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Q&A with your Counselor – Sarah de Sousa

Welcome back to our Q&A Series! We sat down with Sarah de Sousa, our wonderful counselor of 5 great years (so far!) and also our mindfulness and wellness expert. 


Where did you go to college?

I attended Stanford University, where I studied modern thought and literature through the Humanities Honors Program. I was also a liaison to the departmental steering committee for the Humanities Department while there and a volunteer organizer for admit weekend, which gave me some valuable insight into the admission process. I later attended Santa Clara University where I received an M.A. in counseling psychology. At SCU I became deeply engaged in practicing and researching mindfulness and its relationship to psychological wellbeing.


What is your favorite memory from your college days?

Some of my favorite memories from Stanford are dance related, as dance has been one of my lifelong hobbies and passions. I co-directed Cardinal Ballet and was a member of Los Salseros de Stanford, a competitive salsa team. I also enjoyed studying abroad through Stanford in Florence, where I had the unique opportunity to study Dante in depth with one of the world’s foremost Dante scholars in the town of Dante’s birth. Most Stanford students complain about the freshman required course IHUM (Introduction to the Humanities), but I enjoyed the class so much, I majored in humanities and felt so fortunate to have small class sizes and close mentorship from my professors. I once took a class on representations of love in French literature that only had three students—I loved every minute of that class. If you haven’t already guessed, I wasn’t a sports enthusiast… I only attended two football games in the four years I was there, but you could always find me at a poetry reading or live performance.


What inspired you to become a college admissions counselor?

After a decade-long career in the specialty coffee industry, I went back to school to study psychology with the purpose of working with adolescents. I did not know at the time that educational consulting was a potential career path and serendipitously discovered Insight while looking for part time work as a graduate student. Since high school, I have enjoyed mentoring younger students and when the opportunity arose, I realized this profession was a perfect fit for my unique experience as a writer, psychologist, businesswoman, and mentor.


What is the best thing about being a college admissions counselor?

The best part of my job is not when students are admitted to college (though admittedly that feels pretty great!), but when they write to me, often as they are heading off to college for their first year, and thank me for helping them develop the psychological and emotional tools to be successful in the college environment. When I feel that I’ve helped a student grow and mature through the process of self-reflection that college applications require, then I know I’ve done my job. There is no more rewarding feeling in the world than having the profound honor to mentor young people in becoming the best versions of themselves.


What is the most challenging thing about being a college admissions counselor?

The most challenging aspect of my job is helping students and families understand the full range of options and environments available in higher education in the US. My goal is always to find schools that are a right fit for each student’s personality, interests and profile, which often means looking beyond the short list of brand-name institutions with which most families are readily familiar.


How long have you been with Insight? What is your favorite memory from this time?

I have been with Insight for five years and I have watched our company grow in that time from a full-time team of three to the wonderful, slightly larger team we have now. It is hard to pick a favorite memory because we have so much fun all the time and I learn so much from my colleagues every day that I am here. More recently, bringing my newborn son, Mateo, to Insight to meet the team created a memory that I will always cherish. In short, my colleagues are the best. Ever. 

(Cue the awwws from Sarah’s very chuffed colleague’s) 


Looking to the next 5 years at Insight, what are you most looking forward to?

I am most looking forward to growing our Santa Cruz office and continuing to develop our student wellness programs based on mindfulness and social-emotional skills. Both projects are close to my heart (and one is much closer to my home ;).


Tell us about your favorite restaurant Santa Cruz.

I have been in Santa Cruz so long (literally my whole life) I have had many favorite restaurants over the years. It all depends on my mood… For sushi as a family we often go to Sushi Garden in Capitola, but for a date night with my husband I love Cantine in Aptos, which is a wonderful wine bar that serves excellent tapas! I’m a sucker for tapas. My husband would say Cantine is his favorite restaurant because we happened to be there when Portugal won the last European championship in what he would call the real “football.” [yes, he’s Portuguese].


Who is your favorite sports team?

There is only one sport in our house that matters: soccer. And there is only one sports team in our house that matters: FC Porto… and every four years, team USA and team Portugal in the World Cup. At the last World Cup, team USA actually had to play Portugal and my husband and I watched at a public restaurant where we loudly rooted for the opposite teams. At the end, everyone was shocked that we were married!


What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time when I am not spending quality time with my family, I write both academic publications and poetry. I have contributed to a number of publications on the psychological benefits of mindfulness and in the past year was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in poetry. We also live a stone’s throw from the beach in Seascape, just south of Santa Cruz, so I spend a significant amount of time admiring the view. 


If you had to pick a motto to live by, what would it be?

“Each moment you are alive is a gem.” –Thich Nhat Hanh. These are simple words, but they hold a profound meaning to me. I lost my mom to cancer in 2006 and these words serve as a reminder that life exists only in the present moment. The great invitation offered to us is to be fully alive in each moment and not to live as T.S. Elliot would say a “short distance from [ourselves],” but to inhabit our bodies and our lives with reverence for the gift that each moment is.  


What is your favorite weather season and why?

My favorite season is Fall. In Santa Cruz we call this our “secret summer”… the tourists are gone, the weather is fabulous, and the beaches are empty again for the locals to enjoy.


What is your favorite holiday or event to celebrate and why?

I have always loved Halloween because I love the whole process of making costumes (I’ve been known to hand sew some pretty elaborate get-ups), getting dressed up and enjoying all of the fantasy and imagination the holiday inspires. But I also love the New Year now that I am older. My husband and I started a tradition with our family of writing down the things we wish to let go of from the past year or that we have been holding on to for many years and tossing them into a fire to celebrate.


If you weren’t a college admissions counselor, what would your dream job be?

Seriously, I have my dream job. I’m not kidding.


Where in the world would you love to travel?

I have been to many of the places on my bucket list: Cuba, Brazil, Spain, Italy, France, England, Portugal, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, the list goes on… I was fortunate when I worked in the coffee industry to be able to travel to many places around the world and experience many different cultures. However, there are still quite a few places I haven’t been that I would love to experience: Ireland, New Zealand, Bali, India, Morocco, Angola (the country where my husband was born) to name a few…


Any parting words of wisdom or advice to students?


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What Are Insight Students & Parents saying?
  • Zach, thank you so much for helping me become a confident and successful writer

  • We were extremely happy throughout the process – got much more than what we invested in Insight counseling.

  • From their knowledge of all the colleges and resources, professionalism and the hands-on coaching, Insight has raised the bar!  

  • Insight counselors truly care about students not only during their time at Insight but further along the road.

  • I am currently a student at Carnegie Mellon University and I can honestly say that without Insight Education, I would not have gotten in.

  • Sarah was a great mentor & worked with our kid in keeping him motivated & focused along the way. She is extremely knowledgeable 

  • I wanted to thank Purvi from the bottom of my heart for guiding both of my kids through the maze of high school education.

  • Our counselor really helped in educating us – the parents – on the process.

  • I took an Insight SAT Boot Camp, and afterward I got 1570 on the SAT! 800 in MATH!

  • It was the best experience ever! Purvi is so friendly and she really knows her stuff. She helped me to edit my personal statements for UCs.

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