Rebecca “Becki” Rutsky
College & Career Counselor
Alabama School of Fine Arts
What drew you to the world of college admission counseling?
I have always been a college admissions nerd. As a kid, I knew college was going to be my ticket OUT of the very rural town where I grew up: Killbuck, Ohio. During my first year of college, I remember asking people about their college admission experiences. Because I was a first-generation student from a rural public school, it wasn’t until I was in my 30s (having already established a career as a writer and web content developer) when my husband started teaching at a school that had a college counselor that I even realized the job existed.
So, once I knew college counselor was a job, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I made friends with the college counselor at his school, who kindly allowed me to intern while I went back to get a second master’s degree in counseling.
What is your favorite part of the job?
I can’t decide between helping a student with a really challenging profile—for whatever reason—find a great-fit college, and connecting with other college admission professionals who are really smart and dedicated to the work. Often, the two go together since I seek input from colleagues on my tougher cases.
How has NACAC played a role in your career?
I was incredibly lucky early in my career to meet NACAC and SACAC leader Susan Corlew Street, who brought me on to a NACAC ad hoc Committee on Graduate Coursework to help edit the first edition of the Fundamentals of College Admission Counseling. We all won a Margaret Addis Award for that project, which was just mind-blowing for me because there I was in my first three to five years of a brand new profession. Through Susan, I got to know wonderful folks in SACAC, who asked me to be webmaster, serve on the board, and later on the NACAC Future Trends Committee. I found out about the UCLA Extension College Counseling Program, where I taught for several years, through Bob Bardwell, with whom I served on the graduate coursework committee.
I haven’t been as formally involved in NACAC and SACAC since I had children, but both associations have been valuable sources of education and long-distance camaraderie for me, especially since there still aren’t many of us counselors in Alabama. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t check a college counseling Facebook group or read the NACAC College Admission Hive Mind.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
The lack of public investment in education at all levels from kindergarten through higher education, the current climate of anti-intellectualism that is leading the people who would benefit most from higher education to view colleges and universities with mistrust, and the recent Supreme Court ruling that is hobbling colleges’ ability to recruit talent from underrepresented backgrounds. All of these things together will only serve to strengthen the white patriarchal system of power that is intent on reestablishing itself in this country.
When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
Shop thrift stores; garden; walk; hike; and spend time with my husband, Josh, and children, Isaac and Lilah Kate.
What five words would you use to describe yourself?
Resourceful, insightful, frugal, witty, direct. (Honorary mention to “In desperate need of chocolate.”)
Published Oct. 30, 2023