2017 Scholar Story from Mabadjam Katawa

How the International ACAC Scholar Program Influenced My Life
and Facilitated Opportunities for Togolese Highly Talented Students


As a high school English teacher in northern Togo, my main job has been to teach the English as a second language to Francophone high school students. My journey to counseling and career guidance began when I started looking for ways to bring my support to highly talented, low-income students who often end up dropping out or sometimes attending universities not up to their caliber because of the lack of financial support. I have personally experienced how hard it is to access higher education. I had to stop my studies from time to time to work and get money before going back to campus. And after finally completing my Bachelor’s degree in English with a focus on African literature, I wanted to continue for Master’s and doctoral studies, but was quickly impeded by the lack of financial resources. The little money I could make from my hard work outside school, which I used to pay my school fees and university tuition, could no longer cover all the other expenses (books, room rental, mobile phone airtime and data, etc.). 

I became an English language teacher because I wanted people in my community to learn the English language and be exposed to many opportunities around the world. After I had become a teacher, I looked for ways to help the highly talented students access higher education. I started looking for opportunities online. It took me lots of time and money to buy internet connectivity every day. At first, I had no idea about how the university application processes worked outside of Togo, nor about the different requirements for accessing universities in the USA, UK, Canada, etc. I did not know how to write a strong letter of recommendation or how to guide my students when it comes to writing a good application essay. Google was my teacher and trainer. I downloaded and read sample recommendation letters and sample application essays, I read about the processes and tried to write my own essays, and then coached my students. 

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NACAC - What’s Happening ? Questions and Answers.

NACAC - What’s Happening ?  Questions and Answers.

At the National NACAC Conference at the end of the month several major issues are at  play that will impact the National Association - and has the potential to alter the Admission landscape.  The following is a break down of the issues as outlined by Past President and Chief Delegate to the NACAC National Conference, Aaron Andersen.



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Member Spotlight: Claire Wilkins


Member Spotlight 

Claire Wilkins
Director of International Admissions
Temple University

What drew you to the world of international admissions?
Serendipity and a desire to prevent others from experiencing what I experienced. I was a third culture kid and an international student who went to three high schools in three cities across two countries. From a Canadian curriculum to an IB curriculum (in two separate countries) to university in Wales, Canada and England, my educational path was riddled with obstacles, changes and people who didn't understand who I was, where I was from and what I'd studied. I, like many others, fell into admissions after other careers as I was always drawn to education and the chance to be able to be someone who could help international students like myself overcome those obstacles, prepare for those changes and be understood was something I couldn't pass up. 

What is your favorite part of the job?
Seeing the light turn on for a student once they realise their potential and their own agency in the process. 

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Diversity Initiative Update


As many of us begin our academic year (or prepare for summer break depending on your hemisphere!), it seems like a long time ago that we were gathered on the campus of Western University in London, Ontario Canada, learning and growing as an international family. One of the moments where you saw candor and honest conversation was during the diversity and inclusion workshops conducted by trainers from the Council of International Schools (CIS). Part of a larger Diversity Initiative undertaken by International ACAC, these workshops aimed to push the conversation of equity and inclusion to the forefront by having members reflect on their own held biases and speak candidly about how these affect members.

It’s clear that these conversations around equity and inclusion cannot be concluded in one simple workshop. Indeed, a sequence of three workshops were held during the summer Conference - for the Executive Board, Pre-Conference attendees, and for Committee members and the general membership.  They were not always easy conversations - they never are. But they are important to have and the leadership at International ACAC sees this need.

