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How Ethan Putterman Is Helping Change The University Admissions Process

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Ethan Putterman is an independent education consultant based out of Miami, Florida. With decades of experience in the education landscape, Ethan has dedicated his professional career to correcting inefficiencies within the university admissions process.

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Colorado, Boulder, Mr. Putterman attended the London School of Economics where he completed a master’s program in political theory. He eventually went on to complete a master’s degree and doctorate in political science, specializing in political philosophy and the history of political thought. 

In addition to his career in education, Mr. Putterman is also a dedicated philanthropist and humanitarian. He has taught and volunteered at various institutions in Yangon and Mandalay in Myanmar (Burma) and has been recognized for his outstanding contributions to teaching and mentoring their students. For many years, he has helped survivors of the genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia, as they’ve worked to rebuild their lives over the past three decades.

What do you currently do at your company?

I consult with undergraduate and graduate students who need help navigating college life. A lot of students tend to drop out during their sophomore year for a few reasons relating to their inexperience, so I provide advice to help them work through that. I also offer admissions advice for high school students. I look at their transcripts and background as well as their admissions essays and personal statements, then point them in the direction they should go to improve and help them get into a top ten university. There is also a small team of tutors that I oversee and they tutor students who are preparing for the ACT and SAT.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

I spent thousands of hours consulting students and I found that a lot of them are not prepared when they enter university. Unfortunately, most guidance counselors are former high school teachers and almost all of the educational consultants in the field are administrators and come from a completely different background. It’s very rare that you’ll find a retired professor emeritus or former tenured professor with his own company. Because I do have that experience, I know what college life is like and what the expectations are. I started this business because I want to help students improve and succeed, and I enjoy working with younger students because it gives you more time to intervene while they’re open to advice and suggestions.

Tell us one long-term goal in your career.

My general goal is to see this company prosper but, more specifically, I want to see the relationship between universities and students and their families evolve from transactional to transformational. Right now, I believe that universities are these large bureaucracies, and I’d like to see that change. I’d like to see it become more egalitarian and change it so that students can make it less elitist and more democratic.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned through the course of your career?

Listen often, especially when approaching a situation with a student. Every student is different in how they learn and what needs they have, so it requires adaptability and sensitivity to almost intuitively understand how to deal with those individual needs.

What advice would you give to others aspiring to succeed in your field?

I would like to see more academics in this. If you look at most independent educational consultants across the board, they come from the business world and other backgrounds. I would like to see more teachers and professors who are willing to step out of their comfort zone and help students at this early stage in their career.

How would your colleagues describe you?

I think they would describe me as cerebral. I’m not a numbers cruncher. I lean more towards the liberal arts, so I would be described as a qualitative analyst. 

How do you maintain a solid work life balance? 

You need to compartmentalize different parts of your life. I try not to work more than nine or ten hours a day, then I’m able to devote time to my wife as well. It’s important to erect hedgerows and guardrails as much as you can, so that you’re able to protect the different parts of your life.

Who has been a role model to you and why?

One of my great role models was a professor who taught at the University of Chicago in the Graduate School of Business named Marvin Zonis. He was never my professor, but I worked as his teaching assistant for five years, then at his private consulting firm. He had a great impact on me pedagogically, the way that I teach and speak. I learned a lot of the skills I have today from him. Another role model is the supervisor that I had while I was working on my PhD at the University of Chicago, Bernard Mamin. He’s also had a really big influence on me as a scholar and academic.

What is one piece of advice that you have never forgotten?

Humility is very important and plays a big part in listening and being sensitive to the nuanced, individualized concerns of students. When you show humility, it shows that you are accessible and helps students feel comfortable asking questions. Another piece of advice is to always assume that the person you’re speaking to may be smarter than you are. This will compel you to bring your A-game to everything.

What does success look like to you?

Success is a combination of many things to me. First, it means flourishing in terms of my business and seeing that the business accomplishes what it’s supposed to, which is helping young people achieve their goals and move on to the careers and success that they aspire to. Second, success is being able to give back to the community and be part of an active civil society. Most importantly, success means being a good family man and being there for the people that I’m closest to who need me the most.