Overview: CollegeAdvisor.com Advisor Spotlight
Welcome to the first chapter of our new CollegeAdvisor.com Advisor Spotlight series! For each story in this series, we’ll highlight one of the amazing admissions experts in our advisor network. For this inaugural Advisor Spotlight, our featured advisor is Mr. Gabriel Hall.
In each Advisor Spotlight story, we’ll interview one of the 300+ advisors in the CollegeAdvisor.com network. We’ll describe their experience helping students and families navigate the college admissions process. Additionally, we’ll highlight their professional and educational background, what drew them to college admissions, and even some of their favorite advising stories.
But first, let’s get to know Gabriel Hall.
Getting to know Gabriel
Gabriel Hall is one of the 300+ former Admissions Officers and Admissions Experts in the CollegeAdvisor.com network. Gabriel attended Vanderbilt University, where he majored in Human and Organizational Development.
After graduation, Gabriel went on to New York University, where he completed a Master’s in Psychology with a concentration in School Counseling K-12.
In addition to working with CollegeAdvisor.com, Gabriel also holds the title of Director of College and Career Readiness. “For a little over a decade now,” Gabriel told us, “I’ve been the Director of College and Career Readiness in a major nonprofit organization in Virginia, called the Access College Foundation, where I take students and families through the college admissions and financial aid process.”
Helping students and families navigate the college admissions process is truly Gabriel’s passion. “It’s something that I absolutely love to do,” Gabriel said. “It is not checking off a box in my career. I absolutely love working with students and families.”
What drew Gabriel to college admissions?
Since Gabriel has been working in the field for over a decade, we were curious to learn what drew him to the world of college admissions.
“Funny story,” Gabriel said. “If you had to ask me this question when I was in undergrad at Vanderbilt, I would not have had an answer at all. I did not see myself working in college admissions.”
Gabriel described himself as a people person. “I’ve always loved people,” Gabriel told us. “Human and organizational development at Vanderbilt was a natural love affair for me, in that particular major,” he said.
After college, Gabriel’s first goal was to become a strength and conditioning coach. However, life had other plans for him.
“If you had talked to me, I would say 10, 15 years ago, I would’ve told you that I was going to be the next great strength and conditioning coach, running my own collegiate program or running the strength and conditioning program for a major sports team,” Gabriel said.
“I really loved strength and conditioning…that was something that I was kind of navigating myself towards,” he continued. “I had taken many certifications, even while I was in undergrad at Vanderbilt, preparing myself for that because that was where I saw myself.”
Finding a passion for helping families
However, life had other plans for Gabriel. “But while I was at Vandy,” Gabriel said, “there was a parent weekend. And I just happened to be walking around campus, minding my own business…and there was this family visiting, and they just walked up to me and started asking me questions about the campus.”
Being good-natured and helpful, Gabriel took time out of his day to assist this family. “They didn’t know what they didn’t know, and they had their daughter with them,” Gabriel recalled. “So, I was like, you know what? Let’s go on a tour. So, me being me, a people person, we literally spent a couple hours walking around campus,” Gabriel said.
Gabriel answered the family’s questions and spent the whole day with them. “I told them anything I could,” Gabriel said.
“[I] offered them as much perspective as I could. Lucky for them, I had nothing going on that day. So, I spent the whole day with this family. [And] obviously they thanked me through and through,” Gabriel remembered.
This interaction stayed with Gabriel. “It just felt so natural,” Gabriel told us. “And it felt so good. I was able to combine my knowledge of what was going on. We talked about essays and things of that nature…and I was able to give them perspective on what I went through,” Gabriel said.
How being a first-generation college student shaped Gabriel’s perspective
Gabriel has a unique perspective on the college application process. As a first-generation college student, Gabriel understood how overwhelming and time-intensive the college application process could be.
“I was also a first-generation student,” Gabriel told us, “So I knew the process that I had to go through from A to Z, because I went through it alone.”
While Gabriel was helping that family at Vanderbilt, he drew on his knowledge of the college application process. “I knew everything that I went through,” Gabriel said, “And I was able to spell out the process because obviously, they were visiting, but they were also in the process of applying later on that fall.”
“I was able to give them perspective on what I went through,” Gabriel told us. “They thanked me, and I could just tell from their expressions and the feedback that they gave me, just how thankful they were and how I really helped them. I thought I was just being a nice person, but it seemed like much more, so that never left me,” Gabriel recalled.
Helping students and families navigate the college admissions process
Although Gabriel still wasn’t sure if college admissions was right for him, that story and that feeling never left him. “As time would go on and I started to work and things of that nature,” Gabriel said, “I never forgot about that, but I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do.”
Gabriel decided that the next step for him would be to attend graduate school. “I knew I was going to go to graduate school,” Gabriel said. “I knew I loved working with people. So, I was looking up majors, when I was going to apply for grad school, and I thought about psychology. I thought it was a natural progression,” he told us. “But then I saw school counseling.”
