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 didn’t already realize, no, I am not ever submitting those applications.)
October felt just as crazy on the high school side as it did on the college side except for one major difference: I slept in my own bed in my own apartment every night and I was able to see my husband and dog more than the previous total of 4 days in the month of October during travel season. Major win! Students felt the time crunch, parents were panicked, and I did my best to stay afloat, console, encourage, put out fires, and write 36 recommendation letters. I realize 36 recs is probably a teeny tiny amount compared to many other counselors out there, but this was my first time taking a crack at it and I had only just met these students one month earlier. Needless to say, I was ecstatic when things started to calm down in November.
The amount of frantic emails I got over the holidays this winter wasn’t overwhelming, but I did find myself responding to questions at 1:00am on Christmas Eve, for example, either because something was urgent or because I didn’t want to worry about it when I had family and events and other things to attend to. It’s an interesting balancing act: we want students to be independent, responsible, and self-sufficient, yet where do we draw the line between “let me help you/show you/call the college for you” and “you really need to learn to do this for yourself?” I’m still in search of the magic formula for this.
Since we returned in January, our focus shifted a bit more to our juniors. I chaperoned my first school trip which was fun to get to know the junior class, but exhausting at the same time. In meeting with juniors and their families this spring, it’s been interesting to see how apprehensive or resistant some students are to thinking about their future. I get it- it’s overwhelming and scary. “What if I don’t get into college?” (You will.) “I don’t know what I want to major in!” (You don’t have to know… yet). “How do I figure out what I really want in a college?” (So many places to start…)
I thought post-May 1 was the ultimate reprieve in college admissions because if you hit your enrollment target, you got to majorly celebrate and relax for the first time in months. As a high school counselor, we’re still chugging away as we prepare juniors for what to expect in the college process and we prepare their parents for what can be a stressful time. Like I said in the beginning, there’s only 20 school days left ‘til graduation and then reality begins to set in. Seniors only have a couple months before they might move out of the house and begin a new chapter on a college campus or gap year program. Juniors only have a couple months before, ready or not, they start to fill out college applications, write essays, and their final year of high school is upon them.
For many of us, the cycle begins all over again very soon. I’m looking forward to it, but I’m also thankful for things like a hopefully slow and quiet summer in order to recharge. Just one of the joys of working in academia!
By Meredith Britt