Empowerly counselor Jennifer L. joins us to chat about her life and how she came to counseling. From studying psychology and education at UPenn (where she worked in the admissions office!) and gaining her teaching certification through the Newark Teaching Fellowship, to helping to found the first kindergarten test prep company in NYC, and teaching the SAT and ACT at The Princeton Review, her in-depth knowledge is invaluable to students.
Her compassion and adaptability to students’ needs, and her commendable admissions record of helping many students into every Top 20 program, set her apart as a dedicated mentor and counselor.
Let’s get started.
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Jennifer is regularly on the move, having lived in 250+ homes over the last six years as a nomadic, hobbyist petsitter. However, before beginning her life of never-ending travel and making cuddly, cute, furry friends, she grew up outside of Philadelphia and attended the University of Pennsylvania as a first-generation student with nearly all of her tuition covered by a need-based grant.
At Penn, Jennifer studied psychology (with a concentration in developmental), taking academically-based community service classes at the Graduate School of Education. She completed research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadephia and the Twins Day Festival, as well as independent research on service-based learning and the social behavior of primates at the Philadelphia Zoo. She also worked in the admissions office, as a tour guide for the school, and as an Assistant Editor at The American Sociological Review.
Following her early graduation, she taught SAT and ACT at The Princeton Review and earned a teaching certification at Rutgers through the Newark Teaching Fellowship, specializing in K-5 and special education. She currently works full time as an admissions consultant, supporting Empowerly students and working as an Admissions Coach at the prestigious USC Bovard Scholars program for underserved students.
How did she get started working in admissions?
Growing up Jennifer didn’t have a lot of support during the college application process. Her school average on the AP exams was a regrettably low 2-3, college admissions support from her school was nil, and she only learned of the SAT exam when classmates brought it up in conversation her junior year. She wishes that she had a) enrolled in test prep, b) branched out and learned more schools, and c) had someone to guide her through the unnecessarily mired complexities of the college admissions process.
Having worked in college admissions and test prep for over 15 years, she now uses her experience to guide thousands of students through her work within the education industry. “This [working with Empowerly] is a really special way for me to give back to high schoolers who are struggling with the process,” she said. “A lot of these families may have a sense of what would be appropriate, but it’s not always the best-case scenario for their student’s needs.”
What else makes Jennifer uniquely equipped to be a great counselor? “Beyond my time working at Penn, and USC, I spent a lot of time doing test prep. I used to work at the Princeton Review,” she continued. Her test prep involvement included guiding students through sections of the SAT, ACT, LSAT, MCAT, GRE, and grading more than 80,000 essays while a Live Grader Analyst at TPR.
Venturing as far and wide as helping to create the first kindergarten test prep and publications program in New York, to editing Ph.D. and Master level thesis research papers for graduate students, she notes that, “I’ve become a huge test prep nerd over time. It’s a major component of a lot of students’ admissions packages, so it’s really helpful to understand how that process works. I have a lot of depth experience in strange, unique places a lot of folks in admissions may not have, which helps with long-term planning.”
In regards to her approach to counseling, Jennifer said, “It’s important to NOT take a one-size-fits-all approach. All students have their different strengths and weaknesses,” she continued. “It really depends on the student – what they need to work on – so as we get to know each other, we figure out what they need to meet their ultimate goals.” An important component, she emphasizes, is, “figuring out how to put together a bite-sized plan, so that the student can make steady progress towards their goals. Let’s talk about priority and balance.”
When asked about one of her counseling success stories, she laughed and replied “I have a number of students, and they’re all counseling success stories. Once I received a student, and he ended up coming to me and requesting a discount program. For me I said yes, that’s fine, especially having met with him… I knew he had a lot of heart, but didn’t have, unfortunately, not a lot of direction. He came from a blue-collar family—and he was pretty lost with the steps to take. And he went to a school where there were so many students per guidance counselor, it was unlikely he’d get any support there.”
“Initially we had to do a lot with prioritizing, but we made a roadmap. Ultimately, he was really interested in tech and business. For him, it was a process to figure out what would be the appropriate program for him to develop his business interests but still have a tech edge… We made a school list; he wanted to study at a high level, but also remain interdisciplinary. “
“It was a lot of work, and it was a very stressful period in his life for a lot of reasons. Being able to support him throughout that process, and follow through with him every step of the way, during a really complicated time in his life, it was really wonderful when I got a call from him in April and heard that he had been accepted to Harvard! He’s remarkable; it was great to be a part of this major step in his life, supporting him along the long journey that I know is ahead of him.”
Stories like this are the core of Jennifer’s work. “I learn from my students every day. I can’t tell you enough how impressed I am by them,” Jennifer explained. “I’m constantly learning; the biggest thing I’m learning now is that it is so much you can do no matter how young you are—the only limitations we have are the ones we put on ourselves,” she said.
Advice for Students
Does Jennifer have any advice for high school students right now? “The biggest thing that they should take to heart is just to fully understand themselves, and add value to who you are as a person. Don’t spend too much time comparing yourself to others.”
Also… “Try to avoid social media. That’s definitely a way to feel bad about yourself. Just do the things that are meaningful to you, and stay focused; because if you do, you will accomplish a lot.”
Cheers to that, Jennifer. It’s been so lovely getting to know more about you.
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