Welcome back to 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 Kay Kurashige.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Bellevue, WA, a Seattle suburb. I have moved around quite a lot since then, and currently call San Diego, CA my home.
Where did you go to school?
I attended Brown University for my undergraduate degree and Columbia University for my graduate.
What did you study?
I studied East Asian Studies both as an undergraduate and graduate student. This certainly wasn’t a “practical” degree! Hopefully it goes to show that you can be gainfully employed even if you end up pursuing an “out-of-the-box” major. I completely stumbled into this area; as an undergrad I took a lot of classes I simply enjoyed and then realized one day that I had nearly completed all of the requirements needed for the major (or concentration as we Brownies call it).
Where did you work?
My first job out of college was working for an immigration law firm. I quickly realized that law was not for me and applied for an admissions job at Brown on the recommendation of one of my former professors. I worked at Brown for several years before moving to New York City. While in New York, I worked at the Columbia University School of General Studies in the admission office and the Dean of Students Office. After Columbia, I accepted a college counseling position at the French-American School of New York. I worked with a very international student body there which gave me an itch to travel, so I packed my bags and moved to Belgium, where I worked at the International School of Brussels as a college and careers counselor.
What are you reading right now?
I’m currently in between books, but I recently read The Book Thief after passing by it in the book store for several years.
You have a free weekend and carte blanche to go anywhere and do anything. What do you do?
I love going to the beach (which is why I’m living in San Diego)! I try to go as often as I can so that I can enjoy a tasty gelato while listening to the waves.
What was your favorite thing about college?
I’m a big nerd, so my favorite thing about college was having the opportunity to take really interesting classes from fantastic professors. I also loved meeting and getting to know students from all over the U.S. and from around the world. It was incredibly eye opening.
What about your college experience was different from what you expected?
I had no idea how much work I would have to do! I got by in high school without having to do a lot of work and was certainly in for a rude awakening when I arrived at Brown. I have to read an entire book per week for every class I’m taking? Excuse me? Needless to say, I did not get as much sleep as I would have liked.
What’s your philosophy on college admission?
I feel that the college admission process is not just about applying to college, but about personal discovery and learning how to become more independent and resilient. The road to college is really a journey—students have to reflect upon who they are as individuals and what they want out of life. It’s an exciting and important time and I enjoy traveling this path with students and trying to make it as stress free and enjoyable one as possible!
What aspect of the college admissions process do you most enjoy working on?
I really enjoy helping students with their essays. It’s fun to help students showcase what is unique about their personalities and to hear their stories.
What is the most common mistake you see from students that can easily be fixed?
Typos! Writing about their love for Duke on their application to Columbia! Many students complete their applications in a rush and end up making careless mistakes that can cost them.
How do you encourage students to look beyond the schools they know to find hidden gems?
I offer students suggestions of schools that I have visited and/or am very familiar with that I think are a really great match for their interests and personalities.
What in your mind makes a good college essay?
A good college essay makes the reader feel like they just had a really interesting chat over coffee or hot cocoa with the student. The essay should give the reader an understanding of the essence of the student’s personality.
What are some important things you’ve learned during your time as a College Coach educator?
One of the wonderful (and challenging) aspects of working as an admissions educator is that there are new developments within the field almost all the time. Colleges constantly evolve to meet the needs of new students so our team is always doing our best to learn as much as we can about these changes. It’s fantastic to work with a group of top-notch educators who are frequently sharing knowledge with one another so we can provide the best service we can to families.
What would you say to your high school self if you could coach him/her through the process?
In retrospect, aside from Brown and one or two other schools, the colleges on my list really made no sense given my interests and personality, so I would certainly encourage myself to look for schools that were a better fit!