Franca Rawitz on Traveling Cross-Country and Differentiating Wants and Needs

Noodle Expert Franca Rawitz discusses what students can gain by traveling across the United States and how differentiating her wants from her needs made her happier.

Who would you pick, alive or dead, to be your teacher for a year? What would you want to learn?

I would love to have my mom back to learn all of the things I was too busy to learn before. The list is endless: how to sew a hem, bake a babka, cook Hungarian specialties, have the patience to always listen, find something to laugh about every day. Now I would savor every tidbit of advice and every minute of her teaching.

I like to think that she taught me how to be a mother. The selflessness, the always going above and beyond, the acceptance of children for who they are and not for who we want them to be This has been enormously helpful to me now as I advocate for students through the college admissions process. So much of what I do is not just managing expectations, but re-educating parents about what’s important in the college experience. To me, a great deal of the college years is about personal growth and self-awareness. I feel successful if I can impart this upon families and help students find the school that become the best four years of their lives.

What is one small piece of advice that has had a big impact on your life?

My father always said “needs can be satisfied, wants can’t be.” There is, indeed, always something else we want. Going through life trying to obtain all those “things” we want can often be discouraging and detrimental to one’s mental health. But going through life feeling satisfied with having all that we need is much more gratifying and opens our eyes to the pieces of our lives that enrich the soul. I believe that I am a richer person and much more satisfied with who I am because I followed his model.

Where would you send a student who hasn’t traveled before?

Cross country in the U.S. The diversity of nature and the beauty in almost every single state is phenomenal. And, of course, the diversity of people cannot be matched anywhere else on earth. Each state is a country in its own right, and traveling the massive expanse of this nation is eye-opening.

When was a time that you failed academically, and what did you learn from the experience?

I was a biology major both undergrad and in graduate school. As such, there were many required courses in the other sciences (chemistry, physics) that were my downfall in college. I truly sweated through these classes and should have realized then that perhaps a science, even one I genuinely loved learning about, was not my destined path. I did not have the scientific mind for biology research I thought (and hoped) I had. I did not fully come to this realization until I was working in the research arena. I finally understood my weaknesses and began to explore how best to use my strengths for a new career.

The most important lesson for me, which I utilize every day in my current profession, is the recognition that it takes many turns before we find our true path. High school students who are anxious because they cannot select a college major learn from me that they don’t have to be. I assure them that regardless of what their major becomes in college, they have a great deal of living and learning to do before they discover the career that will become truly theirs.

Why did you go into your field, and how is it different from what you expected?

I became a college counselor after going through that process with my own children. I saw how time-consuming and draining it is for parents as well as students. Especially today, when the anxiety and fear around college seems to mount every year, families benefit from the calming support and direction that an independent advisor extends. The role of the independent counselor is quite distinct from that of the high school counselor, but the two can collaborate well in the best interest of the student. I don’t believe my job is truly different from what I had expected, but it never ceases to be a learning experience. Because the landscape of college admissions is always evolving, there is always another layer to understand. Of course, this also keeps the work challenging and exciting.

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