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Admission adviser?s enthusiasm inspires high school seniors to apply

Date: 12/01/2015

First impressions are important for a person as well as an organization.

Women in crimson scarf holding "Discover" viewbook.
Sylvia Castillo has worked for New Mexico State University for 25 years, including 15 years as an admissions adviser, visiting high schools throughout New Mexico to encourage seniors to applying to NMSU. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)
Woman standing between two people looking at the computer monitor.
Sylvia Castillo, senior admissions adviser at NMSU's Albuquerque Center, shows future Aggie parents how to access admissions and scholarship applications via the Internet. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

NMSU has nine admission advisers who are the first contact many high school students have with New Mexico State University. Their work is crucial for increasing student enrollment each semester.

For 15 years, senior admissions adviser Sylvia Castillo has been informing high school student about NMSU.

When high school students and their parents walk into Castillo?s office at NMSU?s Albuquerque Center, they can feel the pride she has in the university. The bookshelves are filled with NMSU memorabilia including various Pistol Pete images, pennants, and foam rubber No.1 hands.

In June, Castillo celebrated 25 years of service with NMSU. After obtaining a degree in family child sciences from NMSU, the Las Cruces native found her niche working for the university. The first 10 years of her career were in the admissions and registrar?s offices.

?I had 8 to 5 office jobs,? she said. ?I saw recruiters traveling and I thought that would be a lot of fun.?

Since then, she has traveled throughout New Mexico and as far away as Seattle, Denver and Dallas. Her recruiting trips have taken her to California, Colorado and Arizona.

Now she is responsible for visiting high schools in Albuquerque and northern New Mexico, as well as going to college fairs at New Mexico community colleges and in Colorado.

?I?m out of the office eight of 10 days,? she said. ?I?m a road warrior for the university.?

Each year, she gives her presentations hundreds of times to groups and individuals, but it doesn?t get old for Castillo.

?I like the passion in the students,? she said. ?I tell them the importance of a college education. When I see that they want to continue their education, it motivates me to help them.?

The advice Castillo gives the high school seniors is information she wishes she had heard when she entered NMSU as a freshman. She says she might have done things differently. It took tries at majors in government and business before she found the right one.

?I had never heard about family child science,? she said. ?I took a class and realized it was a good fit for me. I like people and I like to counsel them. I?m counseling high school seniors when I?m recruiting.?

She uses that experience when high school seniors say they don?t know what they want to study. Castillo encourages the students to think about what they want as a career and then find a major that fits it.

?I tell them to visit the college websites and read about the various programs to see what sounds like something they want to do,? she said. ?I tell them if they are still undecided, that once they are at NMSU, to take introductory course in various areas to see what interests them.?

The excitement the high school students have regarding continuing their education is what has kept Castillo going over the years.

?I tell them about New Mexico State and all we have to offer,? she said. ?I encourage them to attend our Aggie Experience senior day so they can see the campus. Many times when I go back to a high school after Aggie Experience, students will come up to me and say, ?I love New Mexico State. It?s awesome. That?s where I want to go. They are so excited, it gets me excited.??

That excitement fuels Castillo?s enthusiasm, and because of that passion, she goes the extra mile to help the student navigate the application process, including financial aid.

?I don?t want them to graduate and have a large loan to pay,? she said. ?I encouraging them to apply for our scholarships, and any and all other scholarships.?

But many times they have not applied themselves to their high school classes and their grade-point average does not meet the requirements. That?s when she wishes she had talked to them when they were in ninth grade.

?Recently in Pojoaque, after my talk to the seniors, three ninth-grade girls, who had been in the back of the library, came to me and said, ?You got us excited about college. You talked about how important grades are from ninth grade on.? They said they were looking at college now from a different perspective. I gave them the viewbook and told them to look at it ? especially the GPA requirements and what scholarships they can get.?

She wishes she could have inspired other ninth graders in the past. For some, by the time they are a senior and begin thinking about their future, getting A?s won?t help their GPA to reach college entrance requirement.

?I had a student at Albuquerque High School who had decided he wanted to be a veterinarian,? she said. ?But as I worked with him and looked at his transcript, I realized he didn?t have the GPA for admissions.?

Rather than just telling him he couldn?t get into NMSU, Castillo encourage the young man to attend a community college and prove he can make the grade at the college level.

?I gave him the degree requirements and told him to take classes that would apply to his major when he transferred to NMSU,? she said. ?I really hate it when a community college student is ready to attend a four-year school and half of the classes they have taken won?t transfer.?

Castillo concludes each of her presentations to high school seniors with a pep talk.

?I tell them when they get to New Mexico State to go to class, do your homework, get tutoring if you need it, and have fun,? she said. ?I want them to get involved in campus activities so they will have an amazing time at New Mexico State and graduate.?

Many of the students she has advised keep in touch with her during college and afterward.

?I get emails from them and even graduation announcements,? she said. ?Many have sent their brothers and sisters to me to help get them on their way to obtaining a college education.?

? Written by Jane Moorman



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