then while she was a student tour guide and ambassador.  When she and others from that class graduated, I felt as though I had really accomplished something special.

What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue leadership (or membership) in PCACAC and/or NACAC?
Go for it!  Your perspective is important and ideas are needed.

If not working in admissions/college counseling, what else could you see yourself pursuing?  Radio City… Kick Line…Rockettes!

What's one thing that most people don't know about you?
I used to DJ at clubs in Newport RI.

What's a current trend or future issue you're passionate about right now? And why?
Assisting Military and Veteran students in the enrollment process. As the wife of a veteran, I consider myself honored to have had the opportunity to counsel vets, their children and spouses, however, I was overwhelmed by the bureaucracy.  Continuing to streamline the process for this population, as well as educating admission’s professionals about the policies on their campus or in their states will help to provide access to our nation’s servicemen and women.