So what’s the next step for these necessary conversations?  As we are all in various parts of the globe, our work will move on-line. International ACAC will be offering Global Diversity and Inclusion webinar training sessions developed from the sessions given at the July Summer Conference in London, Ontario to over 350 International ACAC members!  Three webinars will be offered at varied times to honor global time zones between October 28 and November 3.  Committee members of International ACAC are required to engage in our Association's diversity training within the first two years of their term by attending the workshop offered in conjunction with the summer conference or participating in the above mentioned webinar event. There is no cost for this training, and members will find it also applies to the workplace and personal situations of International ACAC members. The trainers, Eeqbal Hassim, a consultant in intercultural and international education and Inventory (IDI) Qualified Administrator, and Chris Green and Ann Straub, International Advisors and IDI Qualified Administrators from the Council International Schools, will be facilitating the two-hour webinar sessions. The sessions will be highly interactive using individual, small group and whole group constructivist activities to build understanding about Intercultural Competency, the Stereotype Wheel, the Culture Cycle and how this all relates to ourselves and International ACAC.  Soon, times and dates in October and May will be announced inviting International ACAC members to join a free webinar training session that suits their schedule.  Stay tuned!

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Survey Results are In!



Survey Results are In! A Look at the Member Survey

In late April International ACAC polled its members to help advise the executive board on crucial challenges facing our organization.  An analysis of the three major questions we posed is provided below.

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President’s Corner: Reflection, Discourse, and Disruption

President’s Corner:  Reflection, Discourse, and Disruption
September, 2019

Hello from Silicon Valley, 

Tonight while I write, I cannot help but think about the daily fast pace, innovation, and distribution that surrounds me here in Santa Clara, California. As we often work as an institution to remind our students and one another to slow down, let go, love, and to see beauty in all, I am using my own advice to tackle the year ahead. 

As a new travel season for many admission officers has begun with typhoons, hurricanes, protesters, traffic jams, missed appointments, and middle seats, we must remember self-care and safety. I can attest that the beauty in this time of year are the hugs hello or meals shared between members across the world as travels, high school visits, and fairs bring us together. Counselors have been greeted with increased anxiety around the college admission process, ongoing testing challenges, changes in school schedules or course offerings, and learning new software platforms for their daily work in supporting students. The information shared during visits and fairs, the Facebook group’s activity, and Webinar Wednesdays strengthens our membership’s professional development support for one another. It is our relationships that offer calm and purpose during this hectic time. 

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Last May, International ACAC members nominated colleagues for the three awards that annually honor leaders in our field. These include the Distinguished Service Award, the Rising Star Award, and the Peter Hauet Lifetime Achievement Award. This year the awards went to three inspiring individuals who have made significant contributions to International ACAC over the years.

Sam Jeong from UWC Changshu, China was selected for the International ACAC Rising Star Award. Sam was recognized for his work with the International ACAC Scholar Cohort and his innovative idea to have students nominate their counselors as scholars. He writes, "Thanks to International ACAC for this tremendous honor! I am still reeling. The idea to have students nominate their former counselors for the International ACAC Scholars program came to me after a particularly intense conversation with a student. She told me that the only reason she was studying in China was because her former teacher—not counselor— back in her home country had pushed her to believe in herself.  As someone who grew up in the public school system in South Korea and Seattle, I realize that the vast majority of secondary schools in the world do not have a college counseling program.

I would go as far as to argue that the profession was created to serve the already privileged and savvy children of highly educated parents with the means to send their kids to an expensive private institution. So, in a way, serving on the Inclusion, Access, and Success committee has been an avenue for me to push back against the system and also to recognize and celebrate the educators working with high-achieving, low-income students who often volunteer to be college counselors on top of their regular professions. The 2019 International ACAC Scholars, who I had the privilege of meeting and befriending as a part of the orientation team, are humble, curious, kind, selfless, and above all, deeply committed to the success of each student they serve. They are a force to be reckoned with.  

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Scholar Program 2019

Scholar Program 2019

By: Kate Dobson, Assistant Director of International Admissions, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; Joe Tavares, High School Counselor, Jakarta Intercultural School

As an International ACAC member, you’ve surely heard about the Scholar Program. Now in its sixth year, it fully funds professional development for counselors who work with high-achieving, low-income students in under-resourced schools or community organizations around the world.

