As the fall frenzy surges, seniors suddenly need help—lots of it. Instructions on balancing out the list, advice on essay writing, tips on what to put here and there, hand-holding wherever it’s available—you name it, they’ll take it. It’s a great opportunity for consultants who are looking for ways to get their name out to the community. It just doesn’t help that it’s at the busiest time of year.

I’m realizing that it’s sort of the dirty work that typically goes to the rookies, too; I sort of feel like I’m somehow being hazed when friends with full client rosters call to ask if I’m “able and willing” to take on a senior. If you’re “still at that place in your practice,” as another consultant and friend put it to me over lunch a couple of weeks ago, you do things for free, and if you’re lucky, you wind up getting paid on an hourly basis basically to do triage with families of seniors who have completely put the process off until now.

I’m in the weird position of having a few students who got started well in advance—before senior year—and so they’re doing just fine. (Those who are not yet seniors have been repeatedly assured that I’ll resurface sometime in the next couple of months, and they’re cool with that.) So there are the seniors who are moving along according to the game plan—not to say that there isn’t ANY stress involved, but it’s totally manageable—and then there are the phone calls from the other seniors’ parents, their voices marked by that insistent note of rising panic, who are finally deciding to bite the bullet and call for help.

I’m learning that an important skill for me to develop is not to get too personally involved in this sort of case. But it’s tricky because empathy feels like one of the keys to the job. So where do you strike up the balance? I guess I’ve learned that I’ve crossed the line if I start to feel my heart pounding in my throat during one of these initial consultations.

Anyway, I’m still doing school workshops, too. I’d actually like to think that I wouldn’t stop doing workshops even if my schedule were at capacity—but we’ll see what happens after a couple more application cycles, as the referral base continues to strengthen and the go-getter in me decides he could use a little time on the couch.

I did a workshop for a friend this morning on applying to performing arts schools. It’s always hard not to leave workshops like that with just a touch of insecurity. In my slideshow I tried to paint in the broadest brushstrokes possible guidelines for auditioning, prescreens, and continued investigation into the specific offerings of each program even AFTER applying, to be ready to make the most informed choice possible after acceptance letters come out.

I realized about three quarters of the way through that at least every other slide ended with some version of “Requirements for different programs vary—be sure to research each one carefully.” And while I know there’s no getting around that—this process is different for each school, program, and individual applying—I can’t help but feel sometimes like I’m just copping out.

But how else do you talk to groups?

By Nick Soper