Sandra Sohne-Johnston
Director of College Counseling / Upper School Coordinator of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging
St. Anne’s-Belfield School (VA)

What drew you to the world of college admission counseling?
I was a few weeks away from graduating from college and had a job lined up in Philadelphia. The then-associate director of multicultural recruitment at my alma mater, Franklin & Marshall (PA), convinced me to apply for a job opening. I had worked as a student ambassador in the admissions office and loved telling others about how my school transformed my life and opened doors and opportunities I never dreamed of. I am who I am today because adults saw potential in me, pushed, and nurtured me. They believed in me. I accepted a job as an assistant director of admissions because I wanted other young people to have access to the same transformative experience.

What is your favorite part of the job?
Working with students. The more time I spend with a student, the more they open up and share who they are and what is important to them. The college process pushes students to be introspective and reflective, to consider their values and why things matter to them. I love taking these ideas and putting them into practice by helping students realize their own dreams and aspirations. There is something so beautiful about walking alongside teenagers on this remarkable journey of discovery.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
The admissions office at my alma mater made it a priority for members of the staff to attend the PACAC conference in the summer of 1998 and NACAC in the fall of 1998. They were important professional development experiences for me as a young professional. It was the first time I understood that there was a world filled with passionate educators committed to making college accessible to students. Since then, I’ve attended several PACAC, NEACAC, PCACAC, and NACAC conferences. In recent years, I’ve also presented at NACAC and PCACAC conferences. As educators, the work that we do is complex. By working together, we can remove so many more obstacles for students and share our concerns and challenges with the ultimate goal of reducing barriers to learning.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
The scale and scope of change we’re experienced over the last few years has been daunting and it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the pace of change. It is even more challenging for teenagers and their family members who don’t have the language, knowledge, resources, or skills to navigate the admission process. Changes to testing policies, nuances to essays and supplements, implications of the recent SCOTUS decision, and variations in admissions and financial aid processes are only a few of the things students are juggling. Sometimes, it seems as though legislators, trustees, and other external stakeholders are making decisions that are in their own best interest and at the expense of students. We need to work hard to keep student well-being and college affordability at the center of our decision-making process.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I enjoy reading and spending time with friends and family. When I want to relax, I take road trips with my family to see the country and visit colleges. Last year, I traveled to my home country of Ghana and met incredible artisans who had fallen on hard times. I pledged to connect them with customers in the U.S. who value high-quality, sustainable, and handmade crafts and founded Guido’s Heart. I donate proceeds from the sale of these crafts to Engage Globally, a nonprofit organization committed to community-led sustainable development in Northern Ghana. I serve on Engage Globally’s advisory board and am proud of the work we’re doing to create access to education for children who might not otherwise be able to attend school.

What five words would you use to describe yourself?
Driven. Empathetic. Joyful. Sentimental. Passionate.


Published Nov. 13, 2023