John E. (Jake) Talmage
Director of College Counseling
St. Paul’s School for Boys (MD)

What drew you to the world of college admission counseling?
Like so many, I volunteered in the admission office during my college years. I filed documents, became a tour guide, and then served as one of three senior-interns at William & Mary (VA). During this time, I had the opportunity to work with an incredible admissions team who mentored me in many ways. As I and the other two interns graduated, we all decided to enter admissions. I was fortunate enough to start my career at the University of Vermont.

What is your favorite part of the job?
Helping students and families, the cyclical nature of the job, constant learning, new challenges every year, finding balance between big projects and daily tasks…there is so much to like. But, my favorite thing is the people. At each institution where I have worked, my co-workers have been incredible. In addition, I have met amazing professionals from other institutions who have become colleagues and friends. They have all helped me grow both personally and professionally.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
I believe the most important word in the name, National Association for College Admission Counseling, is the only word not capitalized — “for.” No other organization involved in the college admission process seeks to be “for” the professionals like NACAC does. Whether through a conference, online discussion, or affiliate engagement, NACAC has helped me learn skills, stay abreast of trends, advocate for students, consider other perspectives, and have a professional support network. In addition, NACAC provided an ethical framework to consider situations and issues. By providing these opportunities “for” me, NACAC has helped me be the best professional possible.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today? 
Myopia. While there are many immediate issues that appear clear and all-consuming, I think our lack of foresight or discernment could cause us to miss seeing the opportunities/challenges ahead of us. Essentially, a myopic view could have us focusing on our differences rather than working to understand and find similarities. For example, this year’s FAFSA delays have caused a headache for many of us — and many institutions are trying to solve the problem in their own way. While we could focus on singular solutions and let different approaches polarize us, hopefully a broader perspective will allow us to consider grander issues — like education cost and accessibility — that impact our membership and the students we serve.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I love being outdoors. I enjoy golfing, gardening, reading on the porch, and kayaking. My favorite escape is fishing, specifically fly-fishing. I also try to enjoy, rather than dislike, running (try to do a half-marathon a year), and mowing the lawn.

What five words would you use to describe yourself?
Diligent, dedicated, engaged, caring, and professional.


Published June 3, 2024