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 Julia Jones, who works with students both remotely and in our Newton, MA office.
Where are you from?
Julia: I was born in NYC, but grew up in Westchester/Rockland Counties (suburbs of NYC). Went to high school in Nashville, TN, and then college in Boston. I currently live in Southern New Hampshire.
Where did you go to school?
Julia: B.A. from Brandeis University and M.Ed from Lesley University.
What did you study?
Julia: 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.
Where did you work?
Julia: Lesley University as a program administrator for their off-campus, satellite graduate programs; Brandeis University Office of Admissions; Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall as Director of Admissions; and College Coach since 2003.
What are you reading right now for fun?
Julia: Nothing too heavy, as it is summer (finally!). I’m in the midst of Let’s Pretend this Never Happened (a mostly true memoir), by Jenny Lawson, who writes one of my favorite blogs. Like her blog, the book is laugh out loud funny, which I’ve discovered isn’t necessarily the best thing to read in public if you don’t want to get some odd looks from passers-by. I’m also reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, a thriller/mystery and a really good beach read.
You have a free weekend and carte blanche to go anywhere and do anything. What do you do?
Julia: Speaking of the beach… that’s probably where I’d be headed. Or more likely, the coast of one of the many beautiful lakes we have up here in NH or VT. A great book, a glass of wine, my latest knitting project, and the chance to ‘unplug’ for a few days is the perfect combination.
What was your favorite thing about college?
Julia: Meeting and making lifelong friends with such an amazingly diverse group of people—that initial core group of friends that 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 (TN, North Dakota, Pakistan, Poland, CT), with even greater differences in culture, interest, and background, and that’s what made it so much fun.
What about your college experience was different from what you expected?
Julia: 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’s your philosophy on college admission?
Julia: I truly believe that there are great colleges out there for every level and type of student, and that the world of colleges and universities is incredibly rich and diverse. It absolutely is about fit—looking beyond just the name of the college and getting a sense of where you will be most comfortable, most happy, and ultimately most successful.
What aspect of the college admissions process do you most enjoy working on?
Julia: 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, interviews, etc.
What is the most common mistake you see from students that can easily be fixed?
Julia: Trying to tailor their essays or applications to what they think admissions officers want to hear, rather than what they want to say about themselves. The truth is, they have no way of knowing what any individual admissions officer wants to hear (and that in and of itself is a pretty subjective business), so I really encourage students to be true to themselves in their writing and in the choices they make over the course of their high school career.
How do you encourage students to look beyond the schools they know to find hidden gems?
Julia: 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. 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 visit and dive deeper into the aspects of college that are important to you.
What in your mind makes a good college essay?
Julia: 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 goes back to what I said above: be true to yourself, both in content, and in tone.
What are some important things you’ve learned during your time as a College Coach educator?
Julia: That students come into their own at different paces—some in high school, and others in college. 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 4 years in college, and learning how to be accountable and responsible for the decisions and choices that they make.
What would you say to your high school self if you could coach him/her through the process?
Julia: It’s OK to be undecided about your major! I was so anxious about needing to have it all figured out early on, 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.