Interview: Maria Kessel, Former Princeton University Admissions Officer

This month, we decided to speak with Mariel, a former Princeton University admissions officer, to take you behind the scenes at our recommended US university application service. As a new senior advisor at the company, Mariel shares a little on her educational background, experience and advice for making a successful application to a top US educational institution.

Please tell us a bit about your background.
I grew up in the American South but have spent most of my adult life elsewhere. I think one garners a unique perspective from living in different places, meeting new people, and experiencing different cultures. I’m married to a historian. We love to take really long hikes (weeks on end) and to do watercolors together.

Where did you attend university and why?
I attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. I wanted a small school in a rural setting because I thought that was what the quintessential college experience should look like. I loved the small classes, the access to the faculty, and the types of people who were attracted to a school like Smith. It is one of the Seven Sisters—which, in all honesty, I didn’t give much thought to at 18. I’m glad I didn’t because attending Smith was one of the best choices I made.

Tell us about your experience as a Princeton Admissions officer.
I spent six years at Princeton University as an admission officer where I had the privilege to travel all over the United States and the world. I loved meeting new students each year, interacting with school counselors, and giving advice. Often, my job was more about getting students to think about college broadly rather than focusing on just Princeton.

What makes a stellar application stand out?
It sounds cheesy, but honesty is what makes a stellar application stand out. When you write about something you’re passionate about, something you care about it, it shines through in a really incredible way. I read thousands of applications every year, and the genuine ones really stood out from the bunch.

Any final advice for students filling out their applications?
Proofread. Proofread again. And then, read it out loud.

For further support preparing and making your application to your chosen US University, Almost Essential encourages you to contact our recommended US university application service.