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Meet an Admissions Counselor: DJ Meehan

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Djiara Meehan College Coach

Written by Djiara Meehanon July 28th, 2022

Higher education and admissions captured my nerdy curiosity during my college search. Even then, I enjoyed reading college guidebooks and brochures for fun. As an undergraduate my curiosity met purpose, volunteering with admissions initiatives to recruit underrepresented students; after graduating from Vanderbilt I worked for the Posse Foundation, a college scholarship program. My next admissions positions at Carleton College and Reed College allowed me to manage the schools’ multicultural recruitment initiatives, working closely with community-based organizations and high schools all over the country. As Associate Director at Connecticut College I traveled to Latin America and Caribbean and helped manage the school’s reading and selection process, supporting athletic and international recruitment. In addition to the years I spent at the college level, I also have experience as a high school college counselor, first at Ransom Everglades School in Miami, Florida and then Saint John’s School in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Learn More About Djiara
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 a college admissions 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 Djiara (DJ) Meehan. Where are you from, where have you lived, and where do you live now? I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and grew up in Guatemala and Miami. Since attending college in Nashville, I have also called New York, Chicago, Northfield (MN), Portland (OR), Mystic (CT), and Miami (again!) home. For the last six years I’ve been living in San Juan, Puerto Rico. What are you reading, watching, and/or listening to lately? My reading and listening interests overlap. I listen to a lot of NPR and nerd podcasts including Radio Ambulante, El hilo, On the Media, Radiolab, On Being, Ologies, Deeply Human, and La Brega. I find myself reading mostly non-fiction related to history/politics/race, Latin America, and food. My watching diet is mostly light and mindless; I like a silly period drama like Bridgerton and never get bored with a Golden Girls rerun. What do you do for fun or to relax? My dog is my number one source of fun. Lucy and I spend our free time exploring new beaches and mountain trails around the island. Yoga and cooking are my other two daily relaxation outlets. What are some of your interests—things that fascinate you or send you down internet rabbit holes, or things you love to learn more about? I love gardening and currently have a family of house plants. I’m in the process of building a small homestead in the mountains and am deep diving into green construction, tropical horticulture, and learning how to raise some goats and bees! Do you do any volunteer work? If so, what, and are there certain causes that are close to your heart? My service work has been mostly professionally related. I’ve been advocating for college access in Puerto Rico and working with colleagues in the Southern and National Associations for College Admission Counseling to create programming in collaboration with the PR Department of Education. -- Where did you go to college and what did you study? I went to Vanderbilt University where I majored in American Studies and minored in Women’s Studies. My coursework focused on the history of race and ethnicity in the U.S., particularly the experience of Puerto Rican women in the diaspora. Science had been a strength of mine in high school (I’m still a botany and mycology nerd!) and I started college on a pre-med track. I had never considered that a major like American Studies even existed, but because of some classes (and amazing professors) in my first-year course distribution, I discovered a whole new area of personal curiosity and academic direction. What was your favorite thing about college? Was anything very different from what you expected? My favorite thing about college is that the experience was nothing like I expected. I often describe my time at Vanderbilt as feeling like an extended study-abroad; in my memory it is still a strange country where you wear a dress to football games and fly confederate flags. Academically I enjoyed myself but it took me some time to adjust socially; freshman year I often considered transferring. By my sophomore year I’d found my niche on campus and never looked back. Beyond affording me wonderful opportunities and life-long friendships, my experience at Vandy was a lesson in blooming where you’re planted. 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? College-aged DJ would have loved a small liberal arts college. While I had attended a small secondary school, in my college search I took the Goldilocks approach focusing on medium-sized research universities; I didn’t want what I perceived to be too big or too small of a school. One of things I misunderstood then was that “small” referred to the academic experience at a liberal arts college (things I had enjoyed about my high school, like access to great teachers and fun, nerdy peers), not the social experience or menu of opportunities the school offered. -- Where did you work in admissions and/or counseling? I worked in admissions at Carleton, Reed, and Connecticut College. At Carleton I also spent two years in student life in the Office of Multicultural Affairs. I also worked as a high school college counselor at Ransom Everglades School in Miami and Saint John’s School in San Juan, Puerto Rico. What aspect of the college admissions and/or counseling process do you most enjoy working on? In admissions I always found reading applications and getting to learn a student’s unique story to be an honor. As a high school counselor, the fun work was helping a student see that unique story and tell it for themselves. How do you guide and nurture students through the college list process, from initial research to narrowing the final list? As someone who made the best of a college experience that didn’t feel ideal at the time, I’m a believer that no one school is going to be perfect for a student; there are many schools where they can thrive.  Helping a student build a list of schools where we know they can bloom, it’s important to take time to define and unpack all of the different criteria and identify which are deal breakers for a student and their family and which aren’t. List building isn’t a science, but if a student is self-reflective and understands the variable menu of higher ed options, they can build a balanced list that won’t let them down. How would you describe your counseling style? I would describe my style as warm and fuzzy. I enjoy chatting and getting to know my counselees casually. I think it’s important to stay organized and on task, but not take the whole college application process and ourselves too seriously. To learn more about DJ, visit her bio.

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