Robin Mamlet is former dean of admission at Stanford University, Swarthmore College, and Sarah Lawrence College; she previously served on the admission staffs of Pomona College and Occidental College, her alma mater. Robin has also worked at The Lawrenceville School as dean of admission andCastilleja School as a college counselor.
Today, Robin leads the admission and enrollment practice for executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, where she helps colleges and universities find and recruit their admission deans, financial aid directors and chief enrollment officers. Since coming to Witt/Kieffer in 2005, Robin has assisted over 50 colleges and universities.
Robin brings her experience as an admission dean, her firsthand knowledge of the many kinds of colleges and universities throughout the country, and her strong network in the admission field to this book. She misses working with young people directly. She has always loved this moment in their lives, when they are figuring out what they care about, who they are becoming, and what they want. So much awaits them.
Robin lives in Pennsylvania, with her daughter and son. When she went through the college application process with her daughter, who is in her first year of college, what stood out for Robin was how very, very scary it can be, no matter how much you know or how prepared you think you are.
Q & A
Q : Where did you grow up?
a : Santa Barbara, California
Q : Where did you go to high school and college?
a : Santa Barbara High School (“Once a Don, always a Don”) and Occidental College
Q : What is your idea of perfect happiness?
a : Cooking dinner with my kids, followed by a wicked game of Monopoly
Q : What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
a : Insecurity
Q : What is the trait you most deplore in others?
a : Meanness
Q : What is your greatest extravagance?
a : Art and cookbooks
Q : What is your favorite journey?
a : To that moment when you see something in a new way and your mind goes “pop”
Q : What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
a : Meekness
Q : On what occasion do you lie?
a : I don’t. (That’s a lie.)
Q : What or who is the greatest love of your life?
a : My children
Q : When and where were you happiest?
a : Too many times to count — everyday pleasures are plentiful.
Q : Which talent would you most like to have?
a : Athleticism. And I wish I could play chess really well.
Q : What is your current state of mind?
a : Ready
Q : If you could change one thing about college admission, what would it be?
a : That so many young people who lack the money for college thinks this means they cannot attend.
Q : Where would you like to live?
a : I like where I am. Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
Q : What is your favorite occupation?
a : Admission dean, executive search consultant, mom. (Okay, that’s three.)
Q : What is your most marked characteristic?
a : Focus
Q : What is the quality you most admire in another person?
a : Intelligence married to kindness and humor
Q : What do you most value in your friends?
a : Their willingness to put up with me
Q : Who are your favorite writers?
a : Yikes. How can one pick? Ellen Goodman, for her intelligence and clear-sightedness, Andre Dubus for his mixture of tenderness and strength, Roald Dahl for his magic, Suzanne Collins, for her ability to illuminate that which we are already becoming, Maya Angelou, because she is amazing and powerful and her writing is a thing of beauty, and Christine VanDeVelde for the obvious reasons.
Q : Who are your heroes in real life?
a : College counselors, because they reside in hope, and because they change the world one person at a time.
Q : What is it that you most dislike?
a : Bigotry
Q : What is your motto?
a : Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. William Butler Yeats
Q : What do you consider your greatest achievement?
a : Not messing up my children too much.
Q : If you were to die and could choose what to come back as, what would it be?
a : Myself. I like my life.
Q : Why do you do what you do?
a : Because education is the key to a better world.
Q : What is the biggest mistake you see students making in applying to college?
a : Lacking the confidence to be themselves
Q : What is your biggest pet peeve about college admission?
a : That it’s become a national sport
Q : When you think of college counselors you admire, without naming any names, what are the qualities you admire in them?
a : Their ability to help students dream, to locate their best selves, and figure out how they will make their mark on the world.
Q : What is your best advice for applicants?
a : Believe in yourself
Q : What will you — or did you — tell your children as they apply to college?
a : That I was proud of her and who she is
Q : As a former admission dean, what stood out to you as your own daughter went through the college application process?
a : That it’s very, very scary no matter how much you know or how prepared you think you are.
Q : Did your daughter share her essays with you?
a : Eventually. I cried.
Q : What is your best advice for parents of applicants?
a : Don’t underestimate how much work and pressure applying to college creates for your child.
Q : If you were going to college again, where would you go?
a : I fall in love with every college I work with.
Q : If you weren’t in the college admission world, what would you be?
a : A high school English teacher