Skip to main content

Meet an Admissions Counselor: Nial Rele

expert collage with school names
Nial Rele Admissions Consultant

Written by Nial Releon July 21st, 2022

I have spent most of my career in higher education, serving in admissions and residential life roles at Middlebury College, Colorado College, Lewis & Clark College, and Harvard University. During my years in admissions, I worked with students and families from across the country and the world and have read thousands of applications. I wore many hats as an admissions officer including supporting applicants from international, first generation, and traditionally underrepresented backgrounds, managing a scholarship program and community-based organization partnerships, leading yield and data analytics, and working on athletic recruitment. I also have nonprofit leadership experience; I served as the Executive Director of the Vermont & New Hampshire Energy Education Program, and I am on the boards of the United Way of Addison County and the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity.
Learn More About Nial
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 Nial Rele. Where are you from, where have you lived, and where do you live now? I spent my childhood in Bombay, India (population: 20 million) and Lagos, Nigeria (population: 14 million) and moved to Middlebury, Vermont (population: 8000) to attend college. I have since lived in Massachusetts, Colorado, and Oregon, then returned to Vermont in 2017. I now live with my wife, son, and two cats in a home built in 1853 in a wonderful tightknit community of 2500 called Vergennes. You never know where life can take you! What are you reading, watching, and/or listening to lately? I am currently reading Caste by Isabel Wilkerson and enjoy reading sci-fi novels too. My wife and I have been watching Stranger Things and Veep (often on very low volume so as not to wake our young baby). I like all sorts of music but Cat Stevens, the Beatles, the Cranberries, and Anais Mitchell are current favorites. What do you do for fun or to relax? I love to cook and feed my friends and family! I regularly cook Indian, Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, and Italian food. 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? My YouTube algorithm would tell you that my interests include obscure recipes from around the world, architecture and design, weaving, linguistics, and ancient history! Do you do any volunteer work? If so, what, and are there certain causes that are close to your heart? I serve on the boards of our county’s United Way as well as the Community Action Program that serves our region of Vermont. My wife and I are also host parents to international students who attend Middlebury College. -- Where did you go to college and what did you study? I attended Middlebury College in Vermont and studied environmental policy and Chinese. What was your favorite thing about college? Was anything very different from what you expected? I grew up in giant cities and learned that I valued the experience of an intimate and beautiful residential campus. I loved being surrounded by smart and motivated peers from around the country and the world who had very different interests to my own. I felt supported and challenged to thrive by faculty and staff who were genuinely invested in my success. What I loved most about my college years was that I was encouraged to seek impactful experiences that were not bound by the physical campus. For instance, I had the opportunity to travel to Antarctica to learn about climate change and perform concerts in Japan with my a cappella group. I designed internships that took me to an education nonprofit in rural India and to an environmental policy organization in Shanghai. I spent a summer solely speaking Chinese in an immersive language program in Vermont and then studied abroad and conducted thesis research for six months in China. I was grateful I was able to pursue all these experiences despite being a student with high financial need. 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? The college application process can at times feel inscrutable and overwhelming. It can make you feel like you are putting yourself out there to people you don’t know and asking them to make these big decisions about your future. I would have reminded myself that I was resilient and that I was going to be OK, and that I was going to have a positive college experience. I would have reminded myself that I was in the driver’s seat, and that I had the incredible privilege of exploring around for where I would spend the next four years of my life. I would have looked for more ways to celebrate my strengths, accomplishments, and hard work, and to enjoy the process. -- Where did you work in admissions and/or counseling? I have worked in admissions at Colorado College, Lewis & Clark College, and Middlebury College. I also read international applications for Carleton College, and PhD applications for the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences while I was pursuing my graduate degree. What aspect of the college admissions and/or counseling process do you most enjoy working on? I most enjoy getting to know students and families and seeing them through the process. It is a special sort of reward for an educator to see a student they had worked with during the admissions process thrive on campus, graduate, and then go on to pursue their personal and professional dreams. What in your mind makes a good college essay? After years of reading thousands of college essays, the word that I saw myself going to most often to describe a good college essay was “compelling.” Compelling essays can come in many shapes and sizes, but they are all able to cut through the noise and give the reader a clear sense of the person behind the words. Compelling essays are easy for the reader to explain to a third party. The student need not have climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro or have done cancer research in order to write a compelling essay. Instead, what makes them distinctive is that they effectively communicate what makes the student tick and are therefore exciting, relatable, and memorable to a reader. Can I see the complex and interesting human being behind the experiences shared? If I can, then I can better imagine how they will contribute on campus. How do you guide and nurture students through the college list process, from initial research to narrowing the final list? The first and most important step in building a college list is not looking at websites or guidebooks but instead having students look inward and for us to get a deep sense of their interests and priorities. I enjoy going through that exercise with students and it often leads to informative discoveries! Once the process of exploration and research gets underway, it is important to me that students feel excited about every college on that final list and that they match their interests and priorities well. College admissions can sometimes be unpredictable, and I prioritize building a well-balanced and responsible college list. How would you describe your counseling style? My strength is in being a supportive, warm, and approachable mentor to students. I invest in building mutual trust with students and families as this promotes open and honest communication and a shared sense of objectives, strengths, and opportunities for growth. I am adaptable and work hard to understand students’ and families’ needs and meet them where they are at. While I can be a dedicated advocate and can build a well-organized scaffold to help students reach their goals, I believe that they must do the climbing themselves. Being accountable to oneself and having ownership in the process translates to students feeling like the process is authentically their own and that they have agency and choice. To learn more about Nial, visit his bio.

Find out where our team of admissions decision-makers came from and why they joined College Coach.


Interested in learning more about how our college admissions counseling services can help your student succeed?

Call 877-402-6224 or complete the form for information on getting your student started with one of our experts.

Inclusion Matters Here Pride Flag