Fernando Gomes
Assistant Director of College Counseling
Westtown School (PA)

What drew you to the world of college admission counseling?
Much like many in the profession, I followed the tour guide to admission counselor pipeline. What first started as something that looked like a fun thing to do after college quickly morphed into my defined career, and I was excited when I made that discovery—when I realized that this is what I wanted to do. After a decade in admissions, I decided to give a try to crossing sides of the desk (at the height of the pandemic, no less). Not only did college counseling feel like a natural extension of what I was already doing, but I loved the profession even more, if that was possible. Getting to know students and helping them on their journeys, being a part of a school community, learning about so many fascinating colleges…I can’t say enough how much I love what I do.

What is your favorite part of the job?
In general, I love being able to have personal interactions with students every single day. But if we want to be more specific, I actually enjoy creating college lists for my students. I like to call this my favorite logic puzzle, because you never know what you are going to get! Getting to know students and their stories is fun for me, and then finding schools that align with their needs and interests feels very fulfilling. I’ve also gotten to learn about so many cool colleges in my time in the field, so I also do enjoy when students light up when they hear about the possibilities they have. Now, when they actually apply to schools I suggest, that’s another level of satisfaction.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
I remember the first time I attended a NACAC conference (in Denver, way back when), and just being amazed not just at the sheer size of it all, but the amount of folks who were all passionate about the profession. I learned so much that first conference, and I continue to learn from the conferences and other resources that NACAC provides. But this answer would not be complete if I didn’t mention the incredible people that I learn from on a regular basis. NACAC has really introduced me to some superstars in our profession, and it’s really cool to have an answer to a question or professional advice available with the simple click of an email or a short phone call. Even cooler still? Some of those incredible people have now become some of my closest friends. It makes for some joyful reunions at our conferences and events, as well as great opportunities to visit some of my favorite cities from time to time.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?

I think our biggest challenge isn’t one particular issue, but it’s the amount of inaction that I still see from some stakeholders in our profession. When I was in admission and started learning more about how our recruitment can have vastly different impacts depending on the community, I began to dedicate my work to ensuring that the institution I worked for maintained an admissions process that was as equitable as possible. Now that I am a college counselor, it has really opened my eyes to just how challenging the whole thing can be for students, and the importance of really being an advocate for them. The problem is, I have been a part of so many discussions and conversations about topics like test-optional, or, more recently, the SCOTUS ruling, and these conversations just end up circular. Colleges: If you really care about the impact of your work on the students you are recruiting, take action. The time has long passed where we need to wait and see what might happen. There are communities that have been ignored for decades, it should not take a major political event to make sure that your work is inclusive.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I just moved to West Chester this year, so I have really enjoyed walking through the downtown area and exploring the farmers markets and many fantastic local businesses there are. It’s a really charming town!

But, I’m not one to stay put for too long, so traveling is always fun to me. I finally renewed my passport last year, so I’m hoping to get some more international experiences in the near future.

I also love cooking if I can! I recently bought a musubi and onigiri making kit so I could try my hand at making some of my favorite Japanese treats.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
I don’t know if I have a character in mind, per se, but it would be really cool to be a player on AFC Richmond. When I started watching Ted Lasso, I was convinced it would be the corniest show ever. But now that I’ve watched a couple of times, I think it would be great to have constant inspiration and motivation from a coach like Ted. Plus, they look like they just have so much fun all the time, and Rebecca would be an incredible leader to work under. (Also, the best episode of the series is “Amsterdam,” I’ll take no debates at this time.)


Published Dec. 4, 2023