Joell Minford understands the ins and outs of the college search process well. After nearly two decades at Point Park, the University's director of admissions spends her days leading a team of counselors and helping high school students and parents navigate the application and admission process.
She is doing what she loves to do. After earning her bachelor's degree in communications at Slippery Rock University, Minford got her first taste of the admissions field in her position as a "roadrunner" for a Pittsburgh-based educational institution. Her job involved visiting high schools to make presentations to prospective students. She later spent a short time working for a large bank, but jumped at the chance to join Point Park as an admissions counselor 18 years ago. She found her calling.
"I really enjoy connecting students and families with all that Point Park has to offer," says Minford, who has been director for the past 10 years and has gained broad expertise in admissions counseling and enrollment management. She shared some insights with The Point:
If families are new to the college search process, where should they begin?
JM: Among the most basic questions that students need to consider are 'what are you interested in, and what do you want to study?' Generally speaking, by the junior year of high school a student should be thinking about that and begin the college research process. Of course many start much earlier. In addition to parents and family members, students should consult with school counselors and trusted teachers. The search will lead in the direction of schools that offer your desired major(s). Another important conversation you need to have is how to finance a college education. What can your family afford, and what are the financial expectations of the parents as well as the son or daughter? These days, a college education is a family investment. After exploring these basic issues, visit the websites of the schools you are considering and make a note of key deadlines. When do you have to submit an application, high school transcript or other required material? Requirements vary from school to school. It often helps to create a master calendar to keep track of key dates.
How can students present themselves in best possible way on their application?
JM: I encourage providing as much extra information as possible. For example, at Point Park the submission of an essay is optional, but it's helpful to have it so we can get to know a student beyond their test scores and transcripts. We want to hear about what motivates you and makes you who you are. For example, perhaps a student has struggled academically but they work very hard. The admissions essay is a great opportunity to share your own story, challenges and goals.
How can students determine whether a particular college is the right fit for them?
JM: While websites and admissions publications are helpful, I believe you really need to visit to get the 'vibe' of a particular campus. You need to walk through the buildings, meet people, and experience a campus in person to better determine whether it's right for you. In my view, the ideal time to do that is when classes are in session rather than the quieter summer months. After all of the research, ultimately it's a feeling that each person gets that says 'this is [or is not] the right school for me.' Everyone is different. Someone may think they want to attend a big school, for example, until they visit and realize it's too big for comfort.
Why should a student consider Point Park?
JM: I think Point Park offers the best of what many students are looking for. Our urban setting in Downtown Pittsburgh provides internship and apprenticeship opportunities just blocks away, as well as all of the cultural and entertainment attractions of city life, yet our campus has a small town feeling. Our students get to know their professors, University staff and fellow students on a first-name basis. It's the best of both worlds.
What do you like best about your job?
I really enjoy connecting with students and families and sharing with them all that Point Park has to offer. My position is constantly changing, as Point Park continues to grow. Every day is different and brings new challenges.
Interview by Cheryl Valyo
Photo by Martha Rial
The Point is a magazine for alumni and friends of Point Park University