5 Questions: Terrie Shipley
Independent education consultant
Terrie Shipley helps students and their parents navigate the college- and career-planning process. The San Francisco-area native moved to Tulsa five years ago.
1. What led you to this profession? Until I was a university admission counselor and worked with independent educational consultants, I had no idea this profession existed. I had a mentor in Kansas City who introduced me to the profession, and now I’m wrapping up my fifth season.
I like to think I help alleviate stress by making the college admission process easier for students and parents.
2. When should students start the college application process and what are the first things they should do? The process begins much earlier than you’d think. It’s not just an application; there is so much that should lead up to that point, beginning freshman year. I urge students to have a good understanding of their unique talents and ideal learning and working environments before even thinking about college applications.
3. Is it advantageous for a student to apply sooner rather than later? It can be to his or her advantage to apply early. There are two main types of early admission: early action and early decision. Both can be beneficial — as long as certain elements are in place — but the trend is to do early versus regular decision for best admission consideration.
Editor’s note: A student takes “early action” when he or she applies to a college early (usually by November) for the following year. However, the student is not under contract to attend. An “early decision” is a binding agreement to attend one college if accepted. “Regular decision” refers to the typical college admission process.
4. What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of your job? Favorite: Having a role in student development. It is my “golden thread”; it links my passions and talents. As one of my friends says, “It charges my battery rather than drains it.”
Least favorite: Of the 100-plus families I’ve counseled, I’ve only had one negative experience. That student was not on board with the process. He was only there because his mom “forced” him. It’s tough to work with that mentality. They need to be engaged. Now, I screen students and have them sign an agreement.
5. What should families look for in an independent college counselor? Professionalism is key, but so is personality.
Avoid someone who “guarantees” a specific scholarship amount or admission letter from any particular college. Look for a person who is serious about his or her work, is a member of professional organizations such as NACAC, HECA and/or IECA* and who stays abreast of goings-on in higher education.
At the same time, if that person isn’t going to work well with your student, it’s not going to be a fruitful experience. Have your student meet with this person (in person or virtually) to ensure there is a level of comfort and buy-in.
*NACAC: National Association for College Admissions Counseling; HECA: Higher Educational Consultants Association; IECA: Independent Educational Consultants Association
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The biggest mistake college applicants make is ... not letting their uniqueness shine through. It’s amazing how many clichés and unsupported overgeneralizations students can have in essays, résumés and/or interviews. My advice is to provide specific, original examples.
When I was in college, I was ... a resident advisor for the photography living-learning community, worked at the campus TV station, co-founded a chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association andenjoyed Greek life and the local farmers’ market.
Education is ... a basic right, and yet, a gift.
Being self-employed is ... perfect for me. I enjoy having a say in all aspects of my work, from strategic planning to the details. I never thought I’d be an entrepreneur, but I suppose it’s in my blood (both of my parents were self-employed, and now my sister is, too).
Three words to describe me are... futuristic, maximizer, strategic (to borrow from the Clifton StrengthsFinder, a tool that I use with clients).