Podcast: Hanna Stotland: Educational Crisis Management & Admissions

In today’s episode, I sit down with Educational Crisis Manager, Hannah Stotland. She works with students to recover their academic records and reapply to programs after major incidents, like medical leaves, ethics code violations, or family emergencies. Her message is clear: there is hope, but it will take your hard work.

Bio
Hanna Stotland flunked out of high school, got a G.E.D., and went on to graduate from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. Since 1999, she has been an independent admissions consultant specializing in educational crisis management, including Title IX, substance abuse and mental illness. Her recent professional presentations include conferences of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, the Higher Education Consultants Association, ten regional ACACs, and Families Advocating for Campus Equality. She has also been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, CBS News, PBS, and WNYC. Follow Hanna on LinkedIn or visit her website at www.hannastotland.com

Access free resources and learn more about Sheila and her team at Signet Education at signeteducation.com or on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/sheilaakbar/.

TRANSCRIPT

Hanna Stotland: 

There’s a spot in the tours group where you say, and this is what brought me to Harvard. And I’d say I had straight F’s, my last three semesters of high school, I have a GED, I got here when I was 22. And people were really not expecting to hear this from their Harvard tour guide.

Sheila Akbar: 

Hey, folks, welcome back to the podcast, I have been sick, which you might be able to hear in my voice, I’m a little hoarse. I’ve actually completely lost my voice for most of the week. So this is the first chance I had to do a little recording for you all. But I am really excited for you to listen into today’s episode, I am talking with Hanna Stotland, who calls herself an educational crisis manager. And if you’re intrigued, you should be the work that she does is so fascinating. And also, which is so important. And I think there’s some perspectives that she shares here, I think are valuable for anybody who is embarking on some sort of application process, whether that’s for a job, college, graduate school, what have you, kind of flunked out of high school, and managed to rehabilitate her record, and ended up graduating from Harvard, and then went on to Harvard Law School. And now she does this for a living, helping other students and families reapply after something has gone not to plan. And I won’t give it all the way here. Have you listened to the conversation, but there’s so much to be learned here in the power of owning your actions, reflecting deeply on them, and really just doing the work to get yourself back on the track that you want to be on. So take a listen. Hanna, thank you so much for joining me today.

Hanna Stotland: 

I’m delighted to be here. Great.

Sheila Akbar: 

Well, let’s dive in with kind of a brief overview of what it is that you do, because you’ve carved out a really specific niche for yourself. So let’s hear about that.

Hanna Stotland: 

Yes, I do educational crisis management. So most of my students have been expelled, suspended, arrested, sent to rehab, survived mental illness or substance abuse. And I help them whether they’ve gone south in high school or in college, I help them return to the path that they were on or find a better one.

Sheila Akbar: 

Like, how do you get into how does a person get into something like that? Tell us that story.

Hanna Stotland: 

So I do this work, ultimately, because I flunked out of high school. So I had a lot of mental illness, as well as misplaced rebellion going on in high school, I thought it was like civil disobedience to refuse to do my homework. I thought I was like a conscientious objector to high school. So I didn’t graduate from high school. And my parents said that even though I’d been enrolled up until the end, I had to get a GED and a job and so I got a GED and a job in order to be allowed to keep living in their house. And I worked for a couple of years eventually decided that I wanted to try to go to college, but had no idea if any four year school would take me ended up applying more or less on the strength of my test scores alone, and was initially denied everywhere I applied. But eventually, a small women’s college was willing to have a fight with me and my counselor about their denial. And they eventually put me on the waitlist accepted me. And I got there and discovered that I really didn’t like being at a tiny Women’s College in the suburbs. But that I was actually really good at the college thing. I started making A’s, tried to transfer out after a year there and was denied everywhere I applied again. But after two years there, I got into Harvard, Stanford and Penn as a junior transfer. So off, I went to Harvard, and I had become very interested in admissions through doing three years in a row of trying to figure out what my own path could be. And I got a job doing tours and info sessions. And there’s a spot in the tour script where you say, and this is what brought me to Harvard. And I’d say I had straight F’s. My last three semesters of high school I have a GED. I got here when I was 22. And people were really not expecting to hear this from their Harvard tour guide. And so right away, this is in the summer of 98. Right away. People would start taking me aside after a tour, like one of the families would take me aside and say, you have to talk to my nephew. He just got out of rehab and he wants to apply to college. Can you help us What do you charge. And so people were bringing me not only educational consulting work, but really difficult education consulting work while I was still in college. And what I saw from families, then that I still see now is that they were looking on me as proof of concept that I could embody for these parents, the kind of transformation that they hoped was possible for their child, you know, whether the kid actually wanted to go to Harvard or would have been happy there anything but just that you can do a 180 degree turn around from disaster to whatever, whatever success means to you. And those things are often possible, far more possible than they seem, kind of in the widespread literature or in the pop culture. And these things are very often attainable. And I stayed at Harvard for law school. And I had a six year legal career in Chicago, but I was always, I you seeing on the side, I was always helping these students on the side and hoping that I could do this when I grew up. And so I’ve been solely an independent consultant since April of 2013. I’ve been doing this with with no day job, not as a side hustle full time for 10 years now.

