So, I’m sitting in the lobby of a Marriott Courtyard in Waco, TX waiting for 26 high school juniors to come down to the lobby. It’s day three of a college tour and it’s early in the morning.  It’s the kind of moment that makes you look at your life and look at your choices.  I love this job and I love college tours, but I try to see 25 schools a year.  Occasionally, it’s tough to capture the magic, harness my chi and not indulge my cynical side with questions like: “How many volumes are in the library?” or “What happens if I can’t find a book in your library? Is there some kind of exchange?”  There is also the all-important, “Tell me about these blue lights” as well as my intense scrutiny of the height of the climbing wall.

I think about college tours the way I think about Disneyland. What I’m about to tell you may, at best, cause me to lose credibility with a couple of my readers. (Assuming there are more than a couple of readers.  Shout out to my parents.) At worst, it may convince you that I am actually dead inside.  With that being said, here is my confession. I don’t like Disneyland.  It’s not the happiest place on earth for me and I’m just, just mad about the mouse. I’m not sure what ruined it for me, but I think I blame Grad Night.  I’ve spent too many nights sleeping in the Main Street Theater at 2:00am with Herbie the Love Bug playing in the background while my students are making memories. But then I had my own children and I rediscovered Disneyland for the the first time.  Seeing something with fresh eyes can change everything.  Where I might see facades, my five year old sees endless possibilities and incredible new worlds. When I see Disneyland through their eyes, I see the spark.

College tours with high school students can be the same way.  Often times, they are too cool for school. 17 going on 35.  But every time I take students on a tour, I get to witness the spark.  The tours are about exploration, potential and visualizing something that you couldn’t previously imagine.  It happened yesterday with a student panel on Engineering.  A college student was talking about his major: management engineering. It’s a degree program that basically explains the way that Amazon uses obvious black magic to anticipate what I want before I want it and then devises an efficient way to get it to my front door before I’ve finished paying for it.  Jeff Bezos, you glorious bastard.  Anyway…this student was animatedly talking about his studies, projects and general hopes and dreams when I looked over and witnessed my students completely mesmerized.  They were caught up in the limitlessness of imagination.  They were imagining questions and solutions and experiencing the transformative power of recognizing a kindred spirit.  See what I mean?  The spark.

As counselors, we are fortunate to witness that spark on a fairly regular basis.  When you see it, fan it, nurture it, feed it.  There will be plenty of people in their lives who may try to squash it.  Sparks become fires.  You know, the good kind. The metaphorical kind. You get it.

By Jeff Morrow