Founder and Principal Consultant
VerveSmith Independent Educational Consultants (Toronto, Ontario)
What drew you to the world of college admission counseling?
I had not planned on a career in university administration. My first encounter with the world of admission counseling was pure chance. At a time when marketing universities was at a nascent stage in Canada, a mentor at the University of Toronto recommended I consider opportunities in student recruitment. I took her advice. As a student who didn’t receive much advising in high school, I understood it was an opportunity to make an impact. Shortly after, I began a 10-year career in university admission and academic counseling. Then, after nine years in alumni relations, I deliberately transitioned back to admission counseling. Toward the end of my stint in alumni relations, our team began a collaboration with enrollment services, and our exchanges reminded me how much I enjoyed admission counseling. Over time, I had also come to realize that I wanted more autonomy, so instead of looking for work at an institution, I decided on a career as an independent educational consultant.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Each and every meeting with my students. I enjoy listening to them speak of their aspirations and gradually helping them realize their goals. It’s deeply rewarding work. I especially enjoy those times you see the student making connections between recommendations, and watching their initial spark become a roaring fire.
How has NACAC played a role in your career?
NACAC has been a great source of professional development. From the Exchange, to webinars, to national conferences and other online resources, NACAC is a reliable information resource and keeps me up to date on current trends. It has also served as a guiding beacon on important ethical concerns.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our profession today?
Challenges facing admission counseling professionals around the world are similar in many ways. However, as in real estate, location matters. In the American context, some pressing issues are access to college counseling and postsecondary education as well as questions around fairness in the college admission process. Whereas in the Canadian setting, where postsecondary education is relatively accessible, reliable and consistent access to admission counseling is a significant challenge. From a broader international perspective, I think the regulation of education agents is an important challenge. At beginning of each semester, in September and January, I regularly receive calls from international students who have been misled by an agent and require transfer advice. It’s just heartbreaking to hear the students’ stories, particularly because many of their families invested their life savings to send their student abroad.
When you aren’t working, what do you like to do?
Both of my parents were avid volunteers. They instilled in my brothers and me the understanding that we are responsible for doing our part to advance our community’s priorities. I spend much of my downtime volunteering for my alumni communities and professional associations. I also do a series of public presentations on admission for local libraries, public schools, and community groups. When I’m not volunteering, you’ll find me kayaking lakes and rivers in Ontario, hiking backcountry trails, or cycling around the countryside.
If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
I’d be Sherlock Holmes. I’ve always admired the way Sherlock is able to draw correct conclusions based on observation, deduction, and logic.
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