Sheila Akbar: 

That’s great. And I definitely want to dig into some of the details that you just shared. But I think that message of that transformation is possible is such an important one that I really want to emphasize it. I think one of the things that we talk about a lot in our industry of private educational consulting, is this achievement, culture, this desire for perfection, that everything has to line up in exactly this way in order for certain doors to be open. And that’s just not the way it works. And in fact, when there are bumps in the road, when there are unexpected detours, you often get a much more interesting story. And, you know, you have an opportunity to have a much more resilient foundation to build off of when you’re when you’re thinking about these things. And you’re just in your story. You thought you wanted to go to the small Women’s College, and then you got there and you were like, No, this is not for me.

Hanna Stotland: 

And I really appreciated that they gave me a chance when no one else would. Not only that school, but schools in that category have gotten a lot more selective than they were in the mid 90s, which was kind of a period of doldrums for that category in the marketplace. And they are not in the doldrums now.

Sheila Akbar: 

Right. Right. So you know, your exact path may not be possible to replicate. But I think it’s really important to hold up your path as an example of what what may be possible. Right?

Hanna Stotland: 

Right. And, and there are lots and lots of colleges, the vast majority of colleges are not very selective, and may well be listening when you are trying to tell them a difficult story and nonlinear story. And most of the colleges that don’t have strong national brand names still have a lot to offer. I’m not so naive as to think that they’re all created equal. But there’s a lot more there there than the brand name alone would make you think. And so what sort of school you’re using as a stepping stone is going to be very dependent on era as well as the preferences and abilities of that student. But the path, the idea of building yourself up over time, and what I call record rehabilitation. So a lot of my students, they go to rehab and their mental illness or their substance abuse or whatever it is, gets a whole lot better, but the paper still looks like a mess. And so you need some record rehabilitation, where you go and help improve how you look on paper. Because ultimately, colleges are not actually making decisions about three dimensional human beings they can’t see into your soul or making decisions based on application files. And if your application file needs growth, go and grow it.

Sheila Akbar: 

Yeah. And let’s just dive in right there. What are some of the ways you work with students to do that record rehabilitation? What are some of the things that you can suggest to them or help them navigate?

Hanna Stotland: 

