20 Questions for an Admissions Counselor: Evan Gerstein

By Elizabeth Schmuhl May 25, 2018

Say hello to Evan Gerstein, an admissions counselor who reads for the state of Illinois (excluding the city of Chicago), Livingston and Southwest Oakland counties in Michigan, and several cities in India (sadly, he doesn’t get to travel there).

He is originally from Highland Park, IL, which is about a half an hour north of the city of Chicago. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 2016 with a degree in political science and history. At U-M, he was an active member of Hillel and served as the president of the Hillel hockey team. He also participated in Mock Trial, Campus Day, and was a member of the Dean of Students Advisory Board.

He recently finished his first year as an admissions counselor and had an incredible experience! He’s very active on Twitter, so be sure to follow him for some funny posts, a lot of dog photos, and U-M news @challahatyoboy.

1. What do you like most about your job?

My favorite thing about being an admissions counselor is the ability to interact with so many different students and their families who come from different backgrounds. These backgrounds are not just what state they hail from (pun intended), but their educational, economic, and social backgrounds as well. No one conversation about applying to Michigan is ever the same; the rich diversity in thought within these conversations always keeps me on my toes!

2. What is your go-to travel snack when you’re on the road recruiting?

That is an easy one: Twizzlers nibs or gummy bears. Both are easy to eat while driving, the perfect sweet snack after a long HS visit, and Costco sells them by the barrel. *Note* the barrel has a hard time fitting in the Ford Focus.

3. What is your favorite thing about the University of Michigan?

The Alumni network! No matter where I travel in the US or abroad, I can always count on getting a “Go Blue!” when I walk arounding wearing U-M apparel. It’s very helpful when I'm lost. Additionally, I know I can always find a place to watch a game with fellow alums.

4. What is a common question you are asked by prospective students?

One of the most common ones is, “How do I make a big place like U-M feel smaller?” While it is easy to simply state our student to faculty ratio, or talk about our small class sizes, it’s always been more interesting to students when I discuss my experience.

U-M does such an amazing job making the school physically smaller for its students with class sizes, but it also addresses the important point of making it socially smaller with learning communities. When I was an undergrad at U-M, I was in the Michigan Community Scholars Program. These programs are great for helping students find their place on campus.

5. What is your favorite building or spot on U-M’s campus?

While it is sadly under construction for the next few years, the Tap Room in the basement of the Michigan Union was always a favorite study spot for me. It’s got an average level of ambient noise (I can’t be in dead silence, sorry Law Library), very close to food, and has printers!

6. What is something you wish you knew before your freshman year?

I wish I knew it was okay to have different strengths and weaknesses than others. A lot of my friends were Ross or Engineering students who were very good at math-based courses (spoiler alert: I am NOT). When hearing about them taking Calc IV and doing very difficult classes in the natural sciences, I felt intimidated because I was struggling in basic math courses.

It later hit me that my friends are good in those courses because that is their future career path! It was okay for me to struggle in courses that were not necessary where I was headed after college. I wish I had known that everyone in college has their own path, their own strengths and weaknesses, and that it is okay to be different!

7. Which living person do you most admire?

Anthony Rizzo. He is the current first baseman for the Chicago Cubs and one of the most vocal members of the team. He beat cancer as a teen and has raised so much awareness for the disease and other great charitable organizations. My favorite line by him was when the Cubs were about to win the World Series in 2016 (for the first time in 108 years by the way). While he was pacing back and forth, these memorable words were picked up by a microphone, “I am in a glass case of emotion.”

8. Who is your favorite teacher?

I would have to say Mariah Zeisberg, one of my professors from undergrad. She taught me to really ask why and move past what while writing essays. The course I took with her was on constitutional politics and was very difficult. However, she pushed us all to make cogent arguments, elaborate on points, and make our opinions clear. I exited that class a stronger and more effective thinker because of her.

9. What is the most memorable class you took in college?

Psych 480: Psychology and Law. In this class, I learned about how crime rates increase or decrease, how witnesses are believed by juries, and overall, how evidence is portrayed by litigators. It was so interesting to learn from an academic point of view instead of from watching Law and Order on TV (yes I know it isn’t real but it’s real to me, ok?).

10. Do you still keep in touch with any of your college roommates?

I do! My best friend Austin lived with me from sophomore to senior year. He lives in Chicago and I see him all the time when I go home for the holidays or travel for a fun long weekend.

11. What would you do on a perfect Saturday in Ann Arbor?

Play some golf at the U-M golf course. There is not a prettier sight than teeing off on the 18th hole with all of Ann Arbor sprawled out in front of you. You also have an incredible view of the Big House. The view makes up for the numerous lost golf balls I have hit into the pond.

12. What is your favorite thing to do in Ann Arbor that doesn’t cost money?

Laying out in the diag and watching everyone around you have fun, walk around, read, and of course, feed the squirrels. Ann Arbor is always such a dynamic city; you never know what you will see on any given day!

13. What is your most treasured possession?

I was given a necklace with the Star of David (a holy symbol of my Jewish faith) for my high school graduation. It was from my mother’s parents, who unfortunately passed away a few years before my graduation, but planned to give me this gift on that special day. I rarely ever take it off and I will one day pass it on to my children.

14. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Flight, no question. I am not a fan of flying in airplanes, as being a tall person can be rather hard when you are only given two inches of legroom. If I could get anywhere without having leg cramps, that would be great!

15. What book you've recently read would you recommend and why?

I recently finished a book called Unsolved! The History and Mystery of the World’s Greatest Ciphers. It was an incredible book about the origins of puzzles, codes, and books written in unknown languages that have never been broken.

16. What is your favorite U-M tradition?

My favorite would be singing “The Yellow and Blue” after sporting events. It’s an amazing sight to see and experience: locking arms with fellow students, alums, or fans next to you, and swaying back and forth while singing “Hail to the colors, that float in the night..” Win or lose, it’s such a positive way to end an event.

17. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I gave President Schlissel a bus tour with his family, the provost, and several regents during President Schlissel’s first summer on campus. It was such a cool thing to do. I had great conversations, which including teaching our president new things about campus. Plus it was one of my most liked Facebook profile pictures =].

18. What is your favorite season?

Winter (on most days). I love the snow! There is something calming about watching snow fall from the sky and accumulate on the ground. I am originally from the Chicago suburbs and my mom is from Minnesota, so cold weather and snow have a warm place in my heart (again, pun intended).

19. If you had a time machine, would you go back in time or into the future?

I would go into the future! I am a firm believer of owning my decisions and I wouldn’t want to go in the past and be tempted to change things. I’d love to see what both my and the world’s futures hold. It would definitely give me something to look forward to!

20. What is your most-used emoji?

I am not sure how to feel about this, but it is the smiley face with sunglasses. I guess I feel cool all the time, right?

Elizabeth Schmuhl