As a college admissions counselor, one of the most gratifying parts of my job is watching the personal growth in a student from the time of our first meeting until the day we sit down at the end of senior year and actually help them make their college choice. Our families normally come to us at some point toward the end of the sophomore year or during the junior year, and many students are convinced they not only know what they will major in but already have a fairly good idea which colleges they want to apply to. As counselors, we realize just how much this will change over the next 18 months or so, and watching it unfold never fails to intrigue me.
As our process begins, we have our students take a series of assessments aimed at finding the right fit school for them both socially and academically. I know for busy high school kids, the last thing they want to do is take yet another “test.” However, when I begin working with them 1:1 and we review their answers, some distinct and important facets of their personalities and learning style come to light and often a window opens for them. Suddenly, this college search process seems more relevant, and the assessments we ask them to do have validity – there is a “method to our madness.”
Ultimately, we all have the same goal – as counselors we want to make sure our service is valuable to our clients. Parents want help with a process they see as overwhelming and students too are often confused with the myriad of options that lay before them. As our process unfolds, we begin to see the finish line, but so much more has been uncovered than first might meet the eye. Of course, our desire is to find the right match for a student. But the self discovery that takes place almost in the shadows is for me, the most rewarding. I cannot tell you how many students sit with us at our final decision meeting and say something like “I would never have looked at that school if I’d done this myself” or “I thought I wanted architecture as a career and then you told me to shadow one and now I’m going to study biology!” So in the end, all the assessments, brainstorming, meetings and campus visits pay off and the next four years of their lives begin to take shape. Knowing we played a minute role in this self discovery is very rewarding. The benefits to our process are multi-layered and definitely not limited to the college admissions process. Having what I always call “an omniscient narrator” throughout this journey is unique and in the end, if I am able to guide my students to a place where they can discover their best selves and step into the next phase of their lives with confidence, I’ve achieved my goal too.