So school and work are both essential elements for many of my students, and that can be a two year college. It can be a four year college that’s not super selective and one of the pluses of that not only are there many minimally selected four year colleges that have a lot of the bells and whistles that you may want out of college, you know, whether they at football, whether it’s dorm life, whether it’s robust performing arts groups, you can join, all of those kinds of things are not at all exclusive to the highly selective tier. But also there’s the plus side, if you go there, you might love it, you might thrive, and figure out that you don’t need to transfer. And maybe you’ll be launched on your career or launched toward a fancy brand name for grad school, because you’re thriving at the not terribly selective for your school where you started. Work can also be an essential element for many of my students, especially those who are disciplined during college. So I have a lot of kids who get in trouble in college, and their GPA is just fine. This is a behavioral issue, whether it’s academic misconduct, sexual misconduct, drunken disorderly type of misbehavior, there’s there’s a whole lot of ways to screw up selling drugs on campus, any of those, the GPA is often just fine for those students are sometimes outstanding. And what they need to do is gain a little distance, or perhaps a lot of distance. And this can be both distance measured in time, that just time passing as long as you’re using it productively, is beneficial to your brand as an applicant following some kind of disaster. It can also be other kinds of distance. There’s a kind of metaphysical distance that happens when you have, let’s say, a semester has gone by, and you were working full time bagging groceries. That’s that’s this sort of data point. That’s between the problem and you where you can show I was I was doing this positively, I think for certain kinds of wrongdoing. There’s an element of work that can, I don’t necessarily view the work itself as penance. But it can show if you’ve gotten trouble in a way that falls into a stereotype of oh, this is what those entitled kids do. holding down a job at Wendy’s for a semester, it says a lot about your ability to not only accept consequences, but to take orders from someone with lower SATs than you probably had illustrates that you don’t think you’re too good for work that may literally get your hands dirty. And it’s and when I say it’s not not meant to be penance, I mean that the I want students in this position to find a job where they’re not suffering. My job in this category between high school and college was being a minimum wage worker at my favorite museum. So I was working in my happy place, I tell people absolutely get this minimum wage job at your happy place, your favorite pizza joint, your favorite theme park, a retailer that you love that’s wrapped up in your hobby, just go get that entry level, hourly wage job. And you may actually have a lot of fun there, make friends, all of those those kinds of things. But also everybody knows, if you’re the new hire at the pizza joint, and somebody puked in the bathroom, they’re going to hand you a mop, right? And if you held that job for six months, the grownups reading your application, know exactly what that means about your willingness to take the bitter with the sweet. And that’s, that is adulting. You in colleges and graduate schools recognize that that’s what it is. And that’s the kind of wait, it’s one way that work can illustrate, you don’t want to just say, Oh, I learned from this, you want to show not tell. And if you were willing to do this, and you you kept that job means you showed up on time. It means you took the orders, even if your boss is kind of a jerk. All of those things and colleges and grad schools recognize if you can hold down that job, that often means you’ve got your ACT back together.

Sheila Akbar: 

Yeah, I think it signals I mean, a sense of humility, and probably helps build perspective. So talk to us a little bit about that right there. There are things that a student can do take a class at a community college, you know, enroll somewhere new get a job, like we were just describing, but I’m sure there are also thoughts that need to change attitudes, and things like that. So I’m really curious about what is that part of the work like for you?

Hanna Stotland: 

So I often tell my students, you know, look, I have no qualifications as a rabbi. Right? People are not hiring me. to bring about character growth, but this process produces it all the time. Even though that isn’t the goal or my area of expertise. There are times I, you know how at the end of the Grinch Who Stole Christmas that the Grinch, his heart grew three sizes that day. And that is often how growing up works. It is not linear. It’s not like an escalator. It’s like climbing stairs. And you often will, will go up abruptly and then be on a plateau for a while, and then you go up abruptly again. And I have seen so many kids who are telling me a story that really convinces me as far as well, my heart grew three sizes that day, like kid who has gotten into sexual misconduct, trouble, he was on the practice field with his sports team. And it cup car pulled up and a cup got out and called his name, boy, and he took three steps toward being an adult that minute, where he was like, Oh, my God, this is this is real. Everything else in my life up to this point was pretend was all practice. This is real. And I was like, Huh. And the student has to be able to write about that and explain it in a way. That’s persuasive. And so when you have material like that, what I need to do is just teach them how to write about it effectively, when the student is really struggling with the writing. I mean, there are some kids where this is not their natural, you know, your kid was an engineer, you know, this is this is not easy. But at the same time, if you have lived the recovery, it’s usually pretty straightforward to write about it. And when a kid is really, really struggling and doesn’t know what to say. Usually the problem there is that they haven’t lived, what they need to write about, or they they’ve only lived it partially.

Sheila Akbar: 

Right, they’re not fully baked yet on this thing.

Hanna Stotland: 

Exactly when the story has happened in real life. Writing it down is pretty straightforward.

