Marie Occhiogrosso
Director of College Guidance

Main Line Classical Academy (PA)

What drew you to the world of college admission counseling?
I originally was an English teacher working with seniors at a public high school. In my time with these remarkable learners, so many showed up at my door asking for help with their essays and expressing anxieties about the application process. I loved my time helping them think about their voice and their story in their applications, considering what they valued and what they sought.

What is your favorite part of the job?
There are so many parts of this profession that are deeply rewarding. My favorite moments are when I see a student discover themselves—whether that’s a kernel of an interest growing into a career, an essay that in crafting actually helps them better understand who they are, or finding a university that feels like home—I live for the moments where students get glimpses into who they are and who they will become.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
NACAC has been foundational to my role in the field. It was a bedrock of the learning in UCLA’s program and the foundation of the college counseling programs I have now built at two area schools. NACAC is a constant source of professional wisdom and best practices. The network that exists within this organization is one of the most involved and impassioned I have been privileged to be a part of—I draw strength from the immense talents and fortitude of my peers. Plus, the conference is such a special way to immerse in the issues and derive solutions for today’s admission landscape.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
I am exceedingly lucky to have made my home at Main Line Classical Academy as they are building their upper school and their college guidance program. In a private school setting, I can effect change and implement policy, all while providing a great deal of attention and tailored experiences for our learners. I think the most glaring and painful part of our profession is the counselor-to-student ratio and untenable workload that exists in the public school setting. There needs to be serious reform in how we craft the scope of these roles and caseloads so that learners from all communities can feel supported and guided through the daunting college search process.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
When I’m not working, I’m usually volunteering. I was lucky to work with Concourse on their initiative to bring higher ed opportunities to Ukrainian refugees, to volunteer with and be a foster parent to unaccompanied refugee minors, and to foster (and ultimately adopt) rescue pups from the South, in addition to being active in my local community. I have a husband and two children who are my world, and we love to garden, bake, play with our dogs, and tend our chickens. I’ll also never turn down an opportunity to hike!

What five words would you use to describe yourself?
Passionate, dedicated, vocal, empathetic, and supportive.