Educational Consultant Victoria Tillson Evans

Victoria Tillson Evans, Ph.D. President and Founder of Distinctive College Consulting

I f you’re a college professor looking to quit and go into business for yourself, it’s best to do it early in your career, before you forget what the real world is like. That’s exactly what Victoria Tillson Evans of Distinctive College Consulting did, and it’s working out for her. She co-wrote a fantastic new book about the college application process, and you can count on her to be both discerning and strategic.

How did you get into this field?

About six years ago, when I decided to leave academia, I knew I still wanted to work with students and have an outlet for writing. I did some research and found college consulting. After speaking with a few other consultants in the Boston area where I was living, I realized pretty quickly that it was a perfect fit. To prepare, I enrolled in the University of California, Irvine’s Certificate Program in Independent Educational Consulting and finished it in the summer of 2013. From there, Distinctive College Consulting was born and the rest is history!

What do you love about the work?

My students, first and foremost! Watching them grow and helping them better understand themselves is simply amazing. I also love the strategy component to the process. Every student’s case is a unique puzzle to solve with so many factors to figure into the equation. Discovering which stories they should tell, which angles they should take in their answers to questions, which opportunities they should seize, and which activities they should let go based on their individual goals and needs is a lot of fun.

Why do people hire you?

I think that my company’s tagline says it all: “Smart. Caring. Effective.” The “Smart” derives from the fact that I not only help my students put together individualized strategies and thoughtful essays, but it also speaks to the two Harvard degrees and one Johns Hopkins degree that I hold. Families know that I’m not going to miss a beat when I’m engaging with them, and that I understand what it takes to get into the most selective universities in the country.

The “Caring” derives from the fact that I genuinely look out for my students’ and parents’ mental well-being. The college admissions process causes so much anxiety, and I truly strive to help them reduce the stress that they’re feeling.

The “Effective” comes from my students’ results. Those who consistently follow my advice either get into one of their top choice schools or they get into at least one Reach School. I’ve even seen about one student a year get into a Super-Reach School (meaning their chances were less than 2%). That’s always very exciting!

How do you feel about study skills?

Learning how to study well is essential for anyone who wishes to maximize their time and ultimately be successful in life. Who doesn’t want to work smart instead of just hard? I think that a lot of students would be end up being healthier and happier if they took the time they needed to analyze their study habits, get organized, and set a proper schedule.

What’s your favorite piece of advice to give students?

“You should take my advice only if you agree with it. If you don’t agree with it, just tell me why so that I know where you’re going with your process.” While I strongly believe that my advice will give students the greatest advantages possible in their college applications, they have the right to make decisions for themselves.

A very popular point of contention is regarding foreign language study. Many students wish to drop it as soon as their high school allows them to do so. Many colleges, however, wish to see it on students’ transcripts for the duration of high school. While I explain to my students why it is to their benefit to continue, it is ultimately their life and their decision to make. They need to take ownership of their present and their future, as well as understand that they are ultimately responsible for determining what will make them feel happy and successful.

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