Wendy Ayala
Scholars Program Manager
Collegiate Directions, Inc. (MD)

What drew you to the world of college admission counseling?
Like many, I was unsure of what I wanted to do once I graduated college. I explored the public service sector and found myself back at Collegiate Directions, Inc. (CDI). Throughout high school and college, I was a scholar at CDI. CDI always served as my support system. As a first-generation, low-income student, it was not easy navigating the college process along with the family responsibilities I had. But obtaining a higher education opened many doors for me, and I quickly realized how much I wanted to help others like myself in also opening doors.

What is your favorite part of the job?
It is extremely rewarding to witness the personal and professional growth in the students we partner with. I try my best to ensure that the scholars I work alongside have the tools they need to be successful not only in college but beyond. Our scholars accomplish so much, and I genuinely admire them. I also want to highlight the remarkable relationships I have built with colleagues in this field.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
My first NACAC conference was in 2018 and that really allowed me to see how vast the network is for college admission professionals. I was thrilled to know that there were so many others who were also eager to discuss and uncover new strategies to better serve the students we work alongside. NACAC also keeps me informed. There are so many trends and updates happening locally and nationally, but NACAC offers a variety of resources that easily keep me in the loop. Ultimately, staying informed helps me become a more effective advocate for our scholars. NACAC’s regional affiliate, PCACAC, also played a vital role in my development. Through the years, I have gotten more involved, and have built a strong network of colleagues who share their knowledge and expertise with me.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
Mental health. I cannot say this enough. The pandemic shed more light on the already existing overwhelming emotions and anxiety students face when balancing all their responsibilities and commitments. It is a difficult challenge to tackle as a college admission professional because we want what is best for the students we partner with; however, our objective is to also guide them to achieving their goals. Mental health is also a challenge for us as professionals as we strive to balance between work and life.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I love being outdoors with my family, whether it’s just lying in a hammock in the backyard or exploring new parks and playgrounds. I also enjoy picking up new arts and crafts activities (sewing, making cardboard animals with my daughter, and even learning to craft items with my Cricut machine). You can also catch me stickering in my planner!

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
I would love to be Harry Potter! I am a huge fan. He demonstrates resilience, strength, and compassion—who wouldn’t want to display those traits?!


Published Oct. 17, 2022