Hello friendly faces! It’s that time of the week, time for CNSMoms’ Meet a Mom spotlight brought to you in part by Mary Gifford of Gifford Law*. This week’s Meet a Mom feature is the lovely Detroit born Glencoe mom of three wee ones, and Owner of a brand new college consulting company, The College Shop, Rachel Zimmerman! Like all entrepreneurs, Rachel took a risk starting up her own company not only during Covid, but whilst pregnant with twin boys! When asked what ultimately led to this decision, without skipping a beat her reply, “The College Shop was ultimately born from my personal experience with not being properly armed with information to find a great college fit.” We are so pleased to introduce you to this energetic and passionate mom – welcome, Rachel!
Hi Rachel! Please introduce yourself. Where do you live and how many children do you have?
Hi everyone! My name is Rachel Zimmerman. I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and moved to Chicago after I graduated college to start graduate school at DePaul University. I lived in the city for 13 years until we headed out to the suburbs in the summer of 2019. My husband, Ryan, is from Evanston and we knew we wanted to move to the North Shore to raise our family. We fell in love with the community in Glencoe. We’ve lived here for just over 2 years now, and even though the vast majority of that was spent in the pandemic, we have still been able to build such a supportive community of friends and neighbors. That is truly what I love most about Glencoe! It’s incredibly welcoming, neighborly, and just feels like home.
We have a four-year-old daughter, Emery and twin one-year-old boys, Charlie and Oliver.
You have your hands full, mama! There’s so much joy but we can all commiserate so what is your least favorite mom job?
My least favorite mom job is getting my kids in and out of car seats! It’s not even the schlepping to and from places that I mind so much as just the effort it takes to get 3 kids safely strapped into their seats–and I have a feeling it’s not going to get much easier when my twins start walking, but at least I get my workouts in?
What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I actually started my undergrad in Art School. I graduated high school intent on becoming a graphic designer, but as things go, my path changed quite a bit over the years. I still love to create art in my spare time (when I find it!) and love making pieces for my kids’ rooms in particular.
Speaking of time, what is your favorite local places to spend with the family?
My favorite place to spend time with my family is Camp Michigania, which is a family camp attached to the University of Michigan’s alumni association in Northern Michigan. We went to Camp Michigania as a family when I was a kid and it’s been incredible to bring my own kids back as an adult. My parents, two sisters and all our families attend every summer–although we’ve missed the last two summers because of the pandemic, we can’t wait to be back in 2022!
That sounds so special! Rachel, When parenting/life gets hard, what’s something you do or tell yourself that gets you through it?
Mom friends. Always. When something gets hard I reach out for help or advice or to commiserate. Someone has always been through it before and will be there to help me through it too. And if not, at least I can laugh about it with my friends.
So true! You are a mompreneur! Tell us about your endeavor, The College Shop!
I am the Founder and Manager of The College Shop, an independent educational consultant practice. In a nutshell, what we do is provide personalized college and post-secondary counseling to students on a 1:1 basis. We focus on three main tenets when helping students prepare for life after high school:
Self Discovery: We help students tap into what makes them unique. Using a variety of exercises, discussions, and assessments to help students understand their strengths, their interests, and everything else that makes them tick. We also use this information to help students select the right classes in high school and decide which extracurricular activities are where they want to spend their time.
School Discovery: The College Shop approaches going to college as a shopping process; we flip the idea of being at the mercy of a college to being a consumer making a purchase. Just if you were to buy a car, a house, or any other large purchase, they need to understand the options and how to compare the options, and what all that information means for their future. We focus the work on finding students their best post-secondary fit through informed decision making.
Post-Secondary Preparation: Once a student is well-informed on both themselves and their options, we guide them through the application process. From application strategy, to essay development, to application management, to acceptance decisions, we walk students through the process with a low stress approach that allows them to build confidence each step of the way.
What did you do before you started The College Shop?
After a short stint in teaching high school social studies, I began a career focused on supporting students on their path to post-secondary success. I worked for five years at Kaplan Test Prep where I gained invaluable experience developing products and services for college admissions exams for Kaplan’s school and district partners. Most recently, I worked as a Strategic Consultant and Consulting Manager at Naviance, a widely used college and career readiness platform. At Naviance, I worked directly with the largest school districts across the country consulting on college and career readiness strategy and approach.
You obviously love what you do! Ultimately, what was the inspiration behind leave your corporate role to start your own company, The College Shop?
The College Shop was ultimately born from my personal experience with not being properly armed with information to find a great college fit. Essentially I had devoted the entirety of my career to college and career readiness. I knew that going out on my own was a major undertaking and wanted to ensure I felt not only ready but also accredited. So, I completed my certificate in college counseling through UCLA’s Extension School which allowed me to deepen my knowledge of post-secondary counseling and prepare for opening my own practice.
In addition to my career experience, I also had a personal experience in not quite finding the right fit myself when I went to college. I knew little about the process other than I wanted to go to art school and my sisters had both gone to the University of Michigan. I applied to the art school at Michigan and was accepted, but when I got there the program just wasn’t the right fit and found myself feeling isolated and unmotivated. I was able to transfer and left art all together. While I look back on my college experience with positivity, I also see that I didn’t make an informed decision. It wasn’t until I was an adult with a better understanding of the difference in higher education art school options that I realized how misaligned U of M’s program was for me. I wanted the option to study both an academic subject and continue growing as an artist, but U of M’s program was a university-based conservatory program, which while a great option for many, wasn’t the right fit for me. Had I understood the difference between earning a BFA vs a BA and the difference between a conservatory and non-conservatory art school model, I likely would have made a different decision for college and might have ended up on a very different path than the one I’m on today.
College is a weighty (and not to mention costly) decision that we expect young students to make. My goal is to make sure they feel equipped with the knowledge to make more informed decisions than I did as a high school senior.
I can relate to all of that! What are some of your proudest moments with your business where you said “wow, I did that”?
Quite honestly, just opening my doors was my proudest moment. I managed to complete my certificate and open my own business during the pandemic, with a preschooler home for much of the time, while pregnant with twins. When I decided to go down this road, I had no idea a twin pregnancy and a pandemic were coming for me, and I’m proud that by the time my boys were 9 months old I had completed my certificate and opened my doors.
What is one thing you really want parents of teens to know the field of college consulting?
There are lots of misconceptions out there about independent educational consultants (IECs). For me, the biggest misconception is that IECs work only with students applying to the most competitive schools and will help students “get in.” This couldn’t be further from the foundation of not only my practice, but almost all IEC’s that I meet. Our goal is to help take the stress out of the process, streamline the procedural aspects, and ensure that students know about all of the options available to them. I work with a range of students and I believe strongly that there are no good colleges, only colleges that are good for you.
What’s next for The College Shop?
Continuing the work I love to do with students and families! I am currently building up my caseload and plan to take a limited number of students for the 21-22 school year, so be sure to reach out to learn more because slots are filling up! I also plan to expand my practice to work directly with schools with underserved populations. The vast majority of my work in post-secondary readiness was focused on improving outcomes for our highest need students and that is work I’m incredibly passionate about and will continue to support within my private practice as well.
Parents can learn more by visiting my website, collegeshopconsulting.com, following me on Facebook and Instagram and, of course, emailing me with your questions! There are no “good” colleges, only colleges that are good for you.