Alumni Spotlight: Chris LaTempa ’10

Pronouns: He/Him

Lafayette Degree & Major(s): Bachelor of Arts, American Studies (Social Justice concentration)

Graduate Degree: Master’s of Science in Education (M.S.Ed.) from the University of Pennsylvania’s School Leadership Program (Independent School Track)

Location: Drexel Hill, PA

Title: Director of College Counseling
Employer: Moorestown Friends School

Describe what your employer/organization does: Moorestown Friends School is a PreK-12 independent Quaker day school.

Please provide a brief overview of your role: I lead the college counseling department, which provides educational programming and guidance for families in their college search and post-secondary school planning.

What gets you excited to go to work each day? I love the community that I work in! My colleagues are fantastic, and the students are incredible! They are deeply thoughtful and each bring their own unique interests and talents that enrich our school. It’s been a lot of fun getting to know them in my first year at MFS.

What keeps you up at night as you think about the opportunities (or challenges) related to your work? Honestly, my role, at least as it exists currently, wouldn’t exist in an ideal world. The college search and application process has become so nuanced that a growing need has emerged to help students navigate the countless complexities of applying to college. I wish the process was simpler and more transparent. There are also many examples of ways in which the college admission process is wrought with inequity, though one could argue that this is at its core a reflection of broader educational and societal inequity. However, in contrast to the way many other countries “do college,” admission to American higher education does tend to look at students more holistically, which has its benefits. At best, many students do end up learning more about themselves and their values through the college process beyond a sole focus on academic output.

What key strengths are necessary to be successful in entering this career field? Patience and a thick skin–you are working with teenagers (and their families)! Love of learning and empathy–working in a school setting is deeply rewarding, but you must have a passion for the work that far outweighs the modest paycheck. Beyond these qualities, strong communication skills, including listening, are essential.

Is education beyond a Lafayette degree required to pursue this path? Counselors in public schools must obtain a graduate degree in school counseling along with state certification. Private schools have fewer mandates, but those hired as college counselors typically have college admission experience and a master’s degree (though not technically required). In some cases, independent school teachers will transition into counseling roles, and there are a number of wonderful professional development organizations that help with the learning curve. Keeping up with trends and maintaining a wide professional network are very important in the world of college admission counseling as well.

How did your Lafayette experience equip you for success in your career field, especially as an early career professional? For one, the Lafayette experience reinforces a “say yes to any opportunity that comes your way” attitude. There’s a two-word Latin phrase for that, but I’m blanking on it at the moment. 🙂 I can point to many examples in which this approach got me to where I am today. I learned how to think critically and communicate both inside and outside of the classroom on College Hill. More directly, I began my career in Lafayette’s admission office, so my job was essentially to convey the Lafayette experience. Living that experience for four years certainly helped!

What specific experiences during your time at Lafayette made the greatest impact on your professional path? Being a tour guide most directly prepared me for obvious reasons, but even if you don’t go on to work in admissions or higher education, knowing how to effectively tailor a message to an audience is a broadly applicable skill. Broadly speaking, connections with professors and fruitful educational experiences in the classroom strengthened my love of learning, which ultimately kept me in the education sector.

As it relates to career exploration and development, what is one thing that you know now that you wish you could go back in time and tell your student self? I took advantage of externships (though I didn’t end up in the field in which I shadowed professionals), but I wish I would have pursued a wider variety of internship opportunities more aggressively. I did an internship in a field that I wasn’t really interested in just to get experience doing *something*, but I wish I approached that process more thoughtfully and intentionally.

What advice do you have for students interested in pursuing your career field? I’ve never met someone who went into college with the intention of pursuing college admission counseling. However, this can be a viable pathway into the education sector. For those interested in teaching, counseling is something to consider, especially if you value one-on-one connections with students. My advice is to talk to people in a variety of school roles. Ask them what they love about their roles and their challenges. Ask them how they got there. Education tends to operate in cyclical ebs and flows–ask them about those cycles, the highs and lows of those ebs and flows.

What strategies, tools, or other efforts do you utilize to find “balance” or reduce your career-related stress? I know there are stigmas around education (shorter work days, off for summers, etc), but I work during the summer and often feel a need to work on nights and weekends. They call this the “passion tax”–educational professionals care deeply about their work and the impact they have, which is rewarding for sure, but this can create an emotional toll. There are times when I set boundaries, and I preserve family time. However, I also allow myself to lean into my work when it brings me joy. Traveling for conferences and college visits can be a lot of fun. My wife works in college admission too, and we enjoy talking about our work afterhours because we find it purposeful. So I guess I would say that one way to find balance (or maybe the illusion of balance) is to find a career that you find purpose and value in–one that you embrace as part of your identity. Easier said than done, I know!

How do you enjoy spending your free time when not at work? Time with my family, no matter what we’re doing, is what I value most. Usually this takes the form of binging TV shows and movies with my wife, chasing my baby girl around, family walks with the dog, or various activities and gatherings with extended family and friends. Beyond that, I love to golf, play fantasy sports, work out, and sample flights at new breweries.

What was your favorite spot on Lafayette’s campus when you were a student? I have very fond memories sledding behind Pardee Hall, playing racquetball in Kirby (Buck Courts they’re called, I think?), and catching up with friends in the lounge of each residence hall I lived in.

Would you like to connect with Chris to learn more about his career path?
Mr. LaTempa is happy to connect with students via LinkedIn or email.
If you’d like to connect with Mr. LaTempa by email, please contact your Gateway Career Counselor for details.

By Gateway Career Center
Gateway Career Center