Sheila Akbar: 

Yeah, I love that perspective. So one of the other things I’m thinking here is, it seems to me that there might be sort of two, two buckets, let’s say, of types of students that have to leave school, if we’re talking about students whose college careers interrupted, right, there’s students who, and I don’t want to pass any judgment here, but let’s say through no fault of their own, or having a medical crisis, mental health challenge, are just not ready for college life or college rigors. And they sort of seek to leave on their own or have to leave because they can’t manage at the level that a college needs them to. And then there is another bucket of kids who have maybe violated some school policy, a code of conduct broken a law even would you agree those are kind of two separate challenges?

Hanna Stotland: 

Yes. And there’s two important distinction. There’s two important buckets within the you really screwed up bucket. And those two buckets are everybody agrees about what happened. And there’s a dispute about what happened. But absolutely, that’s a bucket with two layers. But I agree there’s a stuff happened to me bucket, my mom got cancer, I got depression, whatever else happen. Stuff happens. And then there’s the you screwed up bucket, although there are many students who are in both.

Sheila Akbar: 

Yeah, sure. Right. One might cause the other certainly. So generally, and I don’t want you to give away all the secrets here, though. I doubt they’re really any secrets. It’s like you do the work, right.

Hanna Stotland: 

The secrets are, how do we apply this to each person’s unique situation?

Sheila Akbar: 

So let’s talk about the stuff happened to me bucket. What’s the general approach there or where’s the place to start?

Hanna Stotland: 

So there’s more overlap in approach than you might think. Because adulting even when things happen to you adulting effectively means that you own your work, you know, unless we’re talking about a really extreme situation where a Russian missile came through the window of your home, right, where no one can possibly question, whatever your reaction to that was, when other things happen to you. Ultimately, as a fledgling adult as an 18 year old. There are better and worse ways of dealing with that. And hopefully you learn something from it, even if my mom got sick, I came down with depression, whatever else happened. If that were to happen again, you’d handle it better the second time. And so analyzing the parts of the story that you had some control over and didn’t handle ideally, like it is almost a guarantee that students having a depression will not withdraw from their classes in time. They get frozen. And they rarely rarely think about, even if they can perceive Okay, and failing these classes, it would be much, much better to withdraw from them. It’s quite rare that I see that depressed student doing that. But that is the kind of thing that someone with a history of depression who might in the future have another episode, right, we’re all at risk for that. That person can say, Now I know where to go for help. Now I know how to at least call out for the flotation device before I go under the water.

Sheila Akbar: 

Yeah, they might recognize some of the early signs right before it’s too late.

Hanna Stotland: 

And so showing the maturity and and wisdom that you’ve gained from this story is true, even when it’s something that happened to you. And that’s usually the best way to approach the project.

Sheila Akbar: 

Great. And then what about the other bucket?

Hanna Stotland: 

So the other bucket, this is the division that, to me is the most interesting and challenging. One is where you have screwed up. And everybody agrees about how you screwed up. So like, a classic example for me is kids who are selling drugs on campus, typically, those kids in my practice, are both caught red handed, and they confess. So there’s no debate at all about what happens there’s, at most, there’s a dispute about how severe the consequence ought to be. That student is, in many ways telling the same kind of story as a student who got depression, right, they screwed up. And it boils down to, I screwed up, I’m really sorry, it’s never gonna happen again. Now executing that is not necessarily easy. But the concept is not brain surgery, you’re throwing yourself on the mercy of the court. What’s really hard, and these are the students that get the largest usually use more of my time is the students where there is a dispute about what happened, which is very common in academic misconduct and sexual misconduct allegations, where you need to walk you, the student need to walk a very delicate tightrope where you do not plead guilty to anything you didn’t do. But you still need to show insight and growth and maturity, and that the human frailty is actually kind of a gift in this area. Because even if I have a student who says, Okay, I really didn’t cheat on the test. You know, I realized that the rule said, you can’t have your phone out, period. But I just my watch broke, and I was looking at the time, that’s why I had my phone out. Okay? It is, even if you didn’t do the underlying offense, you made a pretty poor choice that expose you to risk of being accused, right, even if there’s a false accusation coming around. It’s not distributed at random. And it’s very rare that I as a 48 year old married person, it’s very rare that I go to go to bed at night thinking, well, I nailed it today. Everything I did today, I did exactly right. There’s nothing I would change, right? I mean, you never have days like that I’m not a saint. And so that’s doubly true on a day where you found yourself in terrible trouble. And you’re 18 or 19, not 48. Of course, you’re going to screw up. Of course, there’s stuff that you would fix and do differently if you could. And so it is essential. Even if you didn’t cheat, you didn’t commit rape, whatever it is, you probably were not accused at random. And you probably made risky or unwise or unkind choices that played an important role in you ended up in this situation. And you better reflect on that in this essay, even as you don’t plead guilty to things that you didn’t do.

