Last Updated: Apr 3, 2013
Dr. Pamela Ellis is The Education Doctor® (yes, that's a registered trademark!) at Compass Education Strategies and host of The Education Doctor Radio Show. She has three years of experience as a college counselor as well as many years of experience in education research. Dr. Ellis earned her Ph.D. at Stanford University and is a member of IECA and AERA.
Insights and advice
What inspired you to become a college counselor?
Prior to becoming a college counselor, I worked on behalf of school districts and other education agencies on issues related to college readiness and college completion. When some families asked me to work with them privately, that's when I launched into developing a curriculum based on the prior research and applied it to college counseling for private clients.
What do you enjoy most about your position?
I talk to students and parents every day.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your position?
Running a business with many hats, while prioritizing and serving my client families with care.
What are your top goals for the students you work with?
Attend a college that's a great fit for them, thrive in the college setting, and graduate in four years.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to college counselors who are new to the profession?
Keep a diary when starting out so that you can be aware of how your time is used and when distractions occur. When starting anew, it's easy to get pulled into different directions when you must manage a business and serve clients. Having a daily action plan to stay on track can be a time-saver and help with prioritizing.
What are some common misconceptions that students have going into the college admission process?
A common misconception is that summers don't matter.
How do you advice students to edit their online presence?
I advise students to monitor their pages. They shouldn't post anything or allow others to post anything on their pages that reflects poorly on them.
What can/should a college counselor do to help students prepare for the SAT or ACT?
Recommend a tutor who can offer a personalized study plan and techniques. The tutor should also be a comfortable fit for the student. For students who study on their own, recommend a study plan to help them get organized and follow through.
What is your strategy for helping students find financial aid?
I recommend free websites to my families as early as possible. Once the list is finalized, I work with the student on applying for merit awards through writing essays or applying by deadlines.
In your experience, what makes a counselor successful in his or her role as an editor of college application essays?
Coaching students through the entire writing process and never writing on a student's work.
In your opinion, what are some of the best ways that students can make themselves stand out beyond their applications?
Sending a hand-written thank-you note after an interview.
What would you consider your biggest accomplishment or your proudest moment as a college counselor?
Getting a text from my student that she is having a great freshman year after enrolling in a college that she had never considered a year ago. It was the last college that I added to her list and she applied anyway because they were on the CommonApp. Her acceptance letter came later in the spring after she decided to attend a different college. But once she visited in May, she knew it was the college for her.
Favorite book: Your Blues Ain't Like Mine by Bebe Moore Campbell
Favorite musician or band: Whitney Houston
Favorite hero of fiction: Iron Man
Favorite movie: When Harry Met Sally
Favorite quote: "If you dream, you can do." -Paolo Coelho
Favorite place you've traveled to: Florence, Italy
Favorite meal: Fish tacos
Favorite college memory: Hanging out in my dorm with my roommates.
Five people you'd invite to a dinner party: Bradley Cooper, Lenny Kravitz, Meryl Streep, Cornel West, Melody Hobson
Your personal motto: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.