A coffee with David Allen

NACAC board director and Univisits tour coordinator, David Allen took a moment out of his busy schedule to sit down with us over a strong coffee to discuss the importance of university tours.

Hello David. Firstly, how do you like your coffee?

Hi. My coffee is generally strong, medium bodied and with a touch of cold semi skimmed milk. I do however like a first coffee of the morning from a well-known Seattle based company and that is a grande, quad (4 shots), light drizzle caramel macchiato. It really sets me up for the day!

Your schedule always seems jam-packed with various duties. How is your diary looking this summer?

Well, that kind of depends on when you consider summer starting! June for me is quite busy with firstly a short tour in association with the UCAS International Advisers Conference. Unfortunately, I cannot attend the excellent conference afterwards as I have to go over to Venezuela to do some follow-up interviews from a psychometric test that I will have administered in May over there. That isn't through Univisits Ltd, but my college counselling consultancy. 

From Venezuela I go to a NACAC board meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico and then I get to go home from there. In July I am doing a workshop at the International Summer School of Scotland in St Andrews, before heading over to the OACAC conference at Marist College. After that I am heading down to NYC to visit Fairleigh Dickinson University before flying with friends to do some college visits over in San Francisco and then I have to go to the NACAC Leadership Development Institute in Las Vegas, before heading home.

For any readers that may be unaware of Univisits, tell us what can expected from a tour.

Well, a great experience for sure! I put the tours together to generally have a good range of universities based on type, selectivity and location. I give every participant a tour book which is carefully researched, so that people can have a good idea of what they are going to beforehand and then make their own notes in the book so that they then have a record of their visits.

We travel mostly by executive coach and now that I have done a good number of tours, I tend to get the same driver each time and so they know where they are going and what to expect of my groups and the level of service that I require.

How can the Univisits tours benefit a student counsellor?

There is simply no substitute for visiting a college or university. I used to say to my boss when I was working in a school that visiting a university or college is the counsellors textbook, and that is simply it. When you consider that an average university student will spend in the UK about £50,000 over the three or four years of their education and multiply that by the number of students that a counsellor can be advising, then that is a sizeable investment fund that they are advising on, wouldn't you want that adviser to be well informed?

Is there a possibility of Univisits expanding the itineraries to include more UK institutions?

I will tour any university that a school group or counsellor group would like me to. At the moment the plan for next march is to do the Midlands and East Anglia in England. After that I may well head back over to Ireland, or do Scotland again – I have even been encouraged to do a tour in Australia!

As the board director of NACAC, you must be looking forward to the 69th annual conference in Toronto in September. What is your message to counsellors that have not yet attended a conference?

I am certainly very proud to be one of the board directors of NACAC when they hold their first international conference. My advice would be simple – GO! Not only are there amazing educational sessions, great opportunities to speak to vendors, but the networking that can be done at a conference is hugely beneficial. I am always using my network to solve issues and ask questions.

Will you be participating in the NACAC Start of the Day 5km run/walk?

Unfortunately, no. Please see my answer to your first question to see what I'll be doing in the morning.

You have an extensive and impressive resume David. Are you concealing any talents that will be a surprise to readers?

Hmm, that's a tough one. I used to play and coach underwater hockey – a great sport and I took my team of under 13 boys from El Salvador to the Canadian nationals in 2002; we came third in our age group so I guess that’s pretty good. I used to speak and write Pashtu (an Iranian language spoken in Afghanistan and Pakistan), it's almost entirely fossilised in my brain now. I can read Arabic, but often don't know what I am reading! That's it I guess. So no, I guess I'm not hiding any talent!

David Allen is on the board of directors for NACAC (National Association for College Admissions Counselling), as well as running Univisits LTD, providing international counsellors with organised tours of universities in the UK and Ireland.