Kristen Moon is an Atlanta-based college admission counselor and founder of Moon Prep. She specializes in highly selective colleges and joint BS/MD programs.
Insights and advice
What inspired you to become a college consultant?
I spent many years as an SAT teacher and tutor, both for Kaplan and independently for my own business. Many of my SAT students would ask for guidance on the college application and I quickly realized this was a field I loved and could make an impact in.
What do you enjoy most about your position?
Helping families and students navigate this often stressful and overwhelming process.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your position, and how do you tackle it?
It is very difficult to tell a student their chance of acceptance at their "dream school" is low. The college admission process is very competitive, and it is important for me to offer honest advice and feedback to my students.
What are your top goals for the students you work with?
Helping them gain admission at their best-fit college.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to college consultants who are new to the profession?
Join a local branch for college admission consultants. Also, try to attend at least one national conference each year. The learning process is never ending, and it is important to stay updated.
What is a common misconception that students have going into the college admission process?
Many students underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete each application. Applying to college is a lot of work.
Do you ever encounter situations in which students and their parents have different goals in mind? If so, what is your advice for helping them work together?
Often, parents and students are not on the same page. I try to serve as the voice of reason. I am a very direct person (the New Yorker in me), and I do not "sugarcoat" things. The advice I provide is practical and honest.
What is your strategy for helping students find financial aid?
I recommend all students fill out the FAFSA; that is the first step. Many parents mistakenly think their income is too high to even bother applying for aid. The FAFSA is free and all parents should complete this form, regardless of their income. Many states offer merit-based aid. I live in Georgia, and local students are eligible to receive the merit-based Hope or Zell Miller Scholarship. There are also many colleges that offer scholarships to students who apply by early deadlines. Just by applying early, students are in the running for many scholarships. It really comes down to being on top of college admission and scholarship information. This is where an experienced admission counselor comes in; parents are busy, and a counselor can guide the family through the financial aid process and ensure the student does not miss out on the numerous opportunities that exist.
In your experience, what makes a counselor/consultant successful in his or her role as an editor of college application essays?
Crafting a compelling college essay takes more than adding a few commas and running it through spellcheck. An experienced editor will break down the process, paragraph-by-paragraph, for the student. A strong opening to capture the reader's attention is vital. The essay is the one chance the student has to come alive and appear to be more than just a few sheets of paper.
What is your process for helping students narrow down the list of schools to which they will apply?
Most students can name 20–30 colleges off the top of their head. There are over 4,000 universities in the US alone. Often, the universities with the largest market budget are on top of mind. I try to help my students look beyond the rankings and fancy brochures to find a college that is a good fit and also one their family can comfortably afford.
In your opinion, what are some of the best ways that students can make themselves stand out beyond their applications?
Two words: demonstrated interest. Students should show colleges they are sincerely interested in attending. I see students being rejected from schools they consider "safety schools" all the time. Think of it from the college's perspective: no one wants to be a safety school; every college wants to be your first choice. Would you like to be the third person someone asked to the prom?
Finish this sentence: On my first day of work as a consultant, I wish I had known . . .
...how stressful this process can be for the parents. I now work with the parents just as much as the students. I try to guide the whole family through the college admission process.
What would you consider your biggest accomplishment or your proudest moment as a college consultant?
Whenever one of my students gets accepted to their first-choice college, I feel very proud of them. It's moments like this that make me love my job.
Favorite band or musician: Michael Bublé, Frank Sinatra (I am an old soul.)
Favorite quote: “Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right.” — Henry Ford
Favorite place you've traveled to: Sydney, Australia
Favorite meal: Homemade pasta bolognese