Sheila Akbar: 

And this is where I come back to that kind of humility and the character growth that we were talking about earlier. I imagine students really have to be ready to work on this with you and if they’re still at a point where you know, I did nothing wrong. This is crazy. This is an injustice, just black and white, no responsibility for anything. It may be difficult for them to go through this process successfully and at least come out with the goals that maybe they had in mind.

Hanna Stotland: 

That’s right. And it’s fairly rare in my experience that they stick to that. I think and this is another where I’m being kind of a discount rabbi, I’m not doing this to improve their character. That’s it’s not really my business. But the process does do that. Because I tell them, Well, you better sit down and think about if your argument is external people can’t, you know, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, this was just bad luck at people did the same thing I did the same night didn’t get caught. This was just bad luck. All right, that that is that is a plausible way of describing human interactions. But if that is your theory, you have just cut the legs out from under any argument you could make that you can prevent this from becoming a pattern. If you want to say, this isn’t going to happen, once I transfer to your school, then you better show something in your power to change, because bad luck is going to happen everywhere. Right? They’re going to be difficult or crazy, or unfair people that you’ll interact with, whether they’re students, faculty, or staff. And so do you want to make the argument? This was just bad luck? Are you sure?

Sheila Akbar: 

Mm hmm. And How involved are the parents in this process when you’re working with students?

Hanna Stotland: 

So this varies a lot. And I’m open to working with families on a number of different models, if I just have a 17 year old college applicant, you know, plain old garden variety project, I don’t think the parents should be very involved in that, you know, I tell them, I’ll report to you if I think somebody is in danger. And other than that, this is a little baby step toward adulting that your your kid can do. And it’s part of becoming college ready is managing the process. In the midst of a crisis. I’m much more sympathetic to parents wanting or needing to be involved. They’re often coordinating a team of professionals who are handling, you know, you might have the kid has melted down in college in ways that bring about that they have a legal problem. They have a mental illness and or substance abuse problem. And they have an educational problem. And no one person can handle all of those things. And so we also often have a kid who is very understandably, in need of a great deal more support than the average college student. And I’m going to be grilling them, hopefully kindly, but grilling them about the most upsetting or disturbing or painful thing that’s ever happened in their life, you know, they had a mental illness break down, and all the different things. So there’s some students who are more shy around their parents and embarrassed and don’t want to talk about in front of them. And that’s one way to do it. But there’s also a lot of kids who need some moral support when they’re talking to me. And in my situations, I think that’s very understandable and defensible, even though I often wouldn’t support it for a 16 or 17 year old.

Sheila Akbar: 

Yeah, I think that’s a good perspective to share. Because I think a lot of us, by us, I mean, parents, we’ve gotten to this state of hyper vigilance. And, you know, you could trace it to so many different things. But we’ve seen the increase in what people are calling snowplow parents. And when you’re on the West Coast, you might call them lawnmower parents, because there’s no snow. But these are, these are the parents who really do not want their kids to struggle or face any obstacle, they want to clear the path for them. And in many cases, in my experience, that kind of parenting can lead kids to get into more trouble because they don’t know how to deal with challenging situations. They didn’t have a chance to practice it, when it was sort of safe to learn those things and practice those things before they kind of got out of the house into the real world. So yeah, I think it makes sense that there’s sort of a scaffolded approach to parental involvement depending on the child’s situation.

