Shari Piracha Dons Many Different Hats to Help Others

Piracha enjoys the view in the cloud forest of Ecuador. Image courtesy of Shari Piracha.

Shari Piracha has lived in Ann Arbor since 1985, when she entered the University of Michigan, and has never left the area.

At present she is an independent educational consultant and founder of “YouQuest College Advising,” part of the Student Services Team at Washtenaw Community College (WCC), and an author of children’s fiction and adult non-fiction.

“I enjoy wearing many different hats these days,” she remarked.

Founder and Consultant: YouQuest College Advising

Piracha offers a full-spectrum of college advising services both in person and remotely online through her college advising business.

“Broadly, here is how that process looks: I begin by getting to know what interests, passions, strengths, challenges, and goals really drive the student, and what life experiences have shaped them into who they are today,” Piracha described. “Then I can help them explore college options to identify which colleges and programs may be a good fit academically, socially, and financially. I can also provide personalized application and essay guidance; for example, I often help students figure out what stories they want to tell and how they can make their personal narratives engaging, self-expressive, and memorable. In addition, I am able to assist with time management, academic and extra-curricular planning, scholarship searches, and more.”

In the past, she has met students face-to-face, but due to COVID-19, more online work is necessary for safety reasons.

“I usually meet in person with my local students — at their home or mine, or sometimes at a library branch or coffee shop… but during the pandemic, we’ve been meeting via Facetime or, just like my remote students, via phone and email, as this gives students the chance to practice interacting in the same way they are generally expected to present themselves to colleges,” explained Piracha.

She also works to keep costs affordable for students.

“My fees are approximately the same as the cost of a massage, and my goal is to provide services that are equally as effective in reducing stress for students and parents throughout the college admissions process,” she stated.

Piracha has seen many families decide to delay college due to the pandemic.

“A lot of families seem to be putting the whole college admissions process on hold,” she noted. “I think the stress and uncertainty during this pandemic has made it difficult for many students and parents to even think about making big decisions with such significant personal and financial implications.”

Yet, there is a more positive way to look at our circumstances also according to Piracha.

“It could be a great time to focus on choosing and applying to colleges, for a number of reasons,” she described. “Students who have unexpected free time can get a head start on researching colleges and writing application and scholarship essays. College admissions offices are offering more flexibility than ever before, especially in terms of deadlines and financial aid. And students who plan to apply this season also have new opportunities to shine as colleges are placing more emphasis on getting to know students holistically. Due to the disruptions of COVID-19, many schools are now discounting or waiving standardized test scores and even second semester grades.”

Piracha encourages a student during a virtual college advising consultation. Image courtesy of Shari Piracha.
Piracha encourages a student during a virtual college advising consultation. Image courtesy of Shari Piracha.

Friendly Face of WCC: Student Service Team

Piracha also helps students navigate their options at WCC as well.

“I like to think of the Student Connection as the friendly face of WCC,” stated Piracha. “When students and parents call, email, or chat online with the college, we may be the first people they talk to, and although many of our interactions are brief and the questions are often basic, I have found it to be an important and very satisfying role because it’s up to us to make sure each individual feels welcomed, confident about navigating the WCC system, and informed about the resources available to help them be successful. I love being part of the team at Washtenaw Community College and having the opportunity to touch so many lives in service to its mission — which is dear to my heart — of making a quality education accessible to all.”

Her position at WCC has allowed her greater flexibility for her other roles.

“When I first launched YouQuest College Advising two years ago, I needed enough free time and financial stability to allow me to build my business as an independent educational consultant while also continuing my literary endeavors,” she detailed. “I was lucky enough to find the perfect niche as part-time support staff in the Student Connection at Washtenaw Community College.”

Author and Mom

“I’m also an author, with children’s fiction and adult non-fiction published the last name Maser, both through Ladybug magazine and my own publishing company Moondance Press,” stated Piracha.

“The commonality in all my professional endeavors is an emphasis on helping people successfully navigate life’s transitions.”

And she has helped her loved ones in her personal life as well.

“There is nothing like a pandemic to remind us how much we appreciate our loved ones!” she exclaimed. “I am lucky to have married my soulmate, who brings out the very best in me; to have raised two amazing daughters, who give me more joy than I ever imagined one person could experience; and to have been adopted by a darling dog, who makes sure I get outside for at least two walks a day. My husband also brought four more amazing children into my life, and I am grateful to have a large extended family as well as a ‘chosen family’ of friends-for-life who help me find strength, courage, purpose, and pleasure each and every day.”

Piracha seems to savor each and every aspect of her life and others as well.

“I love words!” she revealed. “Some of my favorite pastimes include reading, playing Scrabble, learning new languages, and collecting interesting quotes. I also enjoy ping-pong — maybe because the name of the game is so fun to say, and world travel — which, of course, is on hold right now.”

Piracha grew up in New York and Tokyo, and has traveled to numerous countries over her lifetime as well.