Rachel Korn, Admissions Expert and Author
Rachel Korn is an admissions consultant and former admissions officer at the University of Pennsylvania, Brandeis University, and Wellesley College. She is the author of several books, including How to Survive Getting Into College and the follow-up Get Into College. She has been interviewed by “The Washington Post” and has made multiple appearances on “The Today Show” to provide admissions insight. You can learn more about Rachel in this “5 Questions” interview and on her site www.rachel-korn.com.
1. Your educational background seems very well fit for a career in admissions. Did you go into college expecting to go into admissions? If not, at what point did you make this decision and why?
Actually, I stumbled into admissions. In college at Brandeis, I worked in the admissions office as a tour guide during the summers, and after I graduated, the dean suggested that I investigate an admissions officer job opening at Wellesley. The rest is history . . .
I developed my passion for admissions and my initial skills in the field based on my BA in English and Education and later my Master’s in Higher Education Administration at Harvard, and I have particularly loved the unique aspects of a career in admissions:
- Artfully assessing diverse applications to create classes fulfilling universities’ admissions criteria
- Visiting high schools and gaining insight into varied communities – high schools reflect unique demographics, values, and resources – or a lack of them
- Collaborating with colleagues, both peer admissions officers and high school guidance counselors, and building a network of resources and dear friends
2. How did you transition from your career in university admissions to becoming an admissions consultant, and what led to the change?
This was another lucky opportunity. I had always envisioned a life-long career in admissions. However, I wanted to move abroad and that necessitated the change. I was not willing to abandon my experience and knew that the way to continue to leverage my intimate knowledge of admissions and schools would be to become an independent consultant.
More than that, I could finally work in a counseling position with students.
After reading over 10,000 applications, I know how to help applicants present themselves in a thorough, honest and appealing way – and I enjoy the craft of helping students develop their individual applications. I write books and blogs, too, that are focused on explaining the admissions process to reduce stress and counter misinformation and myths about admissions. My knowledge and role as coach has allowed me to support hundreds of clients in making their dreams come true. Could there be a better job?
3. You’ve worked with clients all over the world by leveraging technologies such as Skype. How do you feel in-person consulting differs from strictly online consulting?
Through reading applications, interviewing students and now consulting, I have developed a strong ability to read CVs and understand who people are by their choices of activities. I can infer character and personality traits from how people direct their energies. When working with clients who simply seek application support for a set list of schools, therefore, e-mail can be sufficient.
However, to help students identify schools matching their profiles and personalities, there is never a substitute for face time. Raw statistics and e-mail are not comprehensive enough. Beyond the data I can gather face-to face, I watch behavior and assess body language, speech, and even clothing and hair styles to help read clients – it sounds funny, but such things all come together to form a picture of specific personalities.
Face time, therefore, in person or on Skype, is required for effective counseling.
4. What are the biggest challenges you face as an admissions expert?
Staying up-to-date with changes in individual school policies keeps me on my toes. I love that many schools experiment with testing requirements and essay questions – the more they experiment, the more they are trying to better recruit and admit students fitting their needs and wants – but it certainly means a lot of homework for me to learn about them.
Moreover, schools constantly evolve academically. They develop – or follow – new trends in academic concentrations or programs. I need to understand the opportunities individual schools offer to recommend them appropriately. I research through campus visits and attending annual information sessions, reading university websites, reading articles about higher education in the general media as well as in industry newspapers, reaching out to admissions colleagues, and reaching out to former clients. I have to understand schools’ cultures, unique strengths, admissions policies and general admitted student profiles to call myself a professional.
5. Since starting your consulting practice in 2005, what has been the biggest change in the admissions process and how have you adapted?
The online element of applications has really revolutionized the process both for admissions officers and students.
Now, more and more admissions friends read applications via on-line systems instead of in print form assembled in file folders. In filling out the online applications, applicants need to be able maximize the physical space so the readers will be able to see all the relevant information.
Multimedia projects can now also be submitted for various requirements and supplemental materials. I have had to learn new technologies to be able to advise students in formats from webpages to SlideRoom to Powerpoint. These tools present further options for crafting and presenting information, so many applicants must not only know how to strategize and express their ideas in writing but in multimedia formats.