Reflecting on My “Freshman Year” as a College Counselor

It hasn’t quite been a full year for me as a college counselor, but with the school year drawing to a close (20 school days til graduation!), it’s time to look back on how my 'til “freshman year” on the high school side went. I started in the fall like most actual freshmen do—wide-eyed, optimistic, and ready to get to work. We started out the year with college night events for seniors and juniors and I quickly realized that managing the various application deadlines, different types of applications, and coordinating teacher recommendation submissions would be a lot to keep track of. I quickly filled out my own mock applications for the UC’s, the Cal State’s, a Common App, and I think I even started applications to Arizona, Indiana, Washington, and countless other universities so that I could help my students troubleshoot the issues they came across in their own application processes. (By the way, sorry to all the colleges who thought I was a prospective student! And in case you … [Read more...]

The Mad Dash to May 1

When I worked in admissions, the only thing that got me through countless admitted student events all spring was the countdown to one thing: MAY 1. Now that I’m on the high school side, I don’t have that same feeling of, “Can May 1 hurry up and get here already so I can have a break to get my suits dry cleaned/get home from work before 9pm/have one day to just sit at my desk and stare at my computer in peace?” It’s hard to see the agony some seniors put themselves through as they struggle to decide where to commit to attending for the next four years. Some students heard from a specific college and put down the deposit right away; others were denied at their top college and can’t imagine going to college anywhere else; and still others are seemingly in complete limbo. Most of the students coming by my office these days have endless questions about comparing financial aid awards, which housing option to apply for, how to decide where to go, and many other questions that are equally … [Read more...]

Is College Really the Best Four Years of Your Life?

You’ve heard it.  I’ve heard it. Maybe we’ve both even said it. “College is the best four years of your life!”  Lately, I’ve begun to question the validity of this statement, especially since it’s used in broad terms without much explanation.  Don’t get me wrong--I loved my college experience and I have very few regrets about those four years.  But, I wonder if we’re sending the wrong message to high school students.  Are we sending them off with heightened expectations?  Are we neglecting to share how tough college classes can be and how inflexible professors can be, for example? I’m not sure all students know that working through the tough times makes them stronger people in the long run, even if it really, really sucks at the time.  For some students, it seems all too easy; if something doesn’t go their way, they can just go back home or call their parents to solve their problems.  But, what happens during those first few weeks, months, or even years of college when everyone is … [Read more...]

Finding Your Passion (of the Moment)

We have recently begun meeting with juniors to discuss their hopes and dreams for college, and I’m finding that their hopes and dreams can change more often than their clothes.  This is to be expected, but it’s interesting to see how they can be so sure of what they want to study, do for a career, or what type of college they want in one moment, and then do a complete 180 the next. I recently had a milestone birthday and, in light of the ever-changing goals of the juniors I work with, I reflected on my own educational and professional journey.  If you had asked high school senior me what a College Counselor does and if I thought I’d be interested in that job, I would have looked at you like you were from the moon.  I graduated from a large public high school in the Midwest where we had Guidance Counselors.  I thought I was savvy about the college application process, but I didn’t realize that the admission counselors I encountered at college fairs or during visits to my high school … [Read more...]

What’s the Deal With Teenagers and Procrastination?

This may sound like the intro to a bad comedy bit, but what's the deal with teenagers and procrastination?  As a reformed procrastinator myself, I get it.  It’s tough to juggle school demands, a social life, extracurricular activities, and maybe having dinner with your family once in a while.  But I’m finding that procrastination is a widespread disease that can lie dormant before coming on full-force. UC schools and other college like them make their firm Nov. 30 application deadline heard loud and clear at counselor conferences.  We, in turn, strongly encourage, urge, and constantly remind our students to not wait until 11:59pm on November 30th to press “submit,” unless they enjoy technical issues and want to risk their application not getting in on time or being considered at all. I’m particularly frustrated with students waiting until the last minute because of the panicked emails I received over winter break—a time for students and faculty alike to enjoy some well-deserved … [Read more...]