Preparing to head to college can be a time of excitement and trepidation, as high school students face a mountain of applications and other paperwork for admissions, scholarships, financial aid and internships. Important and sometimes life-altering decisions hang in the balance. No one understands that better than Jolyn Brand, the recipient of the Savvy Sister Award, part of Houston Woman Magazine’s Sixth Annual Nominate HER Awards Program. She was nominated for the award by her husband, David Brand.
Brand is the founder and CEO of Brand College Consulting in Friendswood, Texas, and is happy to share her knowledge and guidance with young people— knowledge she personally gained the hard way.
As a senior at Rayburn High School in 1997, this honors student — who nurtured a vision of a college degree — discovered she was expecting a baby. While others might have been overwhelmed by this, Brand was undaunted and graduated in the top 10 percent of her high school class. This determined multi-tasker then entered the University of Houston carrying a full course load, working two full-time jobs and caring for her newborn son.
She graduated on time with a degree in business management, but soon realized other young people might benefit from her experience and became an educator. At Miller Intermediate School where, along with her teaching responsibilities, she launched the school’s first English as a Second Language Program, coached the cheerleading squad and oversaw the eight-grade faculty team program — all while working toward a masters degree in education management.
Later, at South Houston High School, she won the 2008 Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education, a prestigious award reserved for only 12 Texas teachers each year.
That experience was followed by an administrative role for Sheldon ISD, but Brand soon found she missed the day-to-day interaction with her students.
In 2011, she launched Brand College Consulting to help young people find their path from high school to college and beyond. She has expanded the business beyond merely assisting with college admissions, and now includes career planning, college fit selection, high school course planning, financial aid, scholarship assistance and standardized test preparation to her young clients.
Recent performance statistics show her clients have increased their SAT test score averages by 220 points, and 80 percent of them are accepted to their first-choice college. Brand is recognized nationally as an expert in the field of college consulting. She’s also a college admissions expert on Unigo, the leading social media platform for linking students and parents with financial assistance for college.
“I have some clients who are going to the Ivy Leagues and some who are going to community colleges,” Brand said. “This time of year is very nice because all of my seniors are getting college acceptance letters and financial aid letters and other kinds of information that shows them how their hard work has paid off.”
Since the inception of her new venture, Brand remembers her own life hurdles by offering her services free of charge to any pregnant teenager or young mother in need. Her oldest stepson, a high school senior, also benefitted from having a noted college consultant in the family. Brand said she and her husband are proud he is headed to Texas A&M University in the fall.
The couple has four children, and Brand is already starting the younger ones — ages nine, 14 and 16 — on their own career planning by getting them involved in summer activities.
Even with a full-time career and a busy family, Brand makes time to volunteer in local charitable organizations. She is active in Friendswood High School athletic programs, Friendswood Little League, Bay Area Council of Businesswomen, Friendswood ISD Education Foundation and Pasadena ISD Pregnant Teen Program.
Sharing the successes of her student clients are often emotional and rewarding moments for Brand.
“One of my senior girls this year was facing circumstances that made her question her ability to get into college, and her parents were unsure if they could pay for it,” Brand said. “But, by helping to set up some job internships, the student not only narrowed down her major, but got into the school she wanted with a scholarship. On our final meeting, she was jumping up and down and hugging me.”
Deborah Quinn Hensel is a free-lance journalist and staff reporter for Houston Woman Magazine.