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Meet Claire Cafaro

Claire Cafaro
Independent Educational Consultant
Clear Directions, Inc. (NJ)

How did you become an independent educational consultant?
I served as a school counselor at Ridgewood High School for 20 years, and I loved it. In that role I often wished I had more time with every student to help guide them. That position prepared me well, not only with college knowledge, but with the counseling experience I consider to be essential to assisting students. When I left the high school, I tried a working with a few students independently and realized I really enjoyed having relaxed, quality time with each student and family. By word of mouth, my business grew and I still feel honored to have the chance to guide high school students through this process.

What made you decide to get into this field?
I have always loved working with students, as a teacher, school counselor, and independent consultant. I also enjoy keeping up with college programs, changes, and visiting campuses. Each student is different and this world is full of changes and challenges to keep us all learning.

What is your favorite part of the job?
Having the trust of high school students and helping them find their own voice as they search college learning environments, programs, social settings that fit them and watching them express themselves through college application essays is what I value most. It is so rewarding to me to know that after brainstorming possible essay topics, students are truly happy and proud of their work.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
I have been very fortunate to serve on the Board of New Jersey ACAC and to serve as its president. The years of my presidential cycle coincided with my move from Ridgewood High School to an independent counselor. So technically I was an IEC the year of my NJACAC presidency. As NJACAC President and delegate to NACAC, I was able to attend many leadership institutes and conferences and learn so much. Most importantly, working collaboratively with admission officers nationwide helped me understand the process and pressures from their perspective and that has been so valuable in my work with students. Being involved with colleagues and NACAC leaders has been a professional and personal highlight in my career. It has also prepared me with the experience and leadership skills to serve on the board of directors for HECA (Higher Education Consultants Association), which I also love. Volunteering for both professional organizations has also provided the gift of cherished friendships, forged in our work together.

You’ve been a supporter of the Imagine Fund. Why do you choose to give to NACAC?
The Imagine Fund supports efforts that have a positive impact on students everywhere. Whether it is funding a project that helps families understand the process, or making it possible for public school counselors to attend the NACAC conference or affiliate conferences. There is always a positive impact that will help students. I really support all the efforts of NACAC and other organizations to provide access and equity to higher education for all students.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I love to escape to Vermont, the Lake Champlain area. Hiking, kayaking, reading a great book on the shoreline – that’s my idea of fun.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
It’s hard to say. Right now, I would like to be the Secretary of State depicted on Madam Secretary. This character never loses her values or sense of humanity while making tough decisions and having a very influential position.

Describe yourself in five words.
Creative, compassionate, capable, strong, and adventuresome.

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