ILONA CASTRO, College Admission Counselor

Qualifications and Experience

  • 12 years experience in college admission
  • Former Director of International Undergraduate Admission at Stevens Institute of Technology
  • Former Recruitment Manager for international pathway and English language programs at George Mason University
  • Worked with international and American applicants pursuing both STEM and humanities programs

When I first applied to college, I felt excited but also overwhelmed and anxious, as most students do. Having grown up on the East Coast, my stress stemmed in part from having parents who, as immigrants from Colombia and Ecuador respectively, knew little about American college applications. Fortunately, I had an experienced and caring college counselor who guided me through the process, and I came to see the value of such personal support for a young person seeking direction in life. My career since has focused on giving other students that same care and counsel.

Because my education at Rutgers University focused on language studies – I am fluent in 4 languages – I have been able to offer such guidance to students across different cultural and national backgrounds. Since 2004, I have worked to help students of diverse backgrounds navigate the challenges of the university search and admission process to both private and public institutions. I understand the complexities and opportunities of the college admission journey. While my work and personal interest started with a humanities background, my many years of doing admissions for a well-regarded engineering program also gave me a deep understanding and appreciation for the demands of a STEM education.

By working with international students, I was able to mesh my language background with a focus on STEM. Thus, in my last two years at Stevens Institute of Technology I was part of the development and management of the Brazilian Science Mobility Program, which enabled Brazilian college students studying science and engineering to spend a year at an American institution. Subsequently, I managed international student programs at George Mason University in Washington DC as well. In these roles I witnessed international students rising to the challenge of an American education, but also saw the role that adequate preparation and support could make in ensuring student success in college. I traveled to over 30 countries to talk to students about applying to American colleges, gaining an appreciation for the differences among global educational systems but also for the role I could play in helping students bridge the gap between the two.

As an independent counselor, I am excited to support and guide students from the US and abroad in finding institutions that are the best match for their academic, intellectual and personal goals.

It is not only about doing it right, but doing more. Ilona Castro not only demonstrated this since the very first time we met, but exceeded my expectations in dealing with unexpected, hard and complex situations by providing intelligent solutions . . .