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Meet an Admissions Counselor: Marjorie Southworth

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Marjorie Southworth College Coach

Written by Marjorie Southworthon January 30th, 2024

Most recently I served as the College Counselor at the American School of Madrid, an independent, international IB high school. My students were a diverse international population that applied to colleges and universities in multiple countries in Asia, North America, and Europe.. Prior to this counseling position, I was an admissions officer at a variety of institutions ranging from the Ivy League to large research universities to women’s colleges–specifically, Cornell University, Smith College, The School for International Training, University of Massachusetts Amherst and Mount Holyoke College. This combination of experiences has rounded out and broadened my professional understanding of the university admissions process from both the high school and college sides. At Cornell University, I served as a member of the College of Arts and Sciences’ admissions committee, which read and decided on applications. It was then clear to me what I wanted to do moving forward. At both Mount Holyoke and Smith College, I traveled extensively for recruitment and alumni work, trained staff, and supervised student volunteers and part-time interviewers. As Director of Admissions at the School for International Training, I traveled extensively outside of the U.S. recruiting students and representing the school’s study abroad portfolio, and undergraduate and graduate programs. At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, I evaluated international transcripts, read international freshman applications, coordinated the second bachelor's degree program, and served as a transfer counselor.
Learn More About Marjorie
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 a college admissions 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 Marjorie Southworth. Where are you from, where have you lived, and where do you live now? I was born and raised in New York and have lived in Connecticut, Maryland, Hawai’i, and Virginia. I raised my children in western Massachusetts, then moved to Boston, where I happily stayed for nine years. I then realized a long-standing professional goal to live and work abroad, most recently living in Madrid. What are you reading, watching, and/or listening to lately?  I’m reading The Fountains for Silence, The Spanish Civil War, and multiple books by Louise Penny. I’m a huge BritBox fan (Shetland, Luther, Vera, Grace). I mostly listen to jazz, but with three granddaughters I know a lot of music from Disney princess movies. What do you do for fun or to relax? I plan to return to running distances and riding horses. I loved hiking in Spain and around Europe. 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’m totally intrigued by the Spanish Civil War, Franco’s reign, and Spanish culture, laws, and society. I love travel and the visual excitement of seeing new and different people, places, and things. I love discussing issues and problems, though mostly ones not connected to politics. -- Where did you go to college and what did you study? I went to the University of Hawai’i and majored in math and elementary education, but almost changed my major to botany. What was your favorite thing about college? Was anything very different from what you expected? A lot was different. I was miles and miles away from my big family with their big personalities, and was better able to get to know myself. I was also wonderfully dropped into a totally different cultural setting. It was the beginning of a lifelong desire to see as much of the world as possible. What would you say to your high school self if you could coach them through the research and application process? What would you have done differently? I’d encourage myself to think through why I wanted to attend college outside the pressures and expectations of my wonderfully loving family. From this perspective, I would have been a prime candidate for a gap year, which would have given me a greater sense of myself and more clarity on my next steps. -- Where did you work in admissions and/or counseling? I worked in admissions at Cornell University, Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, the School for International Training, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. As a counselor, I worked many summers with College Summit, helping students navigate the admissions process. Most recently, I spent eight years at the American School of Madrid before returning to Bright Horizons College Coach, where I previously worked for many years. What aspect of the college admissions and/or counseling process do you most enjoy working on? I most enjoy the work with the student, whether one-on-one or in groups. I love listening to them express their concerns, hopes, aspirations, and ideas, and working with them as a resource, a guide, and a partner. Watching them grow and emerge as young adults with a better sense of who they are is very rewarding. What in your mind makes a good college essay? In general, it is an essay topic of their choosing (not someone else’s), written in their voice, using their best writing skills, and developed through a personal process. It must be an essay that answers the question or prompt on the application. I ask them up front to decide what they want the reader to take away after reading their essay. I feel strongly that there is no perfect essay, just one where you have done your very best. How do you guide and nurture students through the college list process, from initial research to narrowing the final list? In general, I start with reflection: “Why are you going to college or university?” This question often comes as a surprise to many, as the foregone conclusion is, “Isn’t this what I’m supposed to do next?” But if students can ignore the hum in the school hallway about where they should go and what they should study, and instead focus on their own preferences and dreams, they gain a better sense of themselves. We can then talk through factors, from academics to location, to narrow their search for schools from thousands of universities to a manageable number. We also discuss how selectivity, cost, admission requirements, and deadlines can impact the list. How would you describe your counseling style? I would hope it would be described as warm, encouraging, and honest. I feel I do a good job of first setting up an environment where students can be open and feel heard and safe. An environment where they are expected to contribute, where criticism can be expressed in both directions, and tolerance is the norm. I might start out as the lead but hope—and expect—that we will end up as partners. To learn more about Marjorie, visit her bio.

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