College Admissions Advisor Elyse KrantzWe’re bringing back our popular series, Meet an Admissions Counselor, where we introduce students and families to a different member of the College Coach admissions team. Drop in to see what we’re reading, where we went to school, and our strategies for beginning the college essay. As you work with us to find an educational consultant who best fits your needs or the needs of your child, we will help you consider the personality and working styles that will bring out the best in you or your student. Today we introduce Elyse Krantz

Where are you from?
I was born and raised in upstate New York, in a little town most people have never heard of – Queensbury. It’s nestled about midway between Lake George (home of Martha’s famous soft serve ice cream) and Saratoga Springs. Growing up in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains was wonderful. Apple picking at Hick’s Orchard, skiing at West Mountain, performing in summer Youtheatre… For 18 years of my life, Queensbury was the perfect place to call home.

Where did you go to school?
I was shocked (and incredibly thrilled) when I was accepted to Dartmouth early decision. I think Mr. Sullivan, my guidance counselor, was a bit surprised too! SUNY Binghamton and SUNY Geneseo were popular destinations for students from my high school. But my parents, graduates of Adelphi University and SUNY Albany, encouraged me to think broadly about my college options. I had never heard of Dartmouth before I read about it in a college guide book, and I absolutely fell in love with the campus when I visited one spring. Additionally, Dartmouth offered two features that were important in my college search: a linguistics major and an active Jewish student body.

What did you study?
Given my love of high school biology, I thought, “Why not really go for it and major in biochemistry? I can always minor in linguistics.” Well, college-level chemistry and I didn’t quite see eye-to-eye. By the time midterms rolled around, I was at risk of earning a C (or worse) in my introductory chemistry class. To his credit, my chemistry professor encouraged me to stick with it, but I ultimately dropped the class and began taking linguistics courses the following term. I can still remember Professor Chitoran explaining to a lecture hall full of freshmen the tongue’s position when pronouncing the retroflex /r/ sound. A few glottal stops and diphthongs later, I was hooked.

Where did you work?
Two years of successfully leading tours across Dartmouth’s campus taught me that (a) I loved representing my college to prospective students and (b) I wished there was more transparency in the college admissions process. I was committed to pursuing work as a college admissions officer while being open and honest with my students and their families. Bennington College offered me my first job as an admissions counselor, and after attending graduate school in New York City, I worked as a senior admissions officer at Barnard College. Both of these schools were incredibly different from Dartmouth. I loved learning about what made each college special in the world of higher education.

What are you reading right now for fun?
I share my mom’s Kindle account (thanks, mom!) and I regularly check out e-books through my library’s digital catalog. I’m currently on page 135 of Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. While I love getting book recommendations on Goodreads, I often turn to “best book lists” (à la Modern Library) or “award winning book lists” (à la the Pulitzer Prize for fiction) when I’m looking for something a bit meatier. Americanah won the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Fiction award.

What was your favorite thing about college?
In class, there were always students who were smarter than me. In Glee Club, there were always students who sang better than me. In the gym, there were always students who ran faster than me. No matter where I turned, I always encountered students who amazed me with their talent, dedication, and passion. It was inspiring to be surrounded by students who impressed me on so many levels.

What aspect of the college admissions process do you most enjoy working on?
I think the more appropriate question is, “What aspect of the college admissions process do I not enjoy working on?” Creating college lists, helping students brainstorm essay topics, proofing the Common Application—I love it all. (To be fair, I was also one of those college admissions officers who enjoyed every aspect of the job, including attending college fairs, interviewing students, presenting information sessions, and reading applications. There’s just something about this line of work that completely resonates with me!)

What is the most common mistake you see from students that can easily be fixed?
I’m torn between students who make poor curricular choices (why drop foreign language if you’re earning a strong grade in the course?) and students who write generic supplemental college essays (“I’m excited to attend Boston University because it’s located in a major city.” Sure… so are hundreds of other colleges!). Choosing appropriate high school courses is a process that begins in 8th grade, while most students tackle supplemental essays in the summer or fall of their senior year. With the right guidance, these mistakes can easily be avoided.

How do you encourage students to look beyond the schools they know to find hidden gems?
Did you know that 10% of Carleton College students major in computer science? Or that the University of Minnesota produces more English majors than any other college in the country? If you limit your college list to only the schools you know, chances are you’re going to overlook some colleges that might be a terrific fit for you. Plus, applying to lesser-known schools can be strategic; less competition from your friends and classmates may improve your own chances for acceptance.

What are some important things you’ve learned during your time as a College Coach educator?
It’s funny how college admissions officers cringe when a parent calls their office to ask questions rather than the student. Or when a parent says, “We are applying,” instead of, “My son/daughter is applying.” As much as admissions professionals insist that the process of applying to college should rest squarely on the student’s shoulders, I don’t think many admissions officers realize the motivation, time commitment, and energy required to complete 7-10 college applications. The stress and pressure can be brutal, especially for students who challenge themselves with multiple AP courses and regularly stay after school to participate in sports, clubs, community service, and more. As an educator with College Coach I recognize that many students benefit from their family’s involvement. Yes, the process should absolutely be driven by the student, but I strongly value the role parents can play by supporting their children through this journey.

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Written by Elyse Krantz
Elyse Krantz is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Elyse received her BA in linguistics from Dartmouth College and her MA from Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to joining College Coach, Elyse worked as an admissions officer at Barnard College and Bennington College.