About Virtual College Counselors
Virtual College Counselors provides stress-free, personalized, and professional one-on-one college guidance with innovative and passionate experts from the comfort of a student’s own home. While college might be the goal, we emphasize the holistic development of a student including academic, professional, and personal growth. At our core, we believe that every student deserves an opportunity for success and happiness. Supporting and advocating for our students requires honesty, transparency, and authentic relationships with students to guide them in cultivating a sense of agency and empowering them on a journey of holistic development. As we work with students, we emphasize six major Growth Goals: Fostering Independence & Cultivating a Sense of Agency, Aligning Personal Values With Academic & Professional Goals, Promoting Critical Thinking & Creativity, Encouraging Self-Reflection, Improving Communication Skills, and Embracing Uncertainty.
Sawyer is an education professional who has worked in both college admission offices and small startups. His admissions experience has taken him across the U.S.A. and Asia. During his tenure as Assistant Director of Enrollment at Hendrix College, he managed the university's enrollment coaching program and recruited domestic and international students alike. As a first-generation college student, he is passionate about the transformative power of education and the pursuit of equity in the world.
Sawyer's prior work experience includes oversight of launch operations at Admissions Geek (Ed Tech Startup), project coordination for In Tune Inc. (Online Music Startup), and conducting international marketing in Shanghai at SMH International Consulting Agency. He graduated from Rhodes College with a B.A. in International Studies focusing on East Asia. During his undergraduate years, he spent nine months abroad in China pursuing intensive language studies at Nanjing University and volunteered as a language instructor through an English as a Second Language (ESL) program. He was named a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholar by the U.S. Department of State, and a Buckman International Fellow. He was also inducted into the Omicron Delta Kappa and Phi Beta Kappa honor societies.
Sawyer has been a member of SACAC, TACAC, International ACAC, and is currently a member of College Consultants of Colorado, a Professional Member of IECA, and a Certified Educational Consultant (CEP). Within IECA, Sawyer serves on both the DEI and Global Committees. Sawyer also serves on the Verto Education Advisory Board helping guide its initiatives for student services, equity, inclusion, access, curriculum, partnerships, and student recruitment.
Jessica Chermak is an Independent College Counselor with over a decade of experience in academia and helping students navigate the college admissions process. She also spent four years conducting research at University of Colorado Boulder’s Institute of Behavioral Science, and the prior two years working as an Operations Research Analyst for the US Army at the TRADOC Analysis Center, in White Sands Missile Range, NM.
Jessica graduated from Chapman University with a BA in Psychology. At Chapman, she was a research assistant in the cognitive science laboratory, studying hemisphere differences for processing emotional language. She was also a founding member of the Honors Organizational Board of Students, and an active member in Mortarboard Honor Society and Hillel. Upon graduation, Jessica was awarded the SMART Scholarship (Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation) to attend the University of Denver for an MA in Forensic Psychology. She is a Certified Educational Planner (CEP), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and Professional Member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA). Jessica is also a member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the Rocky Mountain Association for College Admission Counseling (RMACAC), and serves on the board of the College Consultants of Colorado (CCC).
In addition to being an independent college counselor, Jessica also serves as a College & Career Counselor for Living Wisdom High School (based in Palo Alto, CA).
meet our intern!
Olivia Porta is an intern for Virtual College Counselors as well as a past client. She's a first-year student at New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study.
Olivia has always had an interest in writing and is published through Amazon. She aspires to write books for a living and write comedy sketches for Saturday Night Live one day. As a senior member of the Improv Club, she's very interested in making people laugh.
As an intern, she gives insight into the college admissions process through the eyes of a student. College should be accessible to everyone, but sometimes it's confusing, especially coming from the mouths of adults. Olivia is here to provide a fresh pair of eyes.
Everyone has a story. Stories are more than simply entertainment or a recounting of events. Stories encapsulate the human experience, while demonstrating values, growth, and how experiences have shaped a person. When we work with students, we empower them to authentically and honestly reflect on their stories to help create a meaningful lifelong journey. We are more than counselors, advisors, or consultants. We are people and we have our own stories. If we expect students to share their journeys, then it is only fair that we share ours.
I'm a first-generation college student originally from Alabama. As a child, money was scarce, but fortunately, I was single-handedly raised by the strongest and kindest woman I've ever known. My mother helped to cultivate my worldview, where a hearty laugh, supportive shoulder, and strong stance against injustice was more important than any amount of money.
