meet an admissions counselor

2248_KSawickiWe’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 Kristine Sawicki.

Where are you from?
Kristine: California

Where did you go to school?
Kristine: Reed College, in Portland Oregon

What did you study?
Kristine: I majored in psychology, focusing in behavioral neuroscience, but also took classes in biology, art history, and sociology.

Where did you work?
Kristine: Reed College and Stanford University

What are you reading right now for fun?
Kristine: A touching and beautiful graphic novel called Blankets, by Craig Thompson

You have a free weekend and carte blanche to go anywhere and do anything. What do you do?
Kristine: I would drive to the Olympic peninsula in Washington for a backpacking-kayaking adventure.

What was your favorite thing about college?
Kristine: Meeting people who were so different from me. I grew up in a suburban community where people around me were very similar. At college students were from all over the country with unique backgrounds and I learned as much from my fellow students as I did from my classes.

What about your college experience was different from what you expected?
Kristine: How hard it would be! I was a solid student in high school and was used to getting good grades. I chose a college with rigorous academics that promised to stretch me intellectually. The first year was tough; I had to learn more sophisticated study techniques, how to write more advanced papers, and how to engage smartly in heated, small group discussion. My mind grew so much during my time at Reed.

What’s your philosophy on college admission?
Kristine: When putting together an application it is important to use each application piece as an opportunity to tell the admission officer something more about you. Instead of simply providing answers to the questions asked in an application, ask yourself: how can I use this question to maximize what an admission officer can learn about me? Include the little details that help make you, you. Do you spend weekends perfecting your yo-yo technique? Is your favorite Sunday afternoon activity baking cookies with your little brother? These details can help add to the compelling narrative of your file and bring depth to the holistic application review.

What aspect of the college admissions process do you most enjoy working on?
Kristine: I really enjoy helping a student work on the extracurricular activities list and activity essay. I think this area of the application is often a missed opportunity as students tend to quickly plug in answers and fall short of illustrating the full impact of their involvement.

What is the most common mistake you see from students that can easily be fixed?
Kristine: Students putting the name of one college in an essay, and then sending that essay to another college. There is nothing more jarring when reading an essay working for College X that concludes, “and that is why I want to go to College Y.” Seriously, it happens all the time!

How do you encourage students to look beyond the schools they know to find hidden gems?
Kristine: As a graduate of a hidden gem, I can speak from personal experience!

What in your mind makes a good college essay?
Kristine: A good college essay has a strong voice, interesting detail, and leaves the reader feeling like they know something about you by the end. Many students approach the personal essay like they would a paper for English literature, which often results in overly formal and overly polished essays that mute the students voice and how much a reader can learn about the student. Pick a topic that is close to your heart and write from the there. Admission officers have no expectation for what the topic is – all we expect is that we learn something about you from the essay.

What are some important things you’ve learned during your time as a College Coach educator?
Kristine: Organization is key in reducing stress of the college admission process. Calendars, spreadsheets, color-coded lists, whatever your style, find a system that works for you. You want to make sure you don’t miss deadlines or find yourself rushed because a deadline sneaks up on you.

What would you say to your high school self if you could coach him/her through the process?
Kristine: I would advise myself to consider women’s colleges. For me, women’s colleges immediately went in the “will not consider” category without much thought or good reason – I simply concluded that I want to also be around boys in college. I wish I would have been more open-minded. Attending a women’s college does not mean you will not be around boys. In fact some of my favorite women’s colleges are in consortiums where you can take classes at other nearby colleges, e.g., Bryn Mawr students can take classes at Haverford and Swarthmore, Wellesley students can take classes at MIT, and Scripps students can take classes at Pomona, Pitzer, and Harvey Mudd. Women’s colleges provide an empowering environment and I wish I would have at least given myself the opportunity to consider how much I would have gained from a women’s college experience.


Written by Kristine Sawicki
Kristine Sawicki is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions experts. Prior to joining College Coach, Kristine was an admissions officer at Stanford University and Reed College.