Counselor helps applicants enter queue for college

Savanah Harshbarger, a Marblehead native, was approaching her junior year at Scripps College in Claremont, Calif. when she decided on a change of direction. She wanted to transfer — not because she was unhappy at Scripps, but because she wanted to a program with an exceptional neuroscience pathway.

Compared to the resources provided for the undergraduate application process, Harshbarger said students who want to transfer do not have nearly as much support. While school counselors and parents are often very involved when prospective undergraduates make their decision, she said that the transfer process is instead very lonely.

At the time, her two younger brothers were applying to colleges themselves, and were getting college counseling from Ned Quigley. Harshbarger was impressed with how deep and detailed Quigley’s counseling was, and reached out to him for help.

“Ned showed up for me again in a really big way to help me think through what would be my cultural fit in a new school that I hadn’t been to, and who was doing it well,” Quigley said.

With Quigley’s help, Harshbarger applied to a few programs with excellent cellular and molecular neuroscience programs. She ended up at Brown University, and Quigley continued to follow up with her to make sure she had found what she was looking for and was aware of all the resources offered by the school. He introduced her to the university’s career lab, where she was able to get a job. After graduating, she went on to study at Duke University’s School of Medicine before matching to her first-choice residency at Harvard’s emergency medicine program.

Harshbarger’s is just one of many success stories from students who Quigley has helped navigate the college admissions process through Q-Associates. Quigley’s counseling has been so supportive not just because of what he does when students are applying and deciding, but because of how he checks in with students during their first two years at college.

“I see myself helping students to navigate college, and not only the application process, even once they’re enrolled,” Quigley said. “I call it dipsticking, checking in with the student to see how that term is going, how well the course is going, how well-matched are they academically.”

Quigley’s expertise in the field comes from more than 30 years of experience working for six colleges directly. He has worked at Norwich University, Middlebury College, Harvard, Syracuse, Boston University and Brown. Quigley did not just have one role but worked in a variety, including as the director of Russian-language summer language in the country at Norwich, the director of admissions for Syracuse’s overseas programs, the director of international education at BU, and the executive director of communications at Middlebury. He said he also has spent a lot of time advising students academically.

Quigley estimated that he has visited around 1,000 colleges and universities in the United States, and another 200 overseas.

“My background is eclectic in the sense that I’ve had a wonderful opportunity of being exposed to really every aspect of a university,” Quigley said.

Quigley said Q-Associates offers seven stages of support for prospective students during the admissions process. The first stage, for example, encompasses preparation for an “informational interview; career and interest evaluation; overview of colleges and universities; selection of universities that match your background and interests.” The fourth stage walks applicants through the “Completion of admissions application process; completion of financial aid application,” and “further mock interviews.”

Students seeking counseling can choose help with as many of the stages as they want, but Quigley said they typically opt for all seven.

“Most students I work with want a more comprehensive package,” he said.

Quigley advises students after carefully taking their academic interests and background into account.

He used a hypothetical example of a student who has taken ceramics and porcelain courses, while also having a strong scientific and mathematical background.

“I’m not sure if most people would go this route, but I would say to them ‘Oh, have you thought about ceramic engineering as a possibility?’” Quigley said.

Quigley also does academic counseling with students, for example, making sure they are looking at schools that can accommodate any learning disabilities they may have. He said it is important for students to capitalize on their academic and work experiences when identifying the right place.

The whole process can be overwhelming, and Quigley said he works to make sure students can access all scholarships they are eligible for. Students might not be aware of all the possibilities available to them, like scholarships available for students from the North Shore, and encourages students to check out alumni offices and development offices to see if they are available.

Harshbarger compared Quigley’s approach to the advising she and her brothers got at Marblehead High School, which she said was a more “cookie-cutter” approach designed to get students to a “best place.” She said that ideal college is usually identified as the most competitive school someone can get into – but not necessarily the best fit for them.

“I think he did a really good job with my brothers of cutting through that noise,” she said.

Q-Associates does not just work with students from the North Shore. This year, Quigley said he worked with around 10 students who are not from the area, although they have connections to it. Additionally, he has drawn on his experience with the overseas admissions process to advise international students.

Harshbarger highlighted three things that she said make Quigley’s support invaluable. Those are his depth and breadth of experience, the longevity of relationships he cultivates by following up with students after they start studying at college, and his warmth and approachability in what can otherwise feel like a cold process.

“To have someone like Ned in your corner just makes you feel really relaxed, and for me that makes a huge difference,” she said.