My journey was not always easy, but I found solace and support through my school community, mentors, and friends. I went to high school at Bayside Academy in Daphne, AL and my college counselor, Mary Ann Willis, suggested I read the Colleges That Change Lives book. After reading, I was enamored by the idea of small liberal arts schools. I stumbled through my college search quite a bit, but landed on a small list of schools: Vanderbilt, College of Charleston, Reed College, Hendrix College, Rhodes College, and Sewanee. I eventually chose Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, and majored in International Studies-History with a focus in East Asia. I served on the school’s Honor Council, traveled abroad twice (Shanghai & Nanjing, China), and made some lifelong friends.
After graduating, I worked several jobs but was keenly aware of an emptiness that no job could fill. I realized that being in a school community was where I had always felt empowered and supported. I began working at Hendrix College to reclaim that feeling and guide students to find their own home away from home. During my four years at Hendrix, I oversaw international student recruitment, worked with DACA students, became a first-gen mentor, was involved in eSports recruitment, and recruited students from over 25 states. While I enjoyed a great many things in my job, it was working with students and families that made my work fulfilling. I became an independent college counselor to continue working with students and families, advocate for them, and be beholden to only their best interests.
I am a humanist who has found purpose through empowering others on journeys of self-discovery and growth. The journey can be messy, challenging, and often filled with uncertainty, but never lacking in teachable moments. My work with students is not meant to be transactional, it is meant to be transformational. My goal is to build authentic and meaningful relationships with students, to serve as a mentor, and empower them to grow and transform as academics, professionals, and people who strive to make the future a better place.
I find myself drawn to students who mirror my story: first-generation, lower socio-economic levels, unstable homes, interest in the liberal arts, eSports athletes, and a passion for wanting to do more even if they're lacking an obvious path forward.
I grew up in the suburbs of San Diego, in a single-parent household. My mother demonstrated and encouraged independence, tenacity, and self-reliance. When I set out on my own college search journey, I was empowered to pursue all avenues of interest, but didn’t exactly have much guidance in my decision-making. I fell head over heels for Washington University in St Louis after visiting a friend and cousin during my senior year, and submitted an Early Decision application (Spoiler Alert: I was deferred to the Regular Decision pool and subsequently rejected).
I wound up at Chapman University, and quickly realized the school was not a great fit for me. It certainly didn’t help that I was a Biology major (pre-med), and suddenly didn’t enjoy science. I felt pretty trapped during my first semester, and applied to transfer. While my transfer applications were being reviewed, a friend sat me down to encourage me to change majors. In my head, I had to pick something else instead of Biology, but in reality, the question was really Biology or Not-Biology, and it was suddenly a much easier question to answer. I ultimately decided to pursue a degree in Psychology, and immediately sought out opportunities as a research assistant in a cognitive science lab on campus, dove deeper into courses in the honors program, took a leadership role on the Chancellor’s Student Advisory Board, and became a founding member of the Honors Organizational Board of Students .
After deciding to graduate from Chapman a year early, I started applying to graduate school. I was methodical this time around, though, because I felt I had a better sense of what else I was looking for in a school and a program. Against all advice, I turned down my acceptance to the University of Pennsylvania, and elected to attend the University of Denver. I wanted to be in Colorado, and I wasn’t a huge fan of Philadelphia. But most importantly, I wanted a program that would provide me with hands-on experience in the field. In my Forensic Psychology program, I participated in two externships each year, wherein I acquired clinical hours to ultimately pursue my LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) credential. I realized fairly early on in the program that I was most fulfilled when coaching clients who were working through how to engage in making major life decisions. Thanks to the SMART Scholarship, I had funding for tuition, books, health insurance, and a sizable living stipend. It also required me to sign on as an Operations Research Analyst for the Army at White Sands Missile Range, NM for two years following my degree completion.
Throughout my graduate education and stint with the Army, I found myself continually in the position of providing career and college counseling support to friends and colleagues. It came as no surprise that all the clinical work I had completed (which focused primarily on mindfulness-based approaches to addressing stress and anxiety, and building resiliency) greatly informed my counseling work. So I began exploring ways in which I could integrate into the field of college counseling in a more official capacity. After fulfilling my commitment in New Mexico, I began a position as a research faculty member at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Institute of Behavioral Science. In my free time, I established my first college counseling business, CollegEase Consulting and volunteered on CU Boulder's scholarship review committee. Working full time afforded me little time to grow the practice, so after four years at the university, I decided to focus on CollegEase full-time. This gave me a lot more flexibility in engaging with the communities I felt needed the most assistance when it came to understanding college opportunities.
One of my primary motives in college counseling is helping students discover schools, programs, and opportunities that are a good fit for them academically, socially, and financially. The most exciting part about the process with every student is watching how much they grow as they journey through the college search and application process, particularly in their essay development. By the end of the entire process, my students have a thoroughly developed and authentic representation of who they are, their values and aspirations, solid executive functioning skills, and a strong sense of autonomy, agency, and purpose.