By Stephanie Stevens
Joy Bagnol-Estudillo has been an on-air radio personality, a stay-at-home mom, a college counselor, has her law degree and is now the author of a new book, “A Mom’s Guide: Applying for Admissions to University of California Campuses.” Her passion for college counseling came about after discovering how complex the application process was for her two oldest kids while applying for admission to several University of California (UC) schools.
“I was helping my (then) high school twins navigate applying for UC schools and realized it was very comprehensive and overwhelming. When I heard their friends (who were 4.0 GPA students with great extracurriculars) didn’t get into their dream UCs – and my kids did – I was baffled. It made me curious as to what exactly it takes to get into a UC,” she said.
To help solve the mystery, Bagnol-Estudillo began attending University of California college counseling conferences to learn the ins and outs of applying to UC schools. There she discovered that it wasn’t just grades, extracurriculars and test scores, but how and what applicants share on their application is what matters.
As a result of her efforts, she became “an accidental expert in all things University of California admissions.” However, without a certification or accreditation, she could not do much more than give occasional, unofficial advice.
“I wanted to help students apply, but all I had was an ‘interest’ in helping them based on my experience at the conferences; I wasn’t qualified or accredited,” she noted.
To get qualified, Joy chose to take UCSD Extension’s College Counseling Certificate, an online, specialized certificate program that she finished in 2015.
“My UCSD Extension College Counseling certificate changed my life because now I am credentialed. That was instrumental for me to get a job as a UC Comprehensive Review Freshmen Reader at UC Irvine. I’ve been doing that for more than six years, and I’ve read over 6,000 UC applications.”
Bagnol-Estudillo’s curiosity not only guided her toward a new career path; it also motivated her to write a how-to guide for other aspiring UC students and their parents.
“UCs are great institutions, and students are feeling the competition. I wanted to write a book to help alleviate their stress, give applicants some guidelines, and if they follow them, they hopefully will get an admission offer,” she shared.
With her background in communications, Joy opted to share information in a variety of formats, including creating a “How to Get Into UC” video as the final project for one of her classes, in addition to hosting a variety of “How to get into a UC” webinars and seminars, answering questions on Quora as a UC Specialist, and in counseling students on their UC applications along with questions from their parents. The only thing left to do was publish a book, which she did in 2021.
Joy has a few pieces of advice for anyone entering the College Counseling field (especially for those counseling on UC schools):
1. Stay up to date. Go to annual counseling conferences for the schools you advise on regularly.
2. Don’t do it for the money. Joy notes that you should love what you do and have a genuine interest in helping applicants get into the school of their choice.
3. Let it be meaningful. One of the best feelings is hearing “I got into UC!” from a newly admitted student.
And the biggest misconception about getting into a UC school?
Bagnol-Estudillo noted: “The biggest misconception is that you have to pay for a college counselor or service. You don’t need to pay a college counselor since information on applying to UC is out there if you do your research.”
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