Marilyn G.S. Emerson is an independent educational consultant and founder of Emerson Educational Consulting. She has 14 years of experience as a college counselor and holds a B.A. from CUNY--Queens College and an M.S.W. from Fordham University. She is a member of IECA, NACAC, AICEP, NYSACAC, and NASW.
Insights and advice
What are some of the common challenges your students are currently facing in the college admission process?
Media hype, limited knowledge about the breadth of options available, lack of self-esteem, and finding their voice--not their parents' voice.
What are some of the steps you take to help them successfully overcome those challenges?
I dispel myths and misperceptions as they occur, discuss many college and university options, help them to feel good about themselves, and help them develop essay topics and effective essay structures.
What are your top goals for the students you work with?
I am committed to helping students find colleges and universities where they will be educationally successful and socially happy.
Have you seen any noticeable changes in college applicants in the recent economic climate?
Financial considerations are discussed with greater frequency, and more parents are requesting to have public options on the list of schools their children will apply to.
If you could give one piece of advice to college counselors who are new to the profession, what would it be?
Hear what the student is saying both verbaly and nonverbally.
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?
I encourage students to really talk to their parents, and I encourage parents to listen to and hear what their children are saying.
Describe what are, in your opinion, a few of the cornerstones of a successful college admission essay.
Essays should help the reader learn about who the student is, beyond academic accomplishments, and show how a student thinks. They should also be narrow and focused.
What is your process for helping students narrow down the list of schools to which they will apply?
I advise students and their families about when and how to visit colleges and what to look for when visiting. I listen to what the students like and dislike about the schools they have visited and help them prioritize criteria and decide which are most important. I let them know that the list is fluid and that schools can be added or subtracted. During the admission process, students grow and learn more about who they are and what is best for them.
What are, in your opinion, some of the best ways that students can make themselves stand out beyond their applications?
In addition to simply being themselves, they should devote time to learning about the schools they are applying to and talking with college representatives.
What would you consider your biggest accomplishment or your proudest moment as a college counselor?
It's really an accumulation of moments: seeing students speak for themselves, receiving heartfelt thank you notes, working with multiple family members and their friends and relatives, and being asked to teach other consultants.
Favorite book: Gone with the Wind
Favorite movie: The King's Speech
Favorite quote: Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere. -- Chinese proverb
Favorite place you've traveled to: That's difficult--for very different reasons, I have three: China, New Zealand, and Bermuda. If I had to choose one, I would say China.
Five people you would invite to a dinner party: Amy Chua, Oprah Winfrey, Brian Williams, Arne Duncan, and Michael Bloomberg
Your personal motto: It never hurts to try!
Any other college counseling topics you feel are important? One topic that is often overlooked is helping students who have chronic illness apply to college.