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Meet Jennifer Boyden

Jennifer Boyden
College Counselor
Spring Street International School (WA)

What drew you to the admission field?
I was a hopelessly clueless high school student. I didn’t know what college really meant or why one school might be better for me than another. Nor did I know what I might be able to get out of it. This meant a lot of wasted opportunities. Later, as a college teacher, I saw lots of students who needed help in these same areas. So when the opportunity came up, I jumped! High school students are in such a truly awkward, precarious, courage-mustering space—and they’re a lot of fun. My job is a teaching / counseling split, so I have a lot of points of connection to help them think about who they are, and how they are, and what that might mean in terms of creating a path into their most authentic selves.

What is your favorite part of the job?
Essays and connections. At first students try for extreme essay showmanship: the entire sky and earth of their lives. Then the more we talk, the more they uncover those minutely specific details that open up a world of self-knowledge. I love that moment of discovery.

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
I’m the only counselor at my school and I live on a small, remote island. NACAC has introduced me to others in my field who have been generous with their knowledge and time. Without this community, my road to learning even the basics would have been far longer. My thanks to this community!

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
Time. In addition to admission and guidance counseling, I teach, travel with students, lead occasional weekend outings, hold conferences, troubleshoot, and do the usual array of things that come with the territory. I’m not unusual in this regard. Fragmented time and/or a heavy student caseload can get in the way of building connections that feel sustaining for both counselors and students.  

You recently wrote a fiction book, The Chief of Rally Tree. What inspired you to write it and what should your fellow counselors know about it?
I had a character who kept obstructing a poem I was trying to write, so I decided to write about him until he was done with me. A few years later, I had a book. It has a few cougars slinking through the pages, a man who used to live with a pack of wolves, a woman who can probably communicate with trees, and a husband who has no idea where she is. Someone described it as Hidden Life of Trees meets Gone Girl. Fine by me. It provides a kind of social satire with themes of eco-consciousness, self-activation, and gender roles, all of which I care passionately about—but mostly it was just a delight to spend time in that character’s life and be part of his discoveries. He exists in a storyline that walks the line between magical realism and way-too realism. I’m glad I set that poem aside. I had no idea where that character was taking me.

Describe yourself in five words.
Donkey-loving piecrust-enthusiast and hyphenating rule-bender.

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