Nicole Molina
Senior Associate Director, Director of Diversity Recruitment and Outreach
Barnard College (NY)

What drew you to the world of college admission counseling?
I was a senior in college in the last month or so before graduation and I was still so in love with my school (Vanderbilt University) that I didn’t want to let go. I wondered if there was a way that I could share how great my college experience was with others and still find a way to be on campus! I didn’t know much about college admissions other than my own application process and I had done almost every job on campus except for being a tour guide so it was a shock that what I was hoping for existed. It felt like fate when I was told of an opening in the admission office to be an admission counselor. Needless to say, I applied and I am forever grateful to have started my career at my alma mater. It provided a safety net in comfort to question, experiment with new ideas, and build a foundation in what college admissions means to me. It ultimately provided a springboard to move to other institutions and understand the broader higher educational landscape.

What is your favorite part of the job? 
I love when I am able to interact with students just before they start putting pressure on how to present themselves to admission reps. They still have such a zest to them and are really so funny, intriguing, and just a touch rough around the edges. It is in those moments where I am able to pick up on their jargon and meet them where they are. To me, they are a marker of what the upcoming generation cares about and where our society will be. They make me relevant in a job that tends to be quite cyclical in nature, almost as if you are in a vacuum, and yet they are providing that second wind to continue to the next round. Equally, it’s in that small window of being able to chat with them, that the students see me as a person and not the all-knowing Oz. It gives me that dose of reality that these are students, real people, trying to figure out what is next and not just pages and pages of applications.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
NACAC has provided me with an opportunity to have continuous growth in skill sets while laying a sound foundation for future leadership and lasting impact. This profession is not just about attracting students to your school, but rather forcing us to ask big questions about the people we are serving as well as those serving alongside us. This organization has given me tools to ask about what I am doing for my team to think critically about our impact on students and how I am providing opportunities of growth and recognition for their continued success in this profession or in higher education in general. I am constantly thinking and asking, “What impact are you making within your campus community that is providing accessible spaces for students? How are you ensuring equitable practices in your enrollment? And, how are you equipping your team to think critically and ethically for the future?” I am grateful to NACAC on many levels but especially for the tools it has given, and continues to give me, every day.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today? 
The biggest challenge that I see is the retention of fellow colleagues and the knowledge they are taking with them. Admissions has always had a flair for a few new faces every cycle; we all know, however, the amount of people we are losing—and in the small amount of time we are losing them—feels like whiplash. Rather than labeling the Great Resignation as a reason for why folks are leaving and moving on, I would appreciate us reflecting and thinking critically of the impact we in the profession have on those who are leaving sooner than their prime. As admission professionals we have a commonplace ability to adapt and react empathetically toward students and their stories, but I believe we have yet to do the same for our own colleagues. Our hearts may be in it to keep our colleagues, but our actions have yet to follow.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
No guilt here, I am an avid watcher of Real Housewives (of any city) on Bravo. I live for the “reality” drama; it’s a nice reprieve and has me laughing without reservation every time. As a very proud New Yorker, any time my teams are on, you can bet I will be watching and rooting no matter where I am. (Let’s go Yankees, Giants, Rangers, Knicks.) I also am addicted to my closet and love to walk the aisles of clothing departments curating everyday outfits/looks. Growing up in the Bronx, your appearance on the block defines you. It is making a statement without saying anything, so it is no surprise my favorite pastime is style and clothing. As the saying goes, “Fashion fades but swag is forever.”

What five words would you use to describe yourself?
Passionate. Fierce. Vivacious. Pragmatic. Resilient.


Published Dec. 12, 2022