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 Lauren Randle.
Where are you from?
Lauren: I was born and raised in Cape May, NJ … what I consider the “real” Jersey Shore!
Where did you go to school?
Lauren: Georgetown University and then University of Virginia for my Master’s degree.
What did you study?
Lauren: I went to Georgetown dead set on begin a gov. major but after every intro class, I left wondering when we would ever get to studying about women in government?! I eventually realized that this major wouldn’t address the topics that mattered most to me, so I switched to American Studies which allowed me to form my own concentration supported by a senior thesis. I focused on women’s political experience in the United States.
Where did you work?
Lauren: I waitressed throughout college because I had so many unpaid internships (I interned for the National Organization for Women, Donna Brazil’s consulting agency, and two of Hillary Clinton’s campaigns). But it never seemed odd to me to work so many hours for free. I was paid in experience and left college with a real resume. After graduating, I switched from politics to education and worked in admissions at Georgetown University, followed by a community college in Virginia, an international high school in Hong Kong, a private prep school outside of Philly, and now College Coach!
What are you reading right now for fun?
Lauren: We are Water, by Wally Lamb.
You have a free weekend and carte blanche to go anywhere and do anything. What do you do?
Lauren: I live for the weekend getaway! I avidly follow the “48 hours in…” series from the New York Times and think you can truly get the essence of any place in a weekend.
What was your favorite thing about college?
Lauren: Being surrounded by the movers and the shakers of my generation. I had no doubt that everyone sitting around me at the table would be the future leaders in their field. That was an equally humbling and inspiring feeling.
What about your college experience was different from what you expected?
Lauren: There were so many requirements! I really thought that I would show up to college and finally be able to take whatever classes I wanted after spending four years in high school being told what to study. Well, I clearly didn’t look too closely at what “core requirements” mean! Now, I don’t regret having to take so many history, philosophy, science, theology, and language courses. But at the time, I was surprised by how much of my schedule was filled up with classes that I wouldn’t have chosen on my own.
What’s your philosophy on college admission?
Lauren: There isn’t just one college where you can be happy. A former student of mine really put it into perspective for me. When I asked her what was her first-choice college, she said, “I applied to eight colleges. There are thousands of colleges in the US. All eight are my first choice because I’d be happy and successful at any of them. Why else would I apply?” That taught me so much. Now I tell all of my students that if you don’t love every college you are applying to, then you either haven’t finished researching yet or are applying to the wrong schools. You need to love your safety school just as much as your reach school.
What aspect of the college admissions process do you most enjoy working on?
Lauren: Helping students find their own voice. Whether that is through the essay or in building a college list that fits that specific student’s interests and needs or in preparing for their very first interview, I find it so gratifying to watch a student grow from timidity to confidence in their voice and demeanor. That’s when I know that student is truly ready to head off to college.
What is the most common mistake you see from students that can easily be fixed?
Lauren: Advocacy! I see too many students not advocating for themselves, not taking the driver’s seat. This is the first major adult decision they will make, and too often I don’t hear them advocating for what they want. I realize it is easier said than done, but I think students and parents would have an easier, more successful transition to college if the self-advocacy process started well before they step foot on campus.
What in your mind makes a good college essay?
Lauren: If you are bored writing it, I guarantee that I’ll be bored reading it. All I ever care about is what that student cares about, and yet so many students chose to write about something they think the admissions officer cares about. Of the thousands of essays I read as an admissions officer, I never once opened an essay and said before reading it, “Oh, I hope he writes about ….!” But there were too many times that I finished an essay and said, “Why did he write about something he clearly doesn’t really care about??”
What would you say to your high school self if you could coach him/her through the process?
Lauren: You got lucky! You got into your Early Action reach school but the process would have been much less stressful had you been prepared with your Plan B and truly loved the next set of colleges you were planning on applying to. Most people don’t get so lucky with their reach school, so don’t stop preparing for the next round of applications!