Spotlight on Anya Huston
Spotlight on Anya Huston
Brimmer’s new Director of College Counseling shares life lessons for navigating the college process and beyond
When Anya Huston thinks back on her own college search, she reflects on how different it was from the experience of the Brimmer students she helps today. At that time, her small rural high school in Downeast Maine didn’t offer a formal college counseling program for students. As an accomplished student-athlete, she tapped into the same skills that brought her success in the classroom and on the track and spearheaded her own college process from start to finish. With the support of her family, she arranged college visits, contacted coaches, created her own athletic recruiting materials, and kept track of her own application timeline. While Brimmer’s College Counseling process differs vastly from her own experience, many of the lessons Huston has learned along the way, both from her college search and her professional journey, are applicable today in her work with students and families.
TIP #1: FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCTS
As a student at Bates College, Huston had the opportunity to indulge her love of writing, a passion which led to a summer internship in Boston at a magazine publishing company. She enjoyed the experience so much that it spurred her to pursue a career in publishing after graduation. As an editorial assistant in the Children’s Book Division at Harper Collins in Manhattan, she spent her days corresponding with authors and illustrators, overseeing all aspects of the publishing process from manuscript to published copy. “I loved working around all these creative people,” Huston remembers. Though she couldn’t picture herself working in the publishing industry forever, she hoped to find a career path that would allow her to both write and work in a dynamic, inspiring environment.
TIP #2 :STAY OPEN MINDED
Huston maintained a close relationship with her alma mater during this time, and she would often travel back to Maine to speak to students at Bates and Bowdoin Colleges about careers in publishing. This relationship would prove to be meaningful when, after completing an MFA in Children’s Literature at Lesley University, Huston sought out the advice of the Bates College Career Services team as she determined her next career step. Given her past experiences and interests, they encouraged her to apply for positions in college admissions offices, a professional field she had never considered. Her exceptional writing skills and ability to connect with students helped her land the role of Assistant Director of Admissions at Bentley University. There, she spent four years working on a traditional college admissions cycle, traveling for 8-10 weeks in the fall to her assigned regions and reading admissions files through the winter and early spring.
Her outstanding work at Bentley would catapult her into the role of Associate Director of Admissions at Emmanuel College. In this role, she spent her days managing all aspects of marketing and communications: designing email campaigns, event invitations, and admissions travel materials while also developing relationships with college counselors at high schools across the country. While she loved the challenges and the fast pace of work, she quickly realized that her new role meant less time interacting with students. “One of my favorite parts of my job at Bentley had been working with our student interviewers,” she recalls. “I love developing meaningful relationships and being in a position to offer advice and guidance.” This realization inspired her to consider a career switch to what college admissions professionals refer to as “the other side of the desk”—college counseling.
TIP #3: FIND THE RIGHT FIT
After several years at a small private independent college counseling company, Huston missed the sense of community found in a school environment. The search wasn’t easy. “I was looking for a smaller school where I could be involved in many aspects of school life. I was looking for a place where, if I had an idea, it would be valued and listened to, and a place where I could really make a difference by giving my undivided attention to each and every student and family. I was also eager to find a school that valued professional development as much as I do.” She was thrilled to find all of this and more at Brimmer.
Huston is grateful to have started in the College Counseling Office alongside previous Director of College Counseling Cindy Pendergast, who retired earlier this year. “I was lucky to work with someone who was so knowledgeable about Brimmer and about different colleges that I knew less about. To be able to learn from someone whose experiences complemented my own was so helpful to my transition both to Brimmer and to working in college counseling at an independent school.”
Having now moved into the role of Director of College Counseling, Huston is looking forward to guiding another class of Brimmer 11th and 12th grade students and families through the college process. “My philosophy, like many others, is all about finding the right fit. The only way I can successfully help students is to get to know them in as many ways as possible—through college counseling classes, individual meetings, family meetings, and questionnaires.” From there, the real match-making begins, as she works closely with students from winter of their junior year through graduation to research schools, refine their lists, brainstorm essays, complete applications, keep track of deadlines, and ultimately choose a college. While she recognizes that, for students, the journey from high school to college isn’t always a clear and easy path, she hopes that one day, much like her own story, students will be able to look back and feel like it all makes sense.