Ajunie is a talented student coach and natural mentor. While her interdisciplinary arts and technology background has led her to specialize in advising STEM, CS, engineering, fine arts, and business students, her calm and thoughtful influence helps students in all fields advance their potential. With a knack for the written word and outstanding organizational skills, she makes an excellent college counselor.
We are so excited to welcome Ajunie. Grab a cup; let’s dive into our discussion!
This interview is Installment 12 in our Coffee with a Counselor series. To read more profiles like this, check out other posts right here on our blog and subscribe to our newsletter!
Originally from Illinois, Ajunie is now living and working from her base in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Ajunie has a BHA from Carnegie Mellon University and was a resident at both the prestigious Yale Norfolk School of Art and the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture. She worked as an Ambassador for CMU’s Admissions as an undergrad and has been a private counselor for over three years.
As a counselor, Ajunie has helped her students receive acceptances into CMU, Cornell, RISD, UT Austin, University of Michigan, UC Berkeley, UCLA, NYU, and USC, among others.
How did you hear about Empowerly? How did you get started as a counselor in the first place?
“I heard about Empowerly through my sister, who is also a counselor here! We both got started as counselors when we were younger by just casually helping out a few friends of ours who needed help with their essays. This seemed to spread via word of mouth and it kind of blew up. We were getting tons of referrals and by the time I was mid-way through college, I was taking the job very seriously, helping students from all over the US and even internationally craft not only their essays but their entire application!”
A remarkable interdisciplinary talent
What experiences make Ajunie a great counselor?
“Just being able to work with so many students who have a wide range of backgrounds throughout the past few years has been extremely helpful. Part of my interdisciplinary degree is from my university’s English department, so I have a very strong background in writing as well. This is especially helpful when it comes to crafting essays for all kinds of applications.
Additionally, as a younger counselor, it helps to be someone who knows the constantly shifting trends within each application cycle. I was pretty recently a student myself, and working within that environment helped me enormously as a counselor because I was able to hear opinions straight from current college students themselves on what schools each person applied to with what majors, what stats got them into what schools, who has the best programs for specific extracurriculars, who gives a lot of financial aid versus who doesn’t, what schools have good interdisciplinary potential, what schools have the best on-campus food, which ones are more social, etcetera. A lot of these honest and niche details are hard to find directly from universities, so I took this valuable information and used it to help my students curate their college lists and build their applications.”
How would you describe your approach to counseling?
“I really like to be an open book with students. I want them to feel comfortable enough to express themselves, be 100% honest with me, and feel like they can ask any question that comes to their minds. An open line of communication is crucial in discovering what path in university will both fit a student’s and family’s set goals, yet also satisfy the student’s passions and personal interests. A lot of pressure is put on students’ shoulders during this serious and stressful time period so I always remind them that sometimes the best ideas are somewhat unconventional. Great ideas can stem from brainstorming sessions where students are willing to take risks or even sound a little silly! It’s the counselor’s job to make sure they are comfortable enough during meetings to do so.”
Do you have a particular student success story to share?
“There are a ton of stories from clients of mine that stick out to me, but to keep it short I’ll share this one in particular — not necessarily because it had the most “successful” outcome, but rather the most rewarding and unexpected one. I was working with a student a while ago who was a very passionate athlete. His whole life really revolved around basketball. He was on track to becoming the captain of this high school’s team, he was a teacher himself for a couple of youth basketball camps in his free time and was already in communication with college recruiters as an underclassman. His whole application and high school roadmap were crafted to ensure he went to the schools he wanted to be recruited by.
However, the summer of his sophomore year came around and he suffered a minor knee injury. It wasn’t anything permanent, but it was something that kept him off the court for at least three weeks. I guess taking time away from the game and refocusing his attention on school sparked an epiphany within him. He came to me later that month with the slight concern that his interest in basketball seemed to flourish off the court when witnessing everyone else play, rather than when he was on it himself. While watching a student struggle to find themselves is always hard, it is truly amazing to get through these hard bumps together and eventually witness them figure out their true passion. He really asked himself the important questions, and together we discovered that sports journalism was what he wanted to pursue in college. It was a pretty quick turnaround to rewrite his essays and restructure his entire application, but I’m glad to share that he earned himself a spot in a great program at UT Austin!”
What is something you’ve learned from your students?
“No matter what a student’s particular background is or what their unique learning style may be, during this process, there is always one key component to a successful application season: organization. It’s never going to be simply smooth sailing with college apps, but my students have taught me that staying organized and having set deadlines between the two of us is a crucial element in making the outcome successful.”
One piece of advice you would tell students now?
“Having great grades and test scores is only the first step. In such competitive conditions nowadays, the key to crafting a standout application is additionally displaying a strong passion for something (whether that be in your extracurriculars, leadership, letters of recommendation, or essay).”
What is a piece of life advice that has stuck with you?
“Read all of the time. It seems like odd advice at first, but reading allows you to have access to some of the greatest minds to ever have lived. Also, I like to say that reading is my way of traveling when I physically am unable to. It opens the doors to learning about so many different perspectives and experiences that you might never have the chance to witness in person.
However, I recently noticed that reading has had the greatest impact on my writing style. It’s crazy to see how my writing improved drastically once I picked up reading as a serious hobby. You are subconsciously influenced so much more by the style, grammatical structure, and storytelling devices of your favorite authors than you tend to believe.”
The outstanding and empathetic counselor community at Empowerly understands the importance of each unique student’s journey. To work with one of our counselors to develop your personalized application, all you have to do is ask. Book a free consultation below to receive a customized recommendation for your college application plan.