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Meet Bernadette Condesso

Bernadette Condesso
Co-Director of College Counseling
Graded - The American School of Sao Paulo (Brazil)

How did you get your start in the counseling field?
I began my career in education as a high school history teacher. While at Poughkeepsie Day School (NY), a student came into my class asking for help with her college applications. She could not figure out what to do for the supplemental essays for her top choice. After talking for about an hour, she turned to me and said, “You should think about becoming a college counselor. I never thought about applying to Smith, but you are totally right; it’s the perfect school for me.” It was the perfect school; she applied early decision, was accepted, and had an amazing experience at Smith College (MA). After that first meeting, other students began coming to me to talk about their essays and college options. The following year, my head of school asked me to attend the NACAC national conference and the NYSACAC summer program at Skidmore College. That was 13 years ago.

What is your favorite part of the job?
Working with students on their essays. Good writing is hard, but it is the most rewarding part of the job. There is nothing like the smile that comes over a student’s face when they are able to express their thinking, their emotions, and their passions in prose. It’s seeing their success and accomplishment as writers that motivates me.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
I have met the most incredibly inspiring and generous professionals through NACAC. I have learned how to be a counselor from my colleagues, and I have experienced some of the funniest and some of the most thoughtful moments of my professional life at conferences, tours, and gatherings. I also can’t think of a time when I have had a question that has gone unanswered, either via Facebook, NACAC web resources, or an online SIG.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
As an international college counselor, one of the challenges we face is financial aid application barriers for under-resourced students. College application fee waivers are easy to obtain. However, the barriers placed by standardized tests upon international students are enormous. These include access to testing sites, the availability of necessary technology for the recently implemented computer-based ACT, and, of course, the horrific costs of tests such as the TOEFL, ACT and SAT - the latter are both more expensive in the international market than in the United States.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
Cooking and watching British murder mysteries.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Wonder Woman; I want to wrap her lasso of truth around world politicians. She was my childhood hero. I saw her as a compassionate warrior; strong, confident, assertive, and intelligent.

Describe yourself in five words.
Empathetic, resilient, funny, forgiving, and free.

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