Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain


Welcome to the second part of our two-part series taking you behind the scenes in the world of admissions counselors.  In our first installment we confirmed their “Road Warrior” status but now it’s time to take a closer look.

To all those students I’m working with or who have attended one of my workshops, I’m sorry, this will be a bit of a repeat.  My spiel on admissions counselors is one of my favorites as I find it goes a long way in alleviating some fear and stress around the application review process.  Since so many of you have recently hit the “submit” button on your application I thought it was a good time for some stress alleviation.

So tell me what comes to mind when you hear the title “Admissions Counselor.”  When I was a 17-year-old I pictured a room of distinguished looking men and women sitting around a large oak table smoking pipes and listening to a live violinist while they scrutinized every letter of my application.  They were sticklers for detail and disillusioned from years of reading sub-par college essays.  It was going to be nearly impossible to impress them.  In truth, this could not be farther from reality.

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“Admissions Counselor” is (at most colleges) an entry level position.  Generally, the pay is pretty low and the hours are long and variable.  Now looking at the job description, who do you picture?  No longer a mid-career academic with a fondness for tweed, huh?  It’s most likely a freshly-minted college graduate, someone excited about traveling travelling and the energy to pull 18-hour days.  For them it’s often a perfect first place to bulk up their resume and start networking.

What does this mean for you as an applicant?  This means there is a real possibility that you will be qualified to BE an admissions counselor a mere five years from now.  In that scenario, having so recently applied to college, selected and attended a school, and graduated, how do you think you would review applications?  Chances are you’ll have a lot of understanding for those wearing shoes you were so recently in.  You would follow the admissions guidelines passed down from higher administration, sure, but you’re looking for reasons to cut kids a break, give them the benefit of the doubt, not slam a door in their face.

There is one part of that original scenario that has some basis in fact: the expertise and dedication of admissions professionals.  Do not mistake youth for inexperience or a lack of job qualification.  To do a job that requires the ridiculously long hours and highly complex work you absolutely must care deeply about what you do, and be good at it.  But again, instead of applying this skill to keep people out they are truly doing their best to make the most appropriate decision for each applicant.  It’s not about “Who can I cut?” but rather “Who would succeed here?” 

I hope this will help squash some of those nightmares you’ve been having about scary looking college big-wigs laughing at your file or screaming “DENIED!” at you.  Because in truth, it’s most likely a 20-something year old working on their computer covered in Harry Potter house stickers, listening to their N’SYNC Spotify and sipping hot cocoa.  Not so scary, huh?

Admissions Abridged distills news and trends from the college admissions world to provide college-bound students and their families with helpful tools to approach the application process.

Kate Balboni has earned a Master’s in School Counseling and is a certified New Jersey School Counselor.  She has served as an admissions counselor for Drew University and as a regional admissions coordinator at the University of South Carolina.  During her time in Undergraduate Admissions she has reviewed thousands of applications and student essays, conducted hundreds of student interviews, and has visited over 50 college campuses throughout the nation.  Kate is the owner of Balboni College Advising, a concierge college consulting service, providing one-on-one guidance and counseling throughout the college application process.  For more information please visit

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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