MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Applying to college in the 21st century can be an intimidating task for high school students and their parents. It can cause stressful days and sleepless nights as families try to wade through the morass of paperwork and the often-complex application process.
But Dr. Deborah Hardy is here to help. Hardy is an educational consultant, or as she likes to say, a “mobile school counselor,” who will not only guide students through the college process but assist them in figuring out their goals by helping them find their passion.
To do that, Hardy, a veteran school counselor with 24 years’ experience, created GuidED Consulting LLC, a business in which she travels to the student’s home, or a neutral location, to help them get through the college process without all the anxiety. Her business motto is, “College process with a heart!”
Hardy said her role is not to replace the guidance that students receive from the counselors at school, but to supplement it, like a tutor complements a teacher. She can provide more focused one-on-one attention.
“Your time to get to know students is limited [as a school counselor],” she said. “The difference is I get to meet with them in a variety of ways. We meet in person or Skype. I have clients from New Jersey to Florida. I want to know what sparks their interest. To me, it’s understanding your passion and leading you toward your outcome—maybe college, maybe trade school. It’s about finding connections.”
She said meeting the family at home helps create a relaxed atmosphere where the student is likely to be less reserved.
“They share wonderful stories and I can see the examples that highlight them,” she said. “I had a client who went fishing and caught a huge [marlin] and had it hanging on the wall. The conversation was about his emotions on the experience. I probably would not have had such a rich conversation in another setting.
“I brainstorm with the students and come up with ideas,” she added. “I look for that teachable moment.”
Hardy was born and raised in Brazil by her American-born parents who had moved to South America because of her father’s job. She attended the American school system there and became fluent in several languages. She came to the U.S. to attend college.
Hardy got her BA in sociology from Rider University and then worked in admissions at Dominican College and then Berkeley College in White Plains.
“But I was continuing to hunt for what I wanted to be,” she said. “I got to travel and talk to students about their dreams. Then a friend said there is a career called school counseling and you’d be great at it. I had a talent for helping others.”
She learned that the Sleepy Hollow School District had a grant to hire a bilingual/bicultural counselor and so she applied.
“That is where I started my [counseling] career in 1992,” she said.
She worked at Sleepy Hollow for 12 years and then had the opportunity to move up the ladder after she got her administrative degree at Bank Street College in Manhattan. Hardy became the guidance coordinator at Irvington and then director of school counseling at Somers. She went on to obtain her doctorate degree from Western Connecticut State University.
Through it all, Hardy was active in her profession. She was president of the New York State School Counseling Association; a member of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors; and a volunteer for the New York State Department of Education.
But after 24 years working in the public education system, Hardy decided it was time to set out on her own and GuidED was created.
“I decided to open GuidED after students said to me that they needed my guidance,” she explained. “They would say, ‘I am applying to college and I’m not sure what I want to do with my life.’”
Hardy said she never thought she would be doing the private college process until she started getting phone calls from students and their families.
“So, I asked them, ‘why me?’” she said. “They told me I put a different spin on this college process than most people do. It’s not a rote process; it’s not a robotic process that you can sometimes get within a school system. I put a focus on the emotional toll that this process can take. It has become incredibly stressful and overwhelming and trends change every year.”
Hardy believes that growing up in Brazil and then going to college in the U.S. helped shape the person she would become and pointed her toward the vocation she would ultimately choose.
“In terms of who I am, I thank my parents for raising me in Brazil because the values of caring about one another and caring about positivity and enjoying the moment, I really got from [living] overseas,” she said. “And I got the philosophy of hard work and pursuing my dreams from going to college here in the U.S. I value everything I learned.”
Now, she is passing that on to her students.
“I always look for something that makes that student shine,” she said. “I believe everybody is special.”
GuidED offers students and array of packages to choose from, one for each high school year, freshman through senior, as well as the Keep It Simple package, that can be customized to a specific client. Fees range from $500 for the Senior Package to $1,500 for the Freshman Package. For the Keep It Simple package, Hardy charges $200 an hour. The packages provide an array of services that include transcript review; developing a resume; creating a college review list; reviewing standard test options; college application support; college essay brainstorming and review; and guidance through the transition process. She will also help students assess their interests and investigate careers.
To learn more, call Dr. Hardy at 914-721-3591.