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Meet Justin Ledesma

Justin Ledesma
Villanova University

How did you become the Senior Assistant Director of Admission at Villanova? What got you interested in this field?

My road to admission was certainly long and not the most direct.  When I was a student at the University of Notre Dame, one of the things I always wanted to do was be a tour guide.  However, whenever I came to the admission office to ask about the possibility, they were always fully staffed.  I could certainly understand why.  It was a great job!  However, during the summer between my junior and senior year, I happened to be at school to take a summer class.  I had to stop by the registrar to pick up a transcript and, as I was leaving, I was walking past the admission office.  I decided that I would ask about the job one last time.  Lucky for me, the office was in a position where they really needed people for the summer.  So that summer, I gave a ton of tours and loved every second of it.  They kept me on for my senior year. 

When graduation rolled around, the folks in the office suggested that I apply for a job in the office.  I had already accepted a job offer with another company, but the suggestion planted a seed in my head that perhaps someday I would apply for an admission job.  And that was great because I did not love my first job, and eventually I did apply for admission jobs.  The funny thing was that I applied for so many jobs; it was just like the college search. 

I eventually took a position with Drexel University, which is what brought me to Philadelphia.  Drexel was fantastic, but certainly different from my own undergraduate experience – the city environment, co-op, and quarter system took some getting used to.  Eventually, I applied for a position at Villanova, with the idea that this would be closer to what I experienced when I was a student.  There are certainly similarities, but Notre Dame and Villanova are unique and special in their own ways.

How does NACAC play a role in your career?

Both PACAC (Pennsylvania Association for College Admission Counseling) and NACAC have added so much to my experience as an admission counselor.  One of the things that I really love about admission is there is definitely a collaborative atmosphere.  If you don’t pay attention to that, I think that can really affect your job.  So both PACAC and NACAC provide so many opportunities for everyone in the field to share great ideas, and to share in the enthusiasm that surrounds the success of getting our students to the right place for their education!  I often look at the PACAC and NACAC conferences as a great place to re-focus and recharge. The people I’ve met through both associations have definitely helped me be better at what I do.  There are so many heroes in this field doing great things and NACAC helps connect us all.

Do you have any advice for professionals who are new to the field?

My advice would be to not take yourself too seriously. What I mean is that for the most part, we are interacting with high school students, getting them excited about the idea of education.  What better way is there to do that than by emphasizing the enthusiasm, the passion, and the fun in education!

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing counselors today?

I think the issue that is having the strongest effect to what I do is cost.  I know so many of our institutions are doing what we can with financial aid and scholarships.  However, I think one of the saddest things that happens in our field is watching a student giving up on their dream school, a place that they’ve been working hard to get to for most of their lives because of the ever increasing costs.

If I could throw in a second thing, this doesn’t really affect us directly as college admission and school counselors, but my hope is that students will pay attention to how they discuss controversial issues with each other – that they do make the effort to see and understand the other perspective and not demonize those who disagree with them.

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?

I don’t know.  When am I not working?  I kid!  I love sports.  Football is my favorite, but my playing days are certainly far behind me.  So I enjoy sports usually from the stands or the couch these days.  I also love a good story.  I have a list of recommended books to get through, plus a lot of television and movies to watch. Full disclosure, a good way to move the book or movie to the top of the priority list is to make sure the words “Star Wars” are in the title.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?

Gosh, the first person that pops into my head is Han Solo.  And that’s hard for me to say, especially in light of what happens in Episode 7.  He is certainly a flawed hero.  One can certainly point to many examples where he is selfish, but to me, what ultimately shines through is his loyalty and his dedication to his friends.  While you can call him self-serving in the beginning, he ultimately grows into the character who is willing to sacrifice it all for those he cares about.

What five words best describe you? 

These questions are always a challenge.

Enthusiastic, positive, inquisitive, determined, and all-or-nothing (the hyphens still make it one word, right?).

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Admission is a fantastic field.  If you ever get to the point where you might be discouraged with the job, I’d encourage you to find solace and satisfaction in the idea that you help students get to college.

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