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 Jennifer Simons.
Where are you from?
Merrick, New York, a town on the South Shore of Long Island near Jones Beach.
Where did you go to school?
I attended Wellesley College and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
What did you study?
I was a Women’s Studies major with a concentration in Sociology. I also took lots of creative writing and English classes. My poetry professor, Frank Bidart, recently won a Pulitzer Prize.
Where did you work?
My first admissions job was at Barnard College, where I originally started out in a temporary position allocating space for the college’s summer programs (a job that has since been replaced by a computer, I’m sure). The woman who hired me for the temp job said that while there were no guarantees, if I wanted to work at the University, this would be a good way to get my foot in the door. Indeed it was. I was hired as an admissions counselor that fall and began to travel immediately to recruit students; it was my dream job. I eventually left Barnard for grad school and later worked at Connecticut College, where I became fascinated by the role non-traditional students play on campus and was in charge of a robust transfer program. I also made my first recruiting trip abroad and that shaped my life. However, even more importantly, I met the love of my life, a man who became my husband and as a result, moved to New York City. I worked as a college counselor at the Ramaz School for two years until my mentor, who was the Dean of Admissions at Tufts University at the time, invited me to interview for the Director of International Recruitment Position. I worked at Tufts for ten years and left to become the Director of Admissions Recruitment at Northeastern University.
What are you reading right now for fun?
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. I also really enjoy reading magazines such as Vanity Fair and the highlight of my week is the Sunday New York Times.
You have a free weekend and carte blanche to go anywhere and do anything. What do you do?
A weekend is not enough time to go to London or to Hong Kong, two of my favorite places, and certainly not enough to go to Seoul or Singapore, so I will happily stay in Boston and have breakfast with my family at the Friendly Toast and go kayaking in the Charles River. Maybe we will go to Al Dente in the North End for dinner or to the Dumpling House in Central Square. There must be bubble tea at some point. I would also sneak in a movie or two! And a nap.
What was your favorite thing about college?
I chose Wellesley because it is a women’s college. I was so grateful to have an experience where all the college leaders were women and there was no doubt that you could do anything you wanted to do, not in spite of your gender, but because of it. One of my most meaningful life events was returning to Wellesley for my 25th (!) reunion and seeing how my classmates and I have become the women we always thought we would be, but in many different ways than we envisioned.
What about your college experience was different from what you expected?
I had absolutely no idea that I would be exposed to so many different viewpoints and perspectives. I had never met anyone from outside of the United States before. I had never met people from so many different backgrounds and religions. I don’t know that this was different from what I expected but I just didn’t know to expect it.
What’s your philosophy on college admission?
Find a place that you love, that will accept you, and that your family can afford.
What aspect of the college admissions process do you most enjoy working on?
I love researching individual schools and learning about the culture of each place. Why can something feel so right on paper (and by paper, I mean on the internet) and then not be right at all in person?
What is the most common mistake you see from students that can easily be fixed?
Not communicating with their teachers and high school college counselor about what they think their own strengths are. Not saying thank you to those same people.
How do you encourage students to look beyond the schools they know to find hidden gems?
I bug them until they listen to me.
What in your mind makes a good college essay?
There is a Quaker saying, (and a Tufts supplemental question), “Let your life speak; who are you?” If you can answer that question by telling a story, a story with a beginning, a middle and an end, with a detail that defines you, with an authentic voice I can “hear” in my head when I read it, you have succeeded. Also, try to answer it without using the words, “I am.” Just tell me a story.
What would you say to your high school self if you could coach him/her through the process?
I wouldn’t focus on the process; it is a means to an end. I would tell my high school self to be bold in college, to take classes outside of my comfort zone, to take time to get to know people really well. To Listen. To stay in touch with friends in a meaningful way. To keep a journal and document life.
To learn more about Jennifer, visit her bio.