Sunday, August 23, 2015

Profile: Carl Ahlgren

Carl with his son

Carl Ahlgren
Director of College Counseling
Gilman School (MD)

How long have you been in admissions/college counseling?
This fall I will begin my 20th year as a college counselor.  It feels very strange to say that (write that) out loud.  
How did you get started in college counseling/admissions?
I was in my third year of teaching History and Religion in the middle division of Casady School (OK), when my good friend and sometimes NACAC roommate, Tom Colt (now at Shady SIde Academy (PA)) decided to leave the associate college counseling position at Casady’s upper school so he could begin his graduate degree.  The Headmaster asked if I was interested in interviewing for the position.  I was,   and it all worked out in the end.

What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue leadership in PCACAC and/or NACAC?
Leadership is service.  Find a role where you are confident you can contribute, serve others, and improve our profession, even in small ways.  My friend and colleague Marcia Hunt at Pinecrest School (FL) once said something like:  “Being a leader doesn’t mean you’re any better than anyone at anything.  It just means you stay up an extra hour to get some important work done.”  I like that line and think about it often.

If not working in admissions/college counseling, what else could you see yourself pursuing?
I’ve always regretted not pursuing something in theatre.  Not so much acting, but anything that would connect me to the life of the theatre - musical or drama.   That could be sets, writing, anything really.  Growing up in New York, my mother dragged me to shows on Broadway and off-Broadway when I was in grade school.  Eventually, she didn’t have to drag me.  I probably know the lyrics to more show tunes than most 48 year old male basketball coaches, and I am oddly proud of that.   I also could see myself very happy  cooking in a restaurant or in journalism.  
What's one thing that most people don't know about you?
During my college years, I stepped away from being a full time student, took night courses, and during the day worked in  NYC and the surrounding suburbs as a professional carpet and upholstery cleaner.  There were two of us to a van (the “truck”). I was the Assistant Crew Chief, and the driver was the Crew Chief.  We drove all over NYC, cleaning carpets, furniture, and sometimes clearing out flooded basements, which was a pretty miserable part of an otherwise cool job.  The most beautiful and breathtaking homes I have ever entered are those whose carpets I cleaned.  It was also the start of my understanding the ways that class shapes people’s lives.

What's a current trend or future issue you're passionate about right now? And why?
The crisis of under-matching or mismatching has received increased attention these past 4 or 5 years, but there are still too many seniors in the nation making poor and uninformed decisions about their college destination.  And sadly, these decisions will have a direct impact on the course and contours of their lives.  Most of the press and research has rightly focused on the low income families.  The inability of so many families, across a broad socioeconomic spectrum, to make thoughtful and informed college decisions is frustrating and sad to many of us in this work.  

I feel I need to add more more trend and concern.  Admission/enrollment leadership has lost too many good people to early retirement and other professions over the past five years.  The expectations that college presidents and Boards have made upon enrollment managers have, too often, been unconnected to institutional quality and the education of undergraduates.  Instead,  ambitious colleges and universities seek improved metrics, like selectivity, for reasons more connected to market position and rankings, rather than the learning and teaching mission of the school.

1 comment:

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