Julia Jones college consultantWe’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 Julia Jones, who works with students both remotely and in the Greater Boston area.

Where are you from, where have you lived, and where do you live now?
I was born in New York City, but grew up in the Westchester/Rockland County suburbs of the city. I went to high school in Nashville and to college in Boston. I currently live in Southern New Hampshire, with my husband and two very pampered and spoiled cats.

What are you reading, watching, and/or listening to lately? 
As an avid crafter, I’m enjoying the craft competition show, Making It. Like so many of us, I’m hooked on Ted Lasso and, even though I probably know almost every episode by heart, you can sometimes find me binge re-watching one of my all-time favorites, Parks and Recreation. Earlier this year, my reading list included some powerful, but rather heavy, non-fiction choices. I was riveted by Caste by Isabel Wilkerson and Know my Name by Chanel Miller. For summer, I turned to somewhat lighter fare:The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet and The Midnight Library by Matt Haig.  I’ve also been catching up on some podcasts, including The Hidden Brain and Smartless.

What do you do for fun or to relax? 
Most people who know me even a little know that I’m obsessed with knitting. I’ve always been a ‘maker’ or crafter of some kind, but knitting is my go-to avocation. While it’s extremely rare to find me without a knitting project in my hands, one of the few times it’s not is when I’m at Orangetheory, embracing the challenge and fun of HIIT workouts.

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’ve always loved theater. I was a self-professed “musical theater geek” all through high school and college. I’m fascinated with how musical theater has evolved and changed over the years, from Gershwin, to Rodgers and Hammerstein, to Sondheim, and now to the incredible way that artists like Lin-Manuel Miranda have reimagined the genre.

Do you do any volunteer work? If so, what, and are there certain causes that are close to your heart?
I am an animal lover, and have been a dedicated “cat-mommy” to many rescue cats over the years. Over the past year, I’ve been volunteering at my local cat rescue organization, taking care of shelter cats and kittens, helping to get them more socialized and ready for adoption.

Where did you go to college?
I received my B.A. from Brandeis University and an M.Ed from Lesley University.

What did you study?
My undergraduate major was in French Language and Literature, with a minor in Education. I also took a wide range of courses in a lot of different disciplines: psychology, theater, English, American studies, sociology. My master’s degree was focused on the arts in education, at Lesley’s Creative Arts in Learning program.

What was your favorite thing about college?
Meeting and making lifelong friends with such an amazingly diverse group of people—that initial core group of friends I met freshman year. We joked that by senior year, when we were all living together, we were the most unlikely group of friends in what had to be the most diverse apartment on campus. We all hailed from vastly different locations (Tennessee, North Dakota, Pakistan, Poland, and Connecticut), with even greater differences in culture, interests, and background, and that’s what made it so much fun.

What about your college experience was different from what you expected?
I’m not sure I really understood until I was there how much work happened outside of the classroom, and how important time management and learning to work independently really was. I went to a pretty rigorous high school, and took a lot of honors and AP courses, so I was very accustomed to the long evenings and hours needed for studying, writing papers, homework, etc. But it was still a totally different experience to only be in class for such a short amount of time compared to high school, and to have to learn how to prioritize in order to use all of my free time in the best possible way.

What would you say to your high school self if you could coach him/her through the research and application process? What would you have done differently?
Think more about what you want in a college! I applied to a really long list of colleges, many of which were not great fits for me, and they were on my list for the wrong reasons (the name/reputation, because my peers were also applying, schools that I thought I should be considering). In the end, I got lucky—I had never heard of Brandeis until a family member recommended it and, once I visited, I knew it was the perfect school for me. But I did spend a lot of unnecessary time and energy on applications for schools that ultimately weren’t going to be good options for me. I also wish I understood early on that it’s OK to be undecided about your major! I was so anxious about needing to have it all figured out right away, also believing that I had to pursue something practical that  would lead directly to a career after graduation, even if it held little to no interest for me. Thankfully, by the time I got well into my freshman year, I began to fully realize the benefit of a liberal arts education; taking a wide range of courses and subjects would prepare me just as well (if not better) for life after graduation.

Where did you work in admissions and/or counseling?
I worked at Lesley University as a program administrator for their off-campus, satellite graduate programs; Brandeis University Office of Admissions as Associate Director of Admissions; and Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall as Director of Admissions.

What aspect of the college admissions and/or counseling process do you most enjoy working on?
Watching students really come into their own through the process as they start to make their decisions, discovering and defining their own identity and interests, and how that plays out in their college list, their essays, and interviews.

How do you encourage students to look beyond the schools they know to find hidden gems?
Go beyond—WAY beyond—the rankings. I don’t put much stock in rankings, because I don’t think they reveal much beyond the general popularity of a school. It’s all about fit! Whenever possible, the best way to find out if a school is a fit (and to determine what, exactly, makes a school a good fit for you) is to research, visit, and dive deeper into the aspects of college that are important to you.

What in your mind makes a good college essay?
I think a good essay does two things well. First and foremost, it tells me something interesting and valuable about the student, something that I wouldn’t necessarily know from looking at the rest of the application. Second, it does so in a way that is in the student’s voice, so it’s genuine and engaging. It is what I counsel students to do throughout the entire application process: be true to yourself, both in content, and in tone.

How would you describe your counseling style?
I really do see myself as a coach and advocate for my students!  My goal is to help them to make the right choices, to set themselves up for success, however they define that. I focus on meeting each student ‘where they are.’ I have worked with students from all backgrounds, who are looking at so many different types of institutions. I try to help them understand that the process isn’t ‘one size fits all,’ and so much about the work I do is helping students to find their own voice. A big part of the admissions process is a learning experience in itself. For many students, this is the first time that they are in the driver’s seat, making choices and decisions about where they will spend the next four years, and learning how to be accountable and responsible for the decisions and choices that they make.

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Written by Julia Jones
Julia Jones is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions consultants. Julia previously worked as a senior admissions officer at Brandeis University and was the director of admissions at Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall School. Visit our website to learn more about Julia Jones.