School counseling programs prepare individuals to work in elementary, middle, or high schools to provide academic, social-emotional, career, and college access support and guidance to all students.
Choosing a counseling program
“I had a pretty good school counselor,” Gabriel remembered, “But it was only one of them, so I didn’t really see them that much in high school. Like I said, I really navigated the process alone. That was no fault of [theirs], but I really started thinking. Even if I don’t work with kids in school, I could probably take this and go a couple of different directions with it,” Gabriel said.
Gabriel chose to pursue a degree in school counseling, with a concentration on K-12. It was after graduate school when the world of college admissions reappeared in Gabriel’s life.
“Right when I finished graduate school,” Gabriel told us, “I started dabbling a little bit in college admissions. There was a school called Bryant & Stratton College that needed an admissions representative. My job in that role was to recruit students for the school [and] introduce them to the programs,” Gabriel said.
In this role, the feelings Gabriel experienced when he was helping that family came rushing back. “[I had] just a natural inclination of understanding the programs, understanding the process, and then just being a people person,” Gabriel said.
“And once again, that same feeling came back and reminded me of that experience I had at Vandy. And then I start[ed] to figure out…this is something I would be comfortable with exploring,” Gabriel told us.
Continuing his passions
Fast forward to now – Gabriel has been working for over a decade with the Access College Foundation. “I started to look at different jobs, positions, and I came upon this amazing role [where I get to] navigate students and families through the time sensitive college admissions and financial aid process. And literally it took off from there,” Gabriel said.
“So, it’s been a long journey here,” Gabriel said. “But when I even take a step back now and reminisce, it’s almost like your destiny will find you if you’re open. And that’s what happened to me,” Gabriel told us.
So, how did Gabriel come to join CollegeAdvisor.com?
“So, the pandemic happened, just like it happened to everyone,” Gabriel said. “So, we were able to work from home exclusively during the pandemic. Even once school was opened back up, the organization that I worked for [told us]…to transition back slowly,” Gabriel recalled.
Gabriel had been working virtually for almost two years at this point. “So being home and working virtually for almost two years exclusively – I start to think a little bit. I have extra free time. Let me see what else I can do,” Gabriel said.
That’s where CollegeAdvisor came in. “So me being me,” Gabriel smiled, “I was on my LinkedIn page one day and I came across CollegeAdvisor. And I was just like, man, this is actually really cool.”
Meeting our team
Gabriel applied and was soon contacted by our Operations Manager, Cody Moehn. “So, when I applied, I’ll never forget,” Gabriel said. “Cody reached out to me, and we had an absolutely amazing interview, and it was a match. I thought it was too good to be true. You tell me I get to work with amazing students and families, and we get to work out the schedule together, and go from there? I’m sold!” Gabriel exclaimed.
“It’s just win, after win, after win,” Gabriel said. “I saw all the amazing things and all the amazing students that CollegeAdvisor had already worked with, [and] my goodness, how amazing to be a part of something that’s bigger than you,” Gabriel told us.
“Working with CollegeAdvisor is, once again, just an extension of what I already loved to do,” Gabriel said. “One could say it was a great match. And one could also say, I got very lucky by coming across the opportunity at a time where…I had time to research and do things. Everything has kind of worked itself out,” Gabriel said.
Gabriel’s philosophy for working with students
Now that Gabriel has been in college admissions for over a decade, he has developed a personal philosophy for working with students that extends beyond the application process.
“It’s really all about the students,” Gabriel told us. “[And] allowing them to not only form their own opinions about us, but make them feel important,” Gabriel continued.
“I always say this, leaders make other people feel important while managers make themselves feel important. So, when I’m working with a student, I always want to make sure that they feel important, [that] they feel empowered,” Gabriel said.
How exactly does Gabriel do this with his students? “I understand how to help them get to where they want to be,” Gabriel told us. “But some of the little things that matter the most are what gets neglected. And I like to focus on those as well,” Gabriel said.
“Making them feel important is the first step,” Gabriel continued. “And after that, everything just kind of works itself out.”
Advising CollegeAdvisor Student Chidera Oniya
As the class of 2023 makes their final college enrollment decisions, we asked Gabriel to reflect on his time with his CollegeAdvisor students. The first student Gabriel chose to tell us about was Chidera Oniya.
“One of my great students, his name is Chidera,” Gabriel said. “I’ve been working with him for almost my entire time with CollegeAdvisor. He was one of my first students that I was actually matched with,” Gabriel told us.
When students join CollegeAdvisor.com, they go through a matching process. Our team looks at each student’s goals, background, and interests. Then, they are “matched” with an expert advisor and/or former Admissions Officer who will guide them through the college application process.
CollegeAdvisor students come from all over the world and represent a wide range of backgrounds and identities. Chidera Oniya and his family are from Nigeria. Chidera’s older sister is a current student at Cornell.