Each year’s cohort of Scholars are selected through a competitive nomination, application, and review process.  They attend the annual International ACAC conference and post-conference bus tour, and are paired with mentors who will support them for a year.

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First Nations

First Nations

Indigenous Peoples is a collective term to reference the Original Peoples of Turtle Island (also known as North America).

In Canada, there are many different Indigenous Peoples (or Nations) with distinct territories, languages, histories, ways of knowing and spiritual beliefs who have survived ongoing settler colonial governments’ attempts to eradicate, assimilate and dispossess them of their lands for over hundreds of years.

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8 Amazing Activities on Western's Campus!

8 Amazing Activities on Western's Campus!

Want to know what the students of Western University are up too during the year?  Western University has one of the most beautiful campuses in Canada and is home to some of the most eventful Western Mustang activities. Check out these amazing activities and food spots on campus during your stay at the Conference this Summer to see how it feels to be a Western Mustang!


  1. Bagels at the Spoke

    The Spoke is one of the most popular restaurants and cafes on campus. Situated within the University Community Centre (UCC), the Spoke offers the infamous ‘Spoke Bagels’ which melt in your mouth every single time. One cannot go wrong while choosing a bagel since they have many different options spanning from the ‘cheddar herb bagel’ with ‘herb and garlic cream cheese’ or the ‘BLT’ on a ‘jalapeno cheddar bagel’. The students love picking one up early in the morning before class or for their lunch time break. They even made personality types with your favourite bagel. Read more about it here on the Western Gazette: https://westerngazette.ca/culture/western-personalities-as-spoke-bagels/article_7c7cfd04-2590-11e9-9a16-c35d0aaf824e.html

    Don’t forget to stop at the Spoke to grab your personalized bagel during the conference!


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Diversity Initiative to Launch at Summer Conference

Differences challenge assumptions.

- Anne Wilson Schaef

How can I identify my deep-seated assumptions and unconscious biases?  Do I have the tools to understand my relationship to my culture? Can I make sense of how I relate to people of other cultures?  How do I gauge my intercultural competence and enhance it? How can I grow in my ability to engage with diversity I encounter in my life, my workplace, and within our professional association?  How can we work towards recognizing and celebrating diversity within International ACAC and how can we make ours a truly inclusive organization?

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President's Corner: Finding Words to Live By

President’s Corner:  Finding Words to Live By

by Aaron Andersen, International ACAC President
June, 2019

As we close out another academic year in much of the world, and many of us are preparing for a restful break - - and the start of our annual conference - - this is always a good time to reflect upon the past year of our Association.

Immediately I’m drawn to recall the list of highlights shared by our executive board members, in our final bi-monthly meeting last week.  To me, a fan of ‘All Things Listed’, I mentally drew up a 2018-19 Top Five for International ACAC list in my mind:

1) Regional Institutes in India and Eastern Europe – hosting successful PD events in two vibrant and engaging countries.  India and Bulgaria both represent critical important sectors of international education.

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11 Activities and Restaurants to visit in London Ontario

11 Activities and Restaurants to Visit in London, Ontario

  1. Covent Garden Market
  • The market is comprised of an indoor and outdoor market with locally grown food from farmers within the area. The outdoor market takes place every Saturday from 8:00am – 1:00pm. Open since 1845, the Covent Garden Market has many unique shops and over 20 restaurants.
  • Check out more information on their website
  • 30 King Street



  1. Rock the Park
  • Rock the Park is an annual music concert held at Harris Park in London, Ontario from July 10th to 13th. Come out and listen to live music from pop, rap and country music.
  • Check out more information about the event at https://rockthepark.ca/site/


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Conference Networking Tips


"Best part of the conference - - oh the NETWORKING!"  This is often a common refrain by conference attendees, not just International ACAC's annual event, but most professionals will often claim the No.1 aspect of a given proffesional development event is the chance to meet and share with colleagues.  Now the benefits of networking are not disputed, however it is the act of networking that often is taken for granted.  In fact just as many people likely will say how exhausting a conference is because of all the networking.  If the very thought of talking and puting yourself out there is making you sweat, here are a few helpful tips to get you prepared for the next International ACAC conference.

