College Adviser to Admissions Counselor

Dan Mitchell is a current board member for the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) and recently completed his service as a Michigan State University College Advising Corps adviser in Alanson and Pellston Public Schools in northern Michigan. Currently, he is an Admission Counselor at Northern Michigan University. 

1. Tell us about your experience as a college adviser.  What was the biggest lesson you learned through this experience?

When I went to Michigan State University as an 18-year-old, I assumed that every other student there came from a background nearly identical to mine. Even though my experiences with student government and serving as a Resident Assistant broadened my horizons and introduced me to diverse people, I still maintained the idea that every other student’s college-going process was just like mine. It wasn’t until I started my work at   as a college adviser that I realized how aloof I was in that sense. Through my formal training and through talking to teachers and staff members at the schools, I quickly developed a new framework of what college is, how certain barriers to college exist for different people, and that college can open doors not just for individuals, but for families, communities, and even states. What I’ve learned as a college adviser is that everyone’s trajectory to and through college looks different. Working in the field of higher education now, I know it will make me a better counselor and educator to see each student’s unique set of experiences as a strength.

2. What is your advice for incoming future advisers?

For incoming advisers, my biggest advice is to remember the importance of the personal connections you make with students, high school staff, community members, and even college representatives. I know college access groups need to pay attention to informative data and numbers: Goal 2025 and “moving the needle” are branded into my brain. However, it is important to remember that behind every dataset or individual percentile is a student, their family and their future. The statistics and the stories need to go hand in hand. A high FAFSA completion rate looks good to donors and can earn an adviser a nice plaque, but it also means that more families will have less of a financial burden when pursuing higher education. Personal connections are also important when it comes to delivering information to students, which is why I tried to incorporate fun, memorable, and interactive components to all of my student presentations. I want my students to have the image of my face photo-shopped on Iron Man’s body stuck in their brain forever as a reminder that when they go to college, they need to assemble a College Success Team, just like Tony Stark had the Avengers. Personal connections matter and I am so grateful to be working in an Admissions Office where personal attention to every prospective student is a core value.

3. Tell us how your experiences have shaped your choice to stay in the college access field?

I have always loved school and education. I was the kid that cried on the last day of school for years. When I was seven, I said that I wanted to be the president of Harvard. I have joked that I want to be a student the rest of my life, but that does not pay the bills, so my goal is to stay in higher education working with college students in whatever capacity I can be helpful and impactful. I enjoy being an educator: teaching biology labs at Northern Michigan University is exciting and rewarding, but I see my role as an Admissions Counselor as an educational role, as well. The best part of my job is that I get to help students and their families realize what’s possible. There are more opportunities available to you in college than at any other time in your life. In both my College Adviser and Admissions Counselor roles, it is important that I help people take action toward those possibilities, while trying to remove stress and obstacles.

MCAN features people and partners in the community who are doing exceptional work in the college access field. If you would like to be considered for a spotlight feature or you would like to recommend someone to us, please contact Emma Walter, MCAN's strategy assistant for external engagement, by sending an email to Emma(a) 


Author: Dan Mitchell, Northern Michigan University Admissions Counselor, MCAN Board Member
Posted: Sept. 5, 2018

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