Hanna Stotland: 

Right. And I often see students whose situation has gone down the tubes, in large part because they didn’t involve their parents urine enough or robustly enough. Do not go through a college discipline process without a real adult helping you and that does not mean someone who’s just appointed by your school. You have to I want to recognize, as always, you know, students have to make the judgment if they fear being disowned or abused by their parents. But most of the time, what I see is that the child just is embarrassed, doesn’t want to disappoint the parent. And the parent is like, Oh my God, look, I’m not thrilled that you were having sex using drugs, whatever it is. But of course, I’m going to help you. And so this is a really big point that I make both to kids heading off to college and to parents, parents, it may be really, really obvious to you that you’re going to stand behind your kid and try and help them even if they have committed murder, right? That’s really obvious, often inside the parent, it’s not so obvious to the kid, tell them explicitly, if you get into trouble, please tell me I will support you. I’m not promising to be thrilled that you are accused of cheating or whatever. But I’m going to try and help you make it through. Because there are many, many students in far worse trouble than was necessary. Because they tried to handle this themselves. These are for real grownups college disciplinary processes. They’re not for 19 year old grownups get someone that you really trust to advise you. And that is usually a parent or grandparent.

Sheila Akbar: 

That is what I was actually going to kind of pivot to asking you about, what what can you tell us both in terms of just like the structure of these disciplinary committees, and how you’ve seen things change, since you started doing this work?

Hanna Stotland: 

Well, the biggest changes happen in the area of Title Nine, or a sexual misconduct. Everything that isn’t Title Nine, more or less, universities are allowed to handle the way they want. And so there’s going to be enormous variation from one school to the next. Title Nine is an area that is regulated on the federal level. So absolutely, there are important distinctions from one school to the next. And one might pursue these cases far more aggressively than another. But there is a federal regulatory scheme that has changed over time that is about to change, again, that schools, all institutions, k 12 and higher ed, have to follow. And so I see certain changes there. With there’s kind of a pendulum swinging with each change in administration, that we’ve seen since the initial launch of the motion of the pendulum started in 2011. So since then, there’s been a lot of change in that area, during the pandemic, and immediately afterwards, there was such an immense increase in cheating, that a lot of institutions more or less looked the other way. Because, you know, are you going to suspend three quarters of your student body? Since then I think there has been a wide range of reactions to that pattern. Because some some schools and some individual instructors feel like we need to push back hard on the bad habits that we allowed the students to pick up before, and we really need to enforce the hell out of the rules. Other places are more, it kind of take the opposite approach and say, we can’t just cold turkey, everybody. We need to do a better job of instructing people how to do this work effectively. And we also have the problem caused, both by cheating in particular, but also by remote learning in general, where there were fundamental students missed. So a lot of students who are applying to college this fall, their freshman math, was shaky at best, and they were either automatically passed, or they passed, but they were cheating, whatever, and now they’re in precalc. And they didn’t really learn algebra one. And that’s a huge problem that isn’t necessarily solved through punishment. So these are all things that I’ve seen some changes over time, especially in academic misconduct and sexual misconduct.

Sheila Akbar: 

It’s so interesting. And I’ll ask you one more question. And then I’ll let you go. You’ve already spent so much of your time with us, you’ve been very generous. I’m curious when a student is applying either as a first year or a transfer applicant, after some sort of disciplinary issue, whether that was in high school or in college. How is an admissions committee looking at that file differently? Are they collaborating with some sort of disciplinary committee within their university? Are they just evaluating it on the basis of you know, admissibility, the way they would with, let’s say, a more traditional student? What What’s different about the way they’re reading those files?

Hanna Stotland: 

So if it’s a very minor Well, I should say something that I consider minor, I have seen kids get kicked out of Catholic school for having a nicotine vape. Right, which I think is a huge public health problem and a really low, not much of a discipline problem doesn’t merit the academic death penalty. If a college sees something like that, they may be able to handle that within the admissions office itself, where the primary reader who is usually a pretty junior member of the staff, is going to kick that upstairs to someone with Dean or vice president in their title. And that person saying yea or nay, they’re going to weigh in on that file, even if they don’t always review each decision?

Sheila Akbar: 

And would they ever talk to the previous institution about that? Like, let’s get the details from them.

