Azure Brown joined Ilumin Education’s consulting team in September 2015. For more than 10 years, she worked in secondary education as a high school teacher and administrator that included English department lead and vice principal. Since 2009, she has been counseling students in college admissions. Before joining Ilumin, she was a senior evaluator and counselor for the University of California, reading applications and counseling high school and transfer students on the UC application process.
As an Ilumin consultant, Azure coaches students from 8th grade through college, supporting the application process for every stage, including private high school, undergrad, and grad school. We are excited about the experience and passion she brings to our team.
We asked Azure five questions to help you get to know her better.
1. What is one of your favorite aspects of working with students?
I love supporting application essays. For the students applying to summer programs, my advice is centered around encouragement and application essay mechanics. A typical case would be Stacy, a 10th grader who didn’t think she was “good enough” for COSMOS, a summer academic science program, which is quite competitive. With a little guidance, she wrote thoughtful and enthusiastic essays. I was thrilled, not just because she was admitted to the program, but because she felt empowered through the writing process.
This process is even more complicated - and rewarding - for college application essays. The writing is often casual and creative, like an entertaining conversation with a trusted friend. Supporting students through this sometimes scary writing process can be so challenging - but when students tell me I’ve helped them express themselves more authentically than they could on their own, I know that a kind of personal success has been achieved that extends beyond college results.
And, from my experience, those that are most authentic in their essays achieve their best results, like Phil who wrote about standing up to bullying - even exposing those moments when he didn’t behave at his best - and was admitted to both UCLA and UC Berkeley with somewhat average test scores.
2. What is one insight you’ve gained from being an admissions reviewer?
I believe the most important quality for your best college results is resiliency. I’ve sat with parents who have cried over a “C” in junior year and students who felt like their college dreams were over when they received a weak SAT score. However, it’s important to gain a wider perspective on your future.
As an admissions reviewer, I was humbled by gaining a glimpse into the lives of a cross-section of UC applicants. It’s important to understand that no matter your challenges, there are likely to be so many other applicants confronting even greater challenges. And the truth is that a UC reader is evaluating your application holistically, which means they are not as concerned with your weaknesses as they are with the sum of your strengths.
No matter your setback, it’s all about how you respond. Stella, a brilliant junior I worked with, was turned down to every competitive research program she applied to for that critical summer before senior year. So she got to work - until she had secured a job shadow that led to research completed partly at home because there was limited space available in her mentor’s lab. She was admitted to Cornell, UPenn, and UC Berkeley.
3. What do you want students to know?
I want students of every grade level to know the surest path to future success is to try something new. If you think you know your direction in life, look for ways to get more firsthand experience in your prospective major. If you have no leadership experience, think about what you do well and how your strengths could benefit others. If you’re not sure about your direction or strengths, sign up for a volunteering experience, join a school club, or apply to a program that interests you to start figuring it out.
No matter where you are in the process of finding your direction in life, going out of your comfort zone will surely pay off in greater self-knowledge and confidence.
4. What do you want parents to know?
Parents often ask me how they can help their sons and daughters achieve their greatest success.
What I tell them, after working in education for more than 20 years, is the best thing that parents can do for their teens is to give them a certain level of independence in making decisions, even if it sometimes means watching them fail.
Being a protective parent myself of two daughters, I understand this message can be counterintuitive. However, I’ve seen too many students who run into trouble after becoming an adult because they don’t know how to think for themselves. It’s so much better for your child to experience the outcomes of their decisions, in the context of your supportive home and patient guidance, than it is to send your child off for freshman year of college without the ability to think and act independently.
5. What is one way you can help?
Every student - and family - is different in terms of what type of guidance they would most benefit from. As a coach, my role is to help each student take that next step, whether it’s improving study skills, increasing organization, exploring interests, setting goals, creating solutions to problems, assessing progress, or presenting yourself effectively on applications.
I truly enjoy helping students make incremental changes that result in greater confidence and achievement.
Click here to schedule a free consultation with Azure and discover how she can help your child!