Jessica Hardy
Director of College Guidance
St. George’s Independent School (TN)

What drew you to the world of college admission counseling?
My first job in college admissions was at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, and I initially thought it would be a job that I would have for a couple of years until I figured out what I “really” wanted to do. I can remember my first student deciding to enroll at Knox and his mother mailed a picture of him putting his enrollment deposit in the mail. Though this was several years ago, that one picture changed my entire perspective on the importance of this profession. This career chose me in that cubicle in Galesburg and I have loved it ever since.

What is your favorite part of the job?
Everyone says that their favorite part of the job is working with students and that is true for me also. It is the everyday interactions where I get to help shape a teenager into a citizen of the world. The college application process is stressful for them and I am always honored that they trust me to walk alongside them in their decision. I love that I get to see them on their good and bad days while encouraging them all the while. In this profession, we have the most important influence on a student’s trajectory in life and it is not something to take lightly.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
NACAC has provided me with a space to learn from the best and brightest in our field. I am constantly looking for growth in my career and NACAC has provided me with that well beyond what I could imagine. I can remember my first NACAC conference (St. Louis) where I decided to volunteer for just about everything. At that moment seeing the thousands of people who had chosen this career path, I knew that this organization could be a home for me. I have volunteered to review session proposals, presented at conferences, and chaired a local arrangements committee for NACAC College Fairs (among other things). At the affiliate level, I’ve served on the SACAC board and various committees, which has given me the opportunity to learn so much more about our organization. Through these opportunities, I continue to connect with other professionals who have become my tribe and best friends.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
The college admission process in its entirety needs to refocus on the students. For example, I was hopeful when so many schools became test-optional/test-flexible because of the pandemic because it gave our students time to not feel like they were just a number. With so many schools and state governments returning to requiring standardized tests, it has reignited the anxiety surrounding testing and test prep. So many of our students put their self-worth into a single number earned on a four-hour test because admission and scholarship at even our local and state institutions are tied to this. Though this is one example, if we desire for our society to grow, we have to start thinking about every aspect of education to make it accessible to all. I just ask everyone to say to themselves or to those in decision-making positions, “Is this really in the best interest of the students we serve?” This would change everything!

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
Since we get to live in the same city, I love to spend time with my mom. She has been my source of strength and encouragement all of my life and I want to be able to show my appreciation as often as I can. I also enjoy trying new restaurants in Memphis, checking out how-to videos on YouTube (homeowners stand up), and having a glass of wine with friends (Shout out to Knifebird Wine Bar in Midtown)!

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Most days at work, I think of myself as Olivia Pope from Scandal (without all the scandals…my life is boring). If there is ever something that needs to be done, I am willing to make it happen. “It’s handled!” is one of my favorite things to say when the world gets crazy and I come up with and execute a solution. Don’t ask me any questions…just know it’s done. If there is a “to-do” list, it will get “to-DONE”!