Shannon Barrilleaux (she/her)
Director of College Counseling
Metairie Park Country Day School (LA)

What drew you to the world of college admission counseling?
Counseling! I graduated from high school in a mental health crisis and I survived because there were supporters who didn’t give up on me. Getting to and through college took many counselors. After grad school, I worked in Medicaid mental health programs as a licensed professional counselor with the least-resourced students, in their schools, homes, and communities. This foundation helped form my understanding of privilege; who had access and who didn’t; and the barriers to education, college access, and upward mobility many students experience. Hurricane Katrina happened and in rebuilding, I accepted a position as a school counselor and later as a college counselor. School counseling, college counseling, admission counseling—it’s the counseling for me and the ways that translates to student support and success!

What is your favorite part of the job?
Summer break!

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
NACAC is connection! The organization offers the opportunity to learn and collaborate with professionals, students, and communities with different life experiences. For example, applying for and receiving a NACAC Imagine Grant allowed for partnership on a case study program with a local CBO and the privilege to meet and connect scholars with college admission professionals and opportunities. NACAC offers resources, professional connections, and knowledge to reduce barriers and promote postsecondary success for all students.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
Access. Gerrymandered school districts and the effects of segregation, labor, housing, and education laws created systematic barriers for people of color to achieve upward mobility. A report from Edbuild estimates that school districts serving mostly students of color receive $23 billion less than districts serving equal numbers of white students. The average revenue per student in nonwhite school districts is $2,226 lower than in white school districts. Access to education and resources for historically excluded students continues to challenge our profession today. Promoting race-conscious admission and the value of understanding the context in which students have grown and learned—along with the positives of diversity for all students—are core in my counseling.

What five words would you use to describe yourself?
Caffeinated. Spirited. Nurturing. Intentional. Optimistic.