Hanna Stotland: 

So occasionally, if you weren’t Yes, so that the federal law called FERPA bars institutions from talking to one another without the signed permission, of the student whose files are at issue, or their parent if they are a minor, so they can’t just pick up the phone, and what have one college call another unless there’s permission there. So often, they will seek that permission. And I almost categorically encourage my students to give it because if you refuse it, the truth is almost never as bad as what they will envision in the incident information. Right? Like you said, No, you can’t talk to my high school. Well, you’re, you’re an axe murderer, right.

Sheila Akbar: 

What are you hiding?

Hanna Stotland: 

They caught you with an AK 47. And on campus, right? If that’s what they’re gonna think. So it’s usually in your best interest. If an institution is asking to have that conversation, it’s usually in your best interest to say yes, even if you know that your first school is going to say negative things. So you’re already telling them the negative things, right? At least if you’re working with me, I occasionally will get a call from a family that’s looking for my help with a cover up. And I say you got it confused. I mean, not only is this not the work that I do, but lying is free. You don’t you don’t need to pay for expensive expertise to help you lie. Lying is free, you need my expensive help, if you’re going to tell her truths. That’s what you need me for. So back to the admissions committees, if it’s something that’s a lot more serious, selling drugs, sexual misconduct, anything involving violence, or serious vandalism, if you destroyed something in the school, what is usually going to happen is, it’ll first go upstairs to whoever’s in charge of admissions or enrollment. But then they’re often going to gather a committee of stakeholders from around the university. If the admissions staff is interested in taking you, then they will gather an outside committee outside visa vie the admissions office, not the university and say, we’re interested in meeting this student, but we want to speak to you to folks such as public safety, residents life, the General Counsel, the internal law firm of the university, could be the title nine office, if it’s a title nine matter, and could be someone from Counseling and Psychological Services. If a student’s substance abuse or mental health is part of the picture, that is a tough crowd and challenge to write essays that are going to be reviewed by people with really different viewpoints. I mean, the job of the General Counsel is to avert risk for the university. That’s a really different task than matching students with opportunities, which is the job of the admissions office. So a big part of what I help students do is anticipate understanding who your readers are, and how can you talk in your writing in a way that gives you the best odds of communicating positively and persuading all those different professionals who may be weighing in

Sheila Akbar: 

so complicated and so complex. And I’m like, my mind is boggling. You know, at Signet, we’ve dealt with some difficult situations, certainly not at the severity or frequency that you have. And so I’m so glad that you are now in my orbit, and you’re in all of our audiences orbit. If people want to learn more about you what you do, seek your help. How can they find you?

Hanna Stotland: 

So you can go to how to scotland.com It’s hannastotland.com or just google me if you got the spelling roughly right. You’ll it’ll come up on Google and on my landing page on my website, you’ll find a lot of the press that I’ve done other podcasts, some some TV work, some writing that I did for Slate, and you can understand how the issues that I like to get tangled in. And I think it’s probably clear, I really love these kids. I love this work. I love talking about this work. If you’re a fellow professional and you want to have a virtual coffee or virtual beer, I love to talk about this. And so I bring me bring me tough cases. And I’m delighted to work with those kids.

Sheila Akbar: 

Wonderful. And I’ll make sure that link is in our show notes as well. Well, Hanna, thank you, again, so much. You’ve been so generous with your time and your expertise. And I look forward to continuing this conversation.

Hanna Stotland: 

Thank you. This was a lot of fun.

Sheila Akbar: 

This was a little bit of a longer episode, but I think you can see why I probably could have asked her a million more questions and had her share more stories. She really is full of wisdom on these topics. So if you or someone you know is having one of these challenges, Han is a great person to call. She’s not the only person who does this work. And I think it’s important for you all to know that it’s never too late for a transformation and transformation is possible. Everything doesn’t have to go perfectly. In order for you to get the education or the opportunity that you really want. It may take some time. And it’s gonna take some work. But there are people who can help you navigate this. So please don’t feel that all hope is lost. So that’s it for this week. We’re getting into October, and I know things are getting crazy at school. And if you’ve got a kid who’s applying to college, you’re probably pulled all your hair out by now. So on the same tip, please don’t feel like you can’t ask for help. There are lots of people who are able to help you. So please reach out. All right. Take care, everybody. We’ll see you next week.

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