Danielle Sclafani

My Education

Columbia University

MA | Higher Education

Hamilton College

BA | Psychology


Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth

Resident Advisor

YMCA Camp Huckins

Camp Counselor

Danielle is an ESL specialist, teacher, and editor from Providence, Rhode Island with over 10 years experience in her field. She has worked around the world in New York City, Chile, Denmark, South Korea and currently in Madrid, Spain. Danielle studied her undergraduate degree in psychology at Hamilton College and studied a masters in higher education at Columbia University. In addition to holding two degrees, Danielle is also a former Fulbright Grant recipient. In her free time Danielle enjoys yoga, running, traveling, and cultural exchange. She is very knowledgeable about college and university systems and looks forward to working together!

Q:  Why are you passionate about your academic field? When and how did you discover your love of your subject?  

My freshman year of college I took Introduction to Psychology and knew then and there that it was the major for me. There is so much to discover about the human mind and how people relate that psychology never gets boring. I decided to study higher education and ESL to connect my interest in psychology to the more practice-oriented field of education.

Q:  What are your three top recommendations for a student targeting a masters in your field? What if they are preparing to switch their major to your field?  

My top recommendations for a student who wants to study a masters in education and also for students preparing to change their major are:

1. Get some practical experience. Education can’t be understood well without real world experience with students.

2. Be open-minded. The best masters programs are not necessarily at Ivy League schools. In my opinion, the best programs offer students small classes, professors who are available for their students, and lots of opportunities to gain experience in your field.

3. Keep your eye on the goal. When beginning a masters in education it’s best to have a clear career objective in mind. It is a good idea to do informational interviews with some professionals who are working in that field to find out more about their career path, challenges they encountered, what they studied, etc.

Q:  What resources can students use to educate themselves on your subject?  

The best resource to become more knowledgeable about education is your own experience. Volunteer in your community as a tutor or even try teaching something to a family member. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way—you´ll never know what you might gain or the influential people you may meet.

There are also lots of books about the education field that can help you gain more content knowledge. One of my favorite ones is Make it Stick by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel.

Q:  What are your top tips to showcase an applicant  

Three tips to best showcase your strengths to admissions officers:

1. Be yourself. Don’t give cookie cutter answers to questions and tell admissions what you think they want to hear. Your diverse background, ideas, and experience are what matters. The challenge is finding out the best way to express that. That’s where Dyad mentors come in [Symbol]

2. Spend time on your essays. Your personal statement and statement of purpose are great moments to really let admissions know who you are and why you should be admitted. Your essays are your time to shine and the best place to make yourself stand out. One draft is not enough. Your essays require a lot of thought, time, and revisions.

3. Be proactive, polite, and resourceful. At the end of the day it’s your education and you can’t let someone else take charge of it. Admissions looks for maturity and creativity in its students. Which students will be able to handle living away from home and contribute positively to the campus environment? Who knows how to ask for help when needed or figure out creative solutions? These are survival skills that set you apart from other applicants.

Q:  Any pitfalls or mistakes an applicant should be aware of as they apply to your program?  

Applying to university can be overwhelming and confusing. There’s a lot of information on the web and it’s easy to get in over your head. Make sure you do your best to figure out what the most appropriate degree program is for you. For example, many students who applied to my masters program in Higher Ed thought it was a program that will give them the degree needed to teach at the university level. Not true! That usually requires a PhD, not an MA. Really understand the program you are applying to and what career it will prepare you for.

Q:  Why did you apply to your university and program? What other universities and programs were you admitted to?  

For my BA I wanted to go to a small, liberal arts school where students get a lot of attention from professors and can form solid, lifelong friendships with other students. I applied to Hamilton for these reasons. The school felt like an authentic community that valued learning. I was admitted to several liberal arts schools, including Richmond University in Virginia, Dickinson College in PA, and Franklin and Marshall College, but chose Hamilton because I felt most comfortable there when I visited. It´s definitely worthwhile to talk to former students and get a feel for how they are so you can have a better idea of whether or not the university is a good fit for you.

For my MA I was looking for an internationally recognized university with an innovative approach to education. I applied to TC because it offered a more modern approach to the study of education and was located in an international city. I saw th

Q:  What are the common career paths for graduates in your field?  

Many people who study higher education go on to work in student services at colleges and universities. Others go into teaching or work for educational companies. Psychology majors often pursue careers as counselors, therapists, or lawyers.

Q:  What aspects of the campus culture are your favorites? Which aspects surprised you? Which would you change if you could?  

My favorite aspect of the college campus was dorm living, surprisingly. You can gain so much from living with your classmates. You form close friendships that can substitute for being away from family. You can study together easily so that learning continues even outside of class.

At Hamilton I was surprised by the amount of activities available for students. There are so many clubs, concerts, and trips it’s impossible to do everything.

One aspect I might change would be segregating students too much from the local community. It’s easy to get lost in the “campus bubble” and forget about how things work in the real world, and more importantly, how our education interacts with that world.

Q:  What is your favorite fun fact about your university? Any special events or traditions or legends?  

My favorite fun fact about Hamilton College is that a big Broadway musical was made about it’\s namesake, Alexander Hamilton. I still have not been lucky enough to see the musical but I’m hoping to soon!

One of my favorite special events at Hamilton is FebFest. FebFest is a festival in February to raise the spirits of students in the middle of winter when it’s so cold and spring seems so far away. There are lots of events, activities, and hot chocolate. The spirit of the campus is really uplifting at this time of year.

Q:  How did you spend your summer vacation during university? Any advice for making the most of summer?  

Every summer was unique! I worked as a camp counselor at YMCA Camp Huckins, I worked as a resident advisor for Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, and I stayed on campus to do research with Hamilton’s psychology department. Every summer I met wonderful people, gained career related experience, and also earned a little pocket money [Symbol] Even now as a teacher I try to make my summer´s worthwhile. Recently I spent my summer in India working toward a certificate as a yoga instructor.

Q:  What makes you smile? Share more on a favorite hobby.  

Getting the perfect shot. A photography enthusiast, I love to take photographs when I travel. There’s nothing that makes me smile more than capturing the perfect scene in a new country. It’s a great memory that keeps me smiling even years into the future.

Q:  Why are you excited to mentor Dyad Scholars?  

Teaching and counseling are my passions. I get so much joy from helping young people learn more about themselves and succeed. Furthermore, the world traveler that I am, I love to talk and learn about people from other countries and cultures. I truly enjoy talking and mentoring you as I also can grow professionally and personally from our consultations.