1. Do Your Homework

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Social Media Tips For Your Next Conference

The Case for Social Media

By Kelley Ferrante  &  Aaron Andersen
National ACAC            University of British Columbia

The world we live in is drastically influenced by social media. Social media for business and at conferences is no different. Here are some tips to encourage the use of social media at #IntlACAC19 !

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How to Win in Dodgeball 2019

How to Win in Dodgeball
at least look cool trying

By Tracey Grimm
Lincoln School, Costa Rica


It can be said, in no uncertain terms, that the International ACAC Dodgeball Tournament is a highlight of the annual conference. What started with only 12 rag-tag teams at the TCU conference in July of 2006 has morphed into the epicenter of entertainment for higher ed folks and college counselors alike. Seriously, where else will you find cow costumes aplenty, David Zutautas on the mic and a gaggle of overly-competitive Jesuit university reps eager to trash talk anyone who mentions the fact that they were out in 1st round last year? 

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Member Engagement Survey

The field of international admissions and counseling has multiple topics and trends that influence and shape our profession. With the 2018/19 academic cycle nearing an end in many parts of the world, now is a good time to review which of these topics that relate to our Association are most on the minds of our members. International ACAC seeks feedback on membership status, the pillars of our strategic plan, regional networks, and voter participation to ensure we focus our energy in the right areas as we head into planning our summer Executive Board meetings.

Please take a few minutes to complete this brief survey

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Grant Application Period for Europe Regional Institute Extended until April 15th

Grant Application Period for Europe Regional Institute Extended until April 15th

The 2019 Europe Regional Institute is fast approaching. Just over a month from now, colleagues from around the world will meet at the historic American College of Sofia in Bulgaria for International ACAC’s first-ever dedicated professional development conference focused on international university admissions in this region of the continent. We’re honored by the positive response we’ve received from you as registrations continue to grow.

The Faculty Co-Chairs have put together a stellar faculty to address compelling topics that are key to understanding the region’s students and university systems. We’re keen to share this learning, networking and recruiting opportunity with as many colleagues as possible. To that end, we hope you’ll take us up on our request that you share the attached invitation to attend the Europe Regional Institute with those contacts you know would benefit from the International ACAC brand of professional development. Some of them might not even be members (yet!), but we bet that, if they got to know us at our best- when we’re generously sharing our knowledge with others or engaging in effective and enjoyable networking with colleagues- they’d be just as hooked as those of us who are already members.

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"IB very confused": the new math courses and me

"IB very confused": the new math courses and me

by Tu Anh Gilmore


Sitting behind my counselor’s desk, I often find my days in conversations with the Grade 10s as they decide on which IB Course selections they ought to choose to best fit their life’s trajectory. It is easy to simply say, “Just do what you are good at...pick the courses that you are naturally talented in and like.” Well for me, this answer isn’t good enough. Whilst I have now found my life’s calling in a career that is almost perfectly in tune and playing to the strengths of my Via Character Analysis and true passions, the journey here wasn’t without great financial costs and extra dedicated time.

I picked a first career that I was good at: Maths. But after advancing to lead IB workshops in mathematics, I realised the greater intersection was yet to come. And after taking the full plunge, I find myself in my happy place. In this intersection lies my responsibility within my own communities and the greatest impetus for my change in career: IB recognition in math through high school and college counseling, in order to change one life at a time.

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Conference Funding Request Template

Many counselors attend the International ACAC Conference thanks to the support of their school's administration. However, sometimes just finding the time to write a letter of request can be a challenge.
If you need help requesting funding for this valuable professional development opportunity, International ACAC has drafted the following letter template to get you started. 

INSTRUCTIONS: Simply access the template from this blog post, copy the content into a word document, edit and personalize, mail to your principal/superintendent, cross your fingers ... 


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