While working with Gabriel, Chidera decided that he would like to major in computer science. One of his top schools was Georgia Tech.
“Georgia Tech is one of his top schools,” Gabriel told us. “He’s a computer science major, and Georgia Tech has one of the top computer science programs in the country. Now, Georgia Tech’s one of the few schools that does require us to submit standardized testing,” Gabriel continued.
“And Chidera is an amazing student, but like a lot of students, standardized testing can go one of two ways, and a lot of times our scores definitely don’t support our potential as a student by any stretch of the imagination,” Gabriel said. “When we looked at Georgia Tech’s SAT ranges and the score that he had, we knew that he was going to be fighting an uphill battle,” Gabriel told us.
This put Chidera and Gabriel in a tough spot. However, Gabriel relied on his extensive knowledge of college admissions to guide Chidera. In their advising sessions together, Chidera and Gabriel worked hard to build a strong candidate profile and personal brand for Chidera.
Building Chidera’s application narrative
“We worked extremely hard,” Gabriel recalled. “Obviously he was applying to more than just Georgia Tech, but that was one of his target schools that he really wanted to get into,” Gabriel told us.
With Gabriel’s help, Chidera submitted his application to Georgia Tech along with all of his other college applications. Not too long after, Chidera sent an email to Gabriel with a link to a video recording.
“About a month ago,” Gabriel told us, “He sends me an email. I knew the Georgia Tech decisions were getting ready to come out. He sends me this email, this link…and I open it and [it’s] him and his friends at school. They all get real silent and on the video, he lets everyone know that Georgia Tech decisions just came in…and it’s one of the schools [he] really wants to get into,” Gabriel recalled.
“And then all of a sudden he just jumps up and [says] ‘I got in!’” Gabriel said.
As for Gabriel’s reaction? “I jump out of my chair, I’m sitting at home, and I just start going absolutely nuts as well,” Gabriel told us.
“Just to see this kid who really went above and beyond to make sure that every aspect of his application that he could control outside of standardized testing [was as strong as possible]…and to see that hard work realized in that video, in that instant, it brought everything full circle,” Gabriel said.
Advising CollegeAdvisor Student Jordan Cancel
“Jordan applied to some pretty high-power schools,” Gabriel told us. “One of his [applications] was to Columbia. He gets this email, and he emails me, and he [says] ‘Mr. Hall, I don’t want to jump the gun, but I think I got into Columbia,’” Gabriel recalled.
“I’m looking at the email that’s sent,” Gabriel said, “And Columbia’s letting him know that they don’t send this letter out to everyone. But they’re letting him know that he’s been accepted into Columbia and they’re congratulating him and thanking him,” Gabriel told us.
Connecting with other advisors
“So, I reached out to Ms. Amber Lewis, and I’m like, Amber, I need your feedback here,” Gabriel recalled. “She was able to give me expert feedback and let me know that this letter from Columbia was valid, and that Jordan [had] been accepted into Columbia and they’re just letting him know a little bit earlier than certain students, so he can start to get himself together,” Gabriel said.
Now that he knew the email from Columbia was legitimate, it was time for Gabriel to deliver the news to Jordan.
“When I was able to reach back out to him and let him know, let me tell you,” Gabriel said, “The heavens opened up.”
“This is a kid that’s going to literally pour out his soul to make this world a better place. And we all know someone like that or have heard of someone like that, but to work with someone like that and to really get to know them behind the scenes and really see what they’ve done up until this point and what they’re willing to do tomorrow and the next day and the day after that, let me tell you, [there’s] no better experience,” Gabriel said.
Why Gabriel believes students and families should choose CollegeAdvisor
It’s clear that Gabriel has a passion for helping students and families navigate the college admissions process. But why does he believe that students and families should choose CollegeAdvisor?
“Students and families are unfortunately penalized for what they don’t know in this process,” Gabriel told us. “What happens is students wait until application season or the fall of their senior year…to really start educating themselves. There’s no way you can educate yourself and go through the process without becoming overwhelmed,” Gabriel shared.
So, what do students and families need?
“They really need someone to help paint the picture step by step and help navigate them down the process. There is no one size fits all. When you come to CollegeAdvisor, [you know] that your specifications, what you want to see in the school, where you want to apply to, all these things are being taken into account as your individualized process is not only being built, but you’re also being navigated through,” Gabriel continued.
“If you want to take the college admission process seriously…there is no better place or program that [your student] could be a part of outside of CollegeAdvisor, I firmly believe that,” Gabriel told us.
This Advisor Spotlight, based on an interview with senior advisor, Gabriel Hall, was written by Claire Babbs. Gabriel is one of CollegeAdvisor.com’s 300+ former admissions officers and admissions experts. If you are looking for assistance with your college applications and are interested in working with a CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Expert like Gabriel Hall, register with CollegeAdvisor.com today.