Curious about the life and times of our spectacular admissions consultants? Please enjoy our newest blog series in which we interview the fabulous people who make up the Accepted.com staff. Next up is…Judy Gruen.
Accepted: Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Do you hold any graduate degrees?
Judy: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and my undergrad degree is in English Lit from UC Berkeley. I always wanted to be a writer, and during my senior year became editor of a special interest newspaper at Berkeley. I worked for a few years in both university public relations and corporate public relations before heading to Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, where I earned a master’s degree in 1986.
Accepted: What’s your favorite non-school/non-work book?
Judy: How can I limit myself to only one favorite non-school/work book? Impossible! Among my favorite books of all time are Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Herman Wouk’s Marjorie Morningstar, and Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence (as well as her short story collections).
Since I have focused much of my writing on humor, I also love books by Erma Bombeck, Dave Barry, S.J. Perlman, and P.J. Wodehouse. It seems that for humorists, it can help to have a name that begins with two initials.
Accepted: Can you talk about the road that led you to becoming an admissions consultant for Accepted? What jobs and experiences led you to this point?
Judy: Linda and I have been friends for nearly 30 years, which is hard to believe, since I’m only, well, never mind my age. I had published my first essays and opinion pieces in newspapers during college, and had several years of professional work in university PR and medical writing when Linda first approached me to see if I wanted to help her in her new editing business, which was growing fast. I was thrilled to say yes.
With the exception of taking off a few years to focus on my books, I’ve been with Linda and Accepted for 20 years. Linda’s a wonderful friend and a wonderful boss, and I have learned so much from my work with Accepted.com. My journalism training and editing experience made me a natural for this work, as I understood the need to write tightly and with clarity.
Accepted: What’s your favorite thing about consulting?
Judy: I love helping hard-working, sincere applicants achieve their dreams of matriculating to a top grad school program. This is especially true when I’ve been working with a client for many weeks or even months, focusing on one application after another, working as a team, and I really get to know him or her and feel invested in his or her success. I also find it very satisfying to help clients clarify their ideas about what to write. In this process, they are really taking inventory of their career and personal progression. They usually find it surprisingly satisfying. And finally, when I get those excited emails weeks or months later announcing their acceptances, it makes my day. A few clients have kept up with me over the course of many years, letting me know where they are working. That’s just great.
Accepted: How has your association with AIGAC influenced your consulting?
Judy: Anyone can call himself or herself a consultant, so AIGAC membership ensures a high level of professionalism in this field. I have gone to 4 of the annual AIGAC conferences, visiting many of the top schools, including Yale, NYU Stern, Harvard, MIT, Chicago Booth, Kellogg, and others. Meeting other consultants, grad school admissions officers and some of the teaching staff to hear what’s new and exciting in both the individual programs and trends in grad school admissions allows me to demonstrate to my clients that I’m on top of changes in the field.
Accepted: What are your top 3 admissions tips?
Judy: These are not original, but they are true so they bear repeating:
1. Be authentic: Even if you’re from an overrepresented applicant group, only you have lived your life and developed your perspectives and insights.
2. Be open minded to considering programs not instantly on your list of dream schools: There are dozens of outstanding programs; don’t be “star struck” by a school’s name or even ranking. Look to curriculum, location, personality, and other aspects that could make that program an ideal fit for you.
3. Plan ahead! We are all seeing more applicants coming to us with a deadline in two or three days with essays that still need major help. This is a serious process that deserves your full attention. Start as early as you can, to avoid discovering that the process of writing a couple of focused essays was tougher than you anticipated.
Accepted: And last but not least, please tell us about the numerous books and articles you’ve written, and how your passion for writing plays into your career?
I really don’t know how many essays and articles I’ve had published; it must be more than 1,000. I am especially proud to have had 2 op-eds published over the last year and a half in the Wall Street Journal, and my work has also appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, and dozens of other media outlets. I’ve had my humor anthologized in 10 books, and my most recent book is being produced into a live musical by TroupeAmerica sometime in 2016.
I am also currently writing a memoir about a spiritual journey, but I am infusing it with as much humor as possible. I also maintain a blog, Mirth & Meaning, on my own site, judygruen.com.
My passion for writing and editing infuses all my work. I place a high value on keeping my clients’ voices authentic while helping them add clarity and detail where appropriate. I believe that my love for the written word makes me a better consultant at Accepted.com, and I hope my clients agree!