Jake Boillat '18 is Creating Opportunity for Students Through His Work at the Common App

Jake Boillat '18Jake Boillat ’18 didn’t realize his career path even existed until he was a student at MCLA. Now, as manager of community outreach and engagement for the Common App and Reach Higher, his work is to help remove barriers for high school students all over the country to begin a path that will lead to similar discoveries.

Boillat started as an elementary education major, but realized through his work as a resident advisor and class officer that he had a passion for supporting and empowering college students. “I learned a lot about myself, how a college operates, and made a lot of connections with people on campus,” he said.

He changed his major to interdisciplinary studies to broaden his horizons with a degree that would prepare him for a career in higher education, with the help of Professor Rita Nnodim, who encouraged him do his senior capstone research project on something that would help him in his future career, the history of higher education and student development theories.

“She told me, 'let’s make a major you’re passionate about,’” he said. While learning about different student development theories, the IDST program let him add additional areas of interest to his focus like multicultural studies and psychology that would help him and his career. “It really helped me understand more about the many types of struggles college students face and how I can support them,” he said.

After college, he launched his career at Anna Maria College in Paxton, Mass., where he worked his way to director of residence life and student conduct. He lived on campus during this role, to ensure things ran smoothly, and worked to keep student voices central to whatever activity, policy, project and/or event he was working on. “It’s their college experience, not mine,” he said. “Their voices matter more than anything else.”

He wanted to more deeply understand the business side of the higher education industry, so while working at Anna Maria College he also earned his MBA. “Pairing that with my higher education experience and what I learned at MCLA…I felt like that balanced me out a little more,” he said. He started working at The Common App/Reach Higher in the beginning of 2022—a job that shifts his focus to creating equity in higher education.

Reach Higher, the college access initiative started by former First Lady Michelle Obama, is now part of the Common App’s engagement team. Reach Higher works to encourage and support students to continue their education past high school, conducts outreach with high school counselors, and provides resources, events, and inspiration to students and parents navigating the college application process.

“We focus a lot of time and effort to make sure first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students are provided the same resources and materials to get to college,” Boillat said.

As a first-generation student, he understands how disorienting college—and the application process—can be. “I am always thinking, ‘how can I help make the transition easier and to help them see that it will be OK?’” he said. “It’s challenging, but it’s part of the journey and we are here to help.”

Boillat’s education and career background has made him a convener, someone who wants to hear from many perspectives and make sure the individuals he’s working with get what they need. “There’s a lot more work that needs to be done in higher education across the board—when you think about how to support students, we need to make our approach broader,” he said. “Everyone has a different area where they need support, and the only way to find this out is to reach out to all these groups, get to know them and the different hats they wear, and to offer the necessary changes and support systems.”