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Meet an Admissions Counselor: Emily Sheldon

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Emily Sheldon College Consultant

Written by Emily Sheldonon April 5th, 2022

I came to College Coach after working as an admissions officer at MIT for 14 years. I started my career coordinating the transfer admissions process, and I continued working with transfer applicants – including community college students, non-traditional students, and U.S. military servicemembers – throughout my time there. I later became the admissions-office liaison to several departments at MIT, including athletics and ROTC, and I managed the portfolio review processes for art/architecture and music/theatre arts. My last role at MIT was leading all aspects of the undergraduate selection process, from the application review to committee evaluation.
Learn More About Emily
We’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 Emily Sheldon. Where are you from, where have you lived, and where do you live now? I grew up in Phoenix, AZ, attended college in Seattle, WA, and now live in Boston, MA (technically Somerville, which only matters if you’re from the area). And I’ll be moving to Portland, OR this summer! What are you reading, watching, and/or listening to lately?  I’m currently reading Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. Next up is Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James (the second book in his Dark Star trilogy), and Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’ve been listening to a lot of La Luz, Shannon and the Clams, and almost anything from the 90s. How do you spend your free time? I recently took my own advice (“do what you love, even if you’re bad at it!”) and started taking pottery classes. It’s been so fun to let go of my perfectionism and tap into my creative side! I have a lot of interests, and the particular rabbit hole I am lost in changes pretty regularly. A few weeks ago, I watched every documentary I could find on ancient Maya; now, I’m spending most evenings doing research for an upcoming cross-country road trip (it’s important to identify donut shops in every stop between here and Oregon). I care a lot about food justice (and I love gardening), so in the past, I helped organize a community garden and worked on an urban farm, which provides my local community with access to affordable, culturally relevant produce. I’m excited to get involved with similar organizations in my new city! -- Where did you go to college and what did you study? I completed my undergraduate degree at Seattle Pacific University. After changing my mind several times, I finally ended up majoring in English literature. I was (and still am) a big reader, and the opportunity to spend several years digging deeply into texts was magical. I also attended Northeastern University for graduate school, where I received my M.Ed. What was your favorite thing about college? This answer has changed somewhat over the years, but what I’ve come to appreciate most about my college experience was the faculty. As I said, I attended a small college with amazing professors who cared about me, not just as a student but as a whole person. They challenged me intellectually, but also supported me when I was struggling. What about your college experience was different from what you expected? Before going to college, I don’t think I realized how much learning happens outside of the classroom. I lived off-campus and was able to immerse myself in the life of the city: attending art and cultural events, getting involved with political organizing. I was also fortunate to get some really interesting work experience, from an internship at an arts journal to work study jobs at a local elementary school and non-profit organization.  What would you say to your high school self if you could coach them through the research and application process? What would you have done differently? Do more research! As a high school student, I had very little knowledge of the range of options out there. I initially enrolled at a large university in a small town, only to realize that environment wasn’t the best fit for me, and I ended up transferring to a small college in a big city. Things worked out in the end, but a bit more research and self-reflection before starting the process might have saved some time and effort later! -- Where did you work in admissions and/or counseling? I worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where I eventually became the Director of Selection. What aspect of the college admissions and/or counseling process do you most enjoy working on? I really enjoy the essay writing process. From brainstorming ideas to writing and editing, I love helping students tell their unique stories. What in your mind makes a good college essay? When I was an admissions officer, I was most drawn to essays with personality. I think the best essays capture the student’s authentic voice and give insight into some aspect of who they are—their values, worldview, background, goals, or interests—beyond what we learn from the transcript or activities list. How would you describe your counseling style? I would describe my style as motivating, supportive, and direct. I’m not a micromanager; my goal is to empower students to take ownership of the application process! To learn more about Emily, visit her bio.

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