Ryan Kelley admissions advisorWe’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 Ryan Kelley.

Where are you from?
Ryan: I went to high school in Barrington, Rhode Island. I have bounced around a lot in my life, so if I only have a short time to introduce myself to someone, I say, “I am a Northeasterner,” but Colorado is as much home to me as any place in the world. I lived in New York City for seven years and my wife and her family are from Long Island. They have informed me that I qualify as a New Yorker in their eyes (but I will never root for New York sports teams. Ever!)

How do you spend your free time?
Ryan: If I could play golf every day, I would. I also love playing with my daughter, working out (I don’t like doing it, but feel I should do this), and traveling, and I’ve been volunteering as my daughter’s soccer coach for the last three years.

What are you reading, watching, and listening to lately?
Ryan: I watch lots of sports and then inevitably I end up geeking out on the History Channel or Smithsonian Channel.  I love historical fiction books and had been meaning to read The Tattooist of Auschwitz for a very long time and I finally got around to it recently. I am also reading Zen Golf: Mastering the Mental Game. It is not helping. When it comes to music, I have exactly zero music talent, but I love live music and can’t wait for concerts to start back up. My wife and I love music so much that one reason we named our daughter Austin is because it is the city where so much of the music we listen to comes from.

Where did you go to college and what did you study?
Ryan: I attended Stonehill College for my undergraduate degree in English and earned my Master’s degree in Management at Fordham University.

What was your favorite thing about college?
Ryan: I honestly don’t think I can pick just one. I loved my college experience! I played soccer all four years.  I loved this part of my college life, even the years when our team was, umm, less than great. I never thought about studying or living overseas but, through a chain of serendipitous events, I ended up studying abroad in Sydney, Australia. It was a great educational experience, in and out of the classroom.

Where did you work in admissions?
Ryan: I started as a tour guide at Stonehill. I was later an admissions officer at Roger Williams University, Fordham, and the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Looking back at your own high school and college admission experience, what would you have done differently?
Ryan: If I could go back and speak with my high school self, I would tell him to start thinking about the future sooner. I wish I had known how important my class selection and grades were and how much of a role they would play in my future success. Maybe I should rephrase that; I wish I had listened to the many people who were trying to tell me how important school was. I had a wake-up call eventually and was able to right the ship, but by that time, some programs I was interested in were no longer a possibility for me. One of the great ironies was, the college I went to was amazing. I loved every second of it. This does not however, negate the fact that if I was given the chance to speak with my 15-year-old self, I would tell him, “Your high school academic performance is important. A little maturity and focusing on the big picture, even a little, will be advantageous to you.”

How do you encourage students to look beyond the schools they know to find hidden gems?
Ryan: One thing I have come to learn through both my professional and personal experiences is there are so many great schools out there. Not only that, but there are great programs within some of these schools that may be a wonderful fit for a student. A lot of individuals, especially those coming from very competitive high schools, believe that only certain schools are “good.” I truly believe, with so many options out there, there are so many great choices and many of them may be at schools you are not familiar with. That is okay. Through some research, visiting campuses, and focusing on what is best for your academic and personal interests, finding that “hidden gem” is easier than you may think.

What in your mind makes a good college essay?
Ryan: Authenticity (and humor, but only if you actually are funny). If your goal is to impress the admissions committee with your robust vocabulary (that you had to look up in a thesaurus) or to wow them with your plans to solve world hunger, chances are you will miss the mark for what admissions officers (AOs) are looking for. Instead, use this opportunity to do some self-reflection and ask yourself, “If there was one thing I want the AO to know about me and why, what would it be?” Keep in mind that your friends will not see the essay. Your family may not ever see the essay. Heck, the AO may never meet you in person. This is your chance to be authentic without fear of judgement. AOs are not in the business of judging applicants; they are in the business of learning about them.

How would you describe your college admissions counseling style?
Ryan: I would describe my counseling style as flexible. I listen to the student and see where they are in the process. I ask questions to learn more about them personally and academically. I ask what their goals are and what they are hoping to get out of our time together. I am quite good at meeting anyone where they are. I also pride myself on being honest. I would rather a student or family have realistic expectations from the start based on factual information than be misled by misinformation or, even worse, the omission of hard-to-hear facts. I am here to guide and provide insight based on my experiences and expertise. If I am providing honest information and giving realistic expectations, I can sleep at night and the family is more prepared for the process as a whole.

To learn more about Ryan, visit his bio.

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Written by Ryan Kelley
Ryan Kelley is a member of College Coach’s team of college admissions consultants. Ryan is a graduate of Stonehill College and Fordham University; prior to joining College Coach, Ryan was an admissions officer at Fordham, UC Boulder, and Roger Williams. Visit our website to learn more about Ryan Kelley.