Taking over the office that prepares seniors for life after high school is no easy task — and especially so in the midst of a global pandemic. But ECFS’s new Director of College Counseling, Jameel Freeman, who brings two decades of experience in college admissions and college counseling, is ready for the endeavor. Since assuming the role in July 2020, he has worked tirelessly to ensure his team continues to help make the college application process as rewarding for students as possible.
In his announcement of Freeman’s appointment, Fieldston Upper Principal Nigel Furlonge wrote, “As a college counselor, Jameel has a firm understanding of varying types of undergraduate institutions and guidance for college searches, essay writing, interviewing, financial aid applications, and athletic recruitment — all directed toward the goal of meeting each student wherever they may be in their educational journey and life.”
“I am enthusiastic about continuing our objective of helping students and their families effectively and thoroughly understand the complex and evolving landscape that has defined college admissions for quite some time,” Freeman wrote. “I want our students to continue to use our office as a trusted resource for navigating their individual educational paths and be assured that we are here to support them at every step of this very important developmental and transitional stage in their lives.”
Here, Freeman shares some thoughts about his work.
What do you think distinguishes ECFS’s approach to college counseling?
The ECFS college process is an educational and experiential journey of self-reflection, personal responsibility, empowerment, and ethics. While our students are frequently admitted to highly selective colleges and universities, our process is centered on individual fit — not the “best” institution one can get into. We view our College Counseling program as an academic department that challenges students to think about who they are and what institutions will cultivate their critical-thinking skills and develop their cultural competence.
What is your favorite part about working with students and families?
Being able to witness a student’s academic, social, and emotional growth over such a brief period of time is exciting. I see some students enter the college process skeptical and apprehensive. To see these same students graduate as confident and empowered individuals is such a joy to watch as a counselor. If there is a successful parental partnership, many times you feel as if you are part of a student’s family — celebrating milestones and forming lasting bonds over the years.
How has your office adapted to meet the new demands of remote learning and the COVID-19 pandemic?
The best part of our jobs is our interactions with students, so we definitely miss the interpersonal communication. However, we are still able to meet frequently with students and complete all essential tasks regarding the college process. We can easily create college lists, edit essays, conduct mock interviews, and work on financial aid applications remotely. And even though we are remote, I still try to find ways to connect with students in any fun and engaging ways possible. Whether it’s having a conversation about Netflix shows, telling one of my many jokes (borrowed from my six-year-old), or informally chatting with parents and siblings walking around in the back- ground, I think it’s important to try to establish any sense of “normal” that I can.
If you could start over and have another career, what would it be, and why?
That’s a tough question! I would say an actor. I was very involved with theatre in high school, but I did not continue with the performing arts in college. I’ve always regretted not maintaining that commitment. If that didn’t work out, there’s always my dream job as an ESPN SportsCenter anchor!