Interview with College Advisor, Ms. E

Interview with College Advisor, Ms. E

Ellie Robert, Senior Class Editor

1. Could you provide a brief overview of you and your work experience?

“Hello! My name is Nelia Ekeji (popularly known as Ms. E), and I’m the current college advisor at Jordan. Before starting at Jordan, I was an undergraduate student at Duke University; I majored in International Comparative Studies and minored in Global Health and Chemistry. I began advising right after graduating, starting in the fall of 2019, and this will be my final year of advising. At Jordan, I primarily help students with the college application process: Common App, CFNC, financial aid, residency, essays, scholarships, and more. I do this work in partnership with counselors and the student services team.”

2. How does your experience at Duke apply to your role at Jordan?

“I draw on my academic and financial experiences at Duke to help advise students. As an undergrad, I switched majors a bunch of times, I had a work-study job all four years of school, and I try to help seniors by advising them on things I wish I knew.”

3. Could you provide information about the role you can play for seniors at Jordan?

“As the college advisor, the biggest role I play is helping upperclassmen with the entirety of their college application process. Need to make a Common App account? No problem! Don’t know the difference between RDS and FAFSA? I got you! While I try to help with post-graduation plans in general (including jobs and the armed forces), I’m most knowledgeable about college/university options.”

4. Could you provide information about the role you can play juniors and underclassmen who are interested in starting college applications or those who want to learn information about education beyond high school?

“I can help juniors and underclassmen by a) introducing them to the college application process early, and b) letting them know what steps they can take right now to make themselves strong applicants. If I’m working with a freshman that wants to be a vet, I’d work with their counselors to make sure they took appropriate coursework in biology, chemistry, anatomy, and animal science. I’d also encourage them to volunteer and/or join extracurriculars to foster their interests. For juniors, I’d introduce them to the websites and scholarships they’ll use as they go through the college application process (and there are a lot of them): CFNC, RDS, Common App, Triangle Community Foundation, and more. I’d also assess their current grades, test scores, interests, and activities to help them identify schools where they’d be a good fit.”

5. How might you help students with their college essays? Any tips for writing a good essay or starting one?

“So this is a big one! For essays, what I have students do is invite me as an editor to their Google Doc; from there, I keep the suggesting tab on as they read their papers out loud. I follow along silently, making small edits/comments along the way before they finish. At the end, we discuss the strengths of their essays and areas for improvement. I think this is the biggest topic I cover in my one on one meetings, outside of financial aid/scholarships. In terms of tips, I recommend that students start with skeletons: just make a general outline of what they want to talk about, using bullet points. Those bullet points then become sentences, which then become paragraphs, and before they know it, they have an essay right in front of them!”

6. How might you help students looking for scholarships? Any tips for those who are having trouble finding scholarships?

“I usually point students to popular scholarship search engines, like MyScholly, UNCF, HSF, ScholarshipAmerica, the Triangle Community Foundation, and more. My biggest tip for scholarship searching would be to pair what you want to study with an aspect of your identity that may be underrepresented in higher education. For example, googling ‘STEM scholarships for women of color’ or ‘humanities scholarships for queer students.’ The more specific you can be, the better (e.g. extending beyond ‘STEM scholarships for women of color’ to ‘physics scholarships for first-generation Latinx students’). Outside of that, I also highly recommend searching the financial aid/scholarship websites of the actual institutions you’re interested in. They usually offer scholarships that are unique to their campus.”

7. What tends to be the hardest part for students when completing the college application process? How might you help with this?

“I would say for most students, knowing what all is involved in the college application process is the most challenging. A lot of students will know they want to go to college but aren’t sure where to begin. I’ve had students not know the difference between FAFSA and RDS, or even know what the Common App is, and it makes me realize that I can’t make assumptions about what students do and don’t know. It’s why I try to make comprehensive resources that point students in the right direction. What’s really encouraging to me is that, once students know where to start, going through the motions isn’t as intimidating as they imagined! I don’t want to suggest that the college application process is easy by any means, but students are so much more capable than they realize.”

8. What tips do you have for students who want to stand out on a college application?

“I would say the biggest way to stand out is to weave a narrative that’s distinct to you throughout your application. Are you involved in a lot of clubs? Talk about how outgoing and sociable you are. Do you have a job/major responsibilities at home? Talk about how you’re good with balancing and time management. Lots of volunteering? Discuss why community service is important to you. Make sure that your background, interests, and personal strengths are highlighted in your activities list and essays. Also, make sure that when you’re answering the ‘why this school’ question, you don’t give generic answers. Overall, be descriptive and genuine throughout your apps.”

9. How can students contact you? What way works best for you?

“Fastest way to get in contact with me is insta, easy. Follow me, @jordan2college. I’m also pretty fast by email, [email protected] And to schedule a Zoom appointment with me, go to calendly.com/jhs-dukecac!”

10. Is there any other information I didn’t discuss that you think would be beneficial to students at Jordan? If so, what?

“Even if you don’t want to go to college, you can still come see me! You’ve all heard this before, but we really want to make sure that students graduate with options. If college isn’t for you (at least not right now), come see me so we can talk about whatever!”