Meet Kaila Brown

Headshot of Kaila BrownKaila Brown
Associate Director of College Counseling
Marist School (GA)

What drew you to the world of college admission counseling?
As a student at the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, I had the opportunity to volunteer as a college coach for a student at a local West Philadelphia high school. My two-hour meetings with her quickly became my favorite time of each week as I was able to guide her through, what I believe, is one of the most exciting times of a student’s life. It was with her that I was initially exposed to college counseling and college access. I was continually encouraged by her tenacity, perseverance, and excitement as she navigated the various steps of applying to college. Her wins felt like my wins. As graduation quickly approached and I thought about my career and next steps, I quickly realized that college admission was the field for me. While I initially began my career on the admission side at Vanderbilt University (TN), I was ultimately drawn back to college counseling where I am in my current role at Marist School (GA).

What is your favorite part of the job? 
The small wins. It is so easy to only focus on the decision at the end of the cycle; the admits, the wait lists, and the denies. However, there are several different moments along the way that are worth celebrating. When a student has a breakthrough as they are writing their personal essay, when they submit that first application and jump-start their process, when they have “the” college tour and walk away feeling empowered about their next steps, when a student comes into my office to update me and walks out with a smile—those are the parts of the job that keep me going when the days are hectic and long.  

How has NACAC played a role in your career?
NACAC, to me, is synonymous with connection. It is through the organization that I have been able to connect with admission officers and college counselors from all over the nation. As I navigated my transfer to a different role, I was able to maintain close connection with those that I have met at various conferences and college fairs through the years. It is also through NACAC’s Guiding the Way to Inclusion conference that I was able to have the opportunity to give my first conference presentation!

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
I am not sure that there is just one challenge that it is the biggest. There are a number of challenges that the field of college admission and college counseling faces: barriers to access to higher education institutions, the ever-increasing cost of higher education, reliance on test scores, etc. However, one large challenge that I am especially passionate about is how mental health and the college admission process intersect. Though this process has great moments of joy, there are also great moments of defeat as students navigate rejection. Some navigate this better than others. That defeat, coupled with general senior year stress, this year's COVID-19 pandemic, and a whole host of other stressors, can lead to large mental health implications.      

When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
I recently moved back to Atlanta after being away for 10 years, so most of the past year I have spent reconnecting with my family. In the midst of COVID, we have spent a lot of moments outside in my parents’ backyard sitting around the firepit, lounging in the sun, having movie nights, and more. While this year has been so tough, I am so grateful for the opportunity to make new memories with them. I also love to cook. The kitchen is my happy place! I’ve enjoyed spending time this summer going through new cookbooks that I acquired during the year, and I even took a few virtual cooking classes.

If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Shuri from Black Panther. I have been obsessed with the Marvel cinematic universe since their first Iron Man movie was released. While I watched each and every one in the movie theater with bated breath, there really are no words to express what I felt while watching Black Panther on the big screen. Shuri is quick-witted, brilliant, and a badass—three characteristics I like to think describe me as well.

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