For this coffee chat, we interviewed Empowerly Counselor Alison H. about her college counseling experiences and how she supports her students through this major life transition. Alison herself studied psychology in college and has since worked in education for over a decade now. With her uniquely informed and empathetic approach, Ali helps her students truly thrive as well-adjusted, well-rounded individuals—in college and beyond. The support and encouragement Alison gives her students provide them with the push needed to truly shine.
Let’s dive in!
This interview is Installment 10 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 San Diego, Alison splits her time these days between Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest. Alison is a college counselor and English teacher and has been in education for over ten years. She obtained her degree in Psychology and has served on college research teams, scholarship boards, and internship committees, and loves helping students craft their essays and create amazing college lists.
As a counselor, Alison has helped hundreds of students obtain admission into prestigious universities such as Columbia, Brown, University of Southern California (USC), and the University of California (UC) system, as well as best-fit universities nationwide. Ali is passionate about helping young people identify and pursue their passions through higher education.
How did you hear about Empowerly? How did you get started as a counselor in the first place?
“I had been working in the EdTech space for several years and [Empowerly] impressed me with how they ran their business. As an English teacher at a private school in Hawaii, I developed a curriculum for my students to use to write their personal statements. I found myself counseling students during lunch and break and loved walking them through the process. I eventually became my school’s counselor and then eventually transitioned into remote counseling work.”
Finding purpose mentoring young minds…
What experiences make Alison a great counselor?
“Many of my life experiences have prepared me to be a counselor, and even further than that, it’s what I believe I was created to do. Not just help young people pursue their dreams in higher education, but [also] be a source of encouragement and reassurance as they make this first big decision as adults. My degree in Psychology helps me every day, my experience as an English teacher is imperative, and my life experience as a parent serves me well as I serve my clients and their families.”
How would you describe your approach to counseling?
“My style of counseling is student-centered and relational. I first build relationships with my clients, understand their goals and passions, and then help them dive into the college application process. As a college counselor, I have the privilege to speak to young people and help them identify colleges to apply to, which major to declare, and which college to attend. But more than that, I get to know them, I get to hear their story, and I help them craft a narrative in the essays that represent their unique character. I have yet to have two clients who were the same, and I love that about what I do.”
Do you have a particular student success story to share?
“Because I adore my clients, I could go on and on about them, but I will share one example with you for the sake of time. I had a student terrified of college, the application process, and the potential to never get into a university. We worked hard to determine a list that was best fit for him, applying to schools he had yet to consider initially. He was very focused on the UC schools, like many California students. He showed up to every meeting, often needing reassurance. “Are you sure I will get in somewhere?” “Yes!” I would respond and then tell him how he would positively contribute to a college campus and how he would thrive in that environment.
We also worked through some of the potential hardships. As much work as we did on college applications—we did as much or more on preparing for college emotionally. I watched him grow in confidence and was encouraged by his progress. He got into several UC colleges and other excellent private schools—and chose to attend Chapman University in California. After all his personal work, he knew which college would be the best fit for him, and he is thriving! Watching it was an absolute blast, and I am so excited for his future.”
What is something you’ve learned from your students?
“I have learned that the more I invest in them, the harder they will work on application tasks and deadlines. They know I care—and so we walk through this process together. We weather storms, celebrate successes, share hard days, and eventually, I watch them walk into the next chapter of their life and into a great fit college. They have taught me that our relationship matters—and that they can do incredible things with a little encouragement and guidance.”
One piece of advice you would tell students now?
“Plan ahead, and don’t wait to talk to professionals. It is heartbreaking to see students who have received bad information or get guidance later in high school and don’t have the chance to go back and make different decisions.”
What is a piece of life advice that has stuck with you?
“Pursue friendships with people who are different from you. The deepest compatibility is often not easily visible.”
Your college application process is different from everyone else’s. After all, your future isn’t one-size-fits-all, either. The phenomenal counselor community at Empowerly understands the importance of each unique student’s journey — all you have to do is ask! Book a free consultation below to receive a customized recommendation for your college application plan.