Joanie Brotman

Kamuela, Hawaii, United States

College Prep Counselor

Hawaii Preparatory Academy

In college counseling, I feel fulfilled every day. I know I have the knowledge and compassion to help families through one of the most stressful and trying times of their lives and even enjoy the process. I am there to encourage students, believe in them and open doors for them to peek through - often doors they didn't even know existed. That OMG moment, “You mean I can do THAT in college?" is absolutely the best.

Since 2003, I have been a college counselor at Hawaii Preparatory Academy, a small, private, K-12, independent, college prep high school on the Big Island in Hawaii. Our high school student population is about 400, grades 9-12. About 50% of the high school students live on campus, and half of those who board are international students who come from all over the world. The other 50% are day students from this island.

Every day is exciting because I have the opportunity to help students and their families navigate the confusing, complicated, ever changing world of college admissions. I get to help students find their dream and figure out how to get there. I am there at a pivotal point in their lives and can really make a difference in how they make some life changing choices for themselves.

Here’s a bit of what we can cover in our PivotPlanet session(s):
• How to empower and encourage students.
• How to understand what your role is as a college counselor.
• How to balance work, time, and attention.
• How to access resources relative to college counseling.
• How to communicate honestly, compassionately and clearly.
• How to educate parents and students as to what their roles are in the process.


After being a stay-at-home mom for seven years, I started working for Hawaii Preparatory Academy’s college counseling office as an administrative assistant, just as a way to help pay the private school tuition for my daughters. I quickly learned on the job and moved into a full-time counselor position. I knew immediately I had found the perfect job. I am a multi-tasker, thrive in situations where I am going in a dozen directions at once, love being around high school students, am a born optimist, and I never, ever give up on a kid. I subsequently enrolled in the College Counseling Certificate Program through the UCLA Extension Program.

I think it is really important for college counselors to interact with honesty, integrity, compassion and intelligence with the four entities involved in the process of selecting a college - the student, the parents, the colleges and the high school. It is important everyone understands the mechanics of the process and the influence each brings to the selection.

College counseling is a balancing act, for sure. I would say my strength lies in my advocacy for my students and my compassion for their parents as well as my relationships with the colleges.

I would also say that this is not a job for you if money is a huge part of why you are working. College counseling can be very lucrative if you are a private counselor hired by wealthy families to help get their kids into fancy schools, but if you work for a high school, don't expect to make a fortune. College counseling is the kind of work you do if you love: education, working with kids, working with parents, dreaming and writing. Private college counselors typically don’t write recommendations, but for college counselors who work at schools, writing is a huge part of our jobs.