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Communicating With Ease


Communicating With Ease
Brian K Smith, Marlborough School
February 29, 2024

I entered the admission profession some twenty-five years ago, and what I’ve learned most over my tenure at three different independent schools is the importance of being a great listener. I post a lot of inspirational quotations online, but there’s a particular quotation that resonates most with me that I keep posted next to my computer in my office and on my desk at home. It’s from Dr. Maya Angelou, and it reads, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Even typing it gives me chills. But the reason why this holds importance in my life is that, at the moment of interaction, the person sitting or standing directly in front of me should always feel that they are the most important person. I’m about to be extremely vulnerable now, hold on!

As professionals, we consistently find ourselves pulled in many directions and it’s easy to lose focus. But we must remind ourselves why we entered this profession in the first place. Let’s keep in mind the importance of keeping students at the center of what we do. College admission evolves over time. In fact, it has evolved from when most of us went through the process. I recall talking with my “Guidance Counselor,” just once between both my junior and senior years. Interestingly enough, my parents never had a formal or informal meeting with my Guidance Counselor. The one time my Guidance Counselor and I did converse, she was of no help, didn’t listen, and acted uninterested but that’s a story for another day and possibly a different publication. Anyway, I digress, but what that brief interaction taught me was the importance of being present in the moment.

Most of us wear many hats at our respective institutions. We can easily lose focus on what is in front of us–the ebbs and flows in our work often cause our attention to shift. Admittedly, I do. After all, I’m human, not perfect and not always successful at giving everyone my undivided attention. So, as I make a concerted effort (New Year, New Me-insert eye roll) to become a better listener, more effective professional, and, in turn, a better College Counselor and friend, I offer a few things that I’m putting into practice as a way to help someone else, too.That someone else might just be you.


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Double the Trouble? Double the Fun!

Double the Trouble? Double the Fun!
Beverly Brooks, St Mary's Episcopal School
January 29, 2024

To put it simply—I am an identical twin. We go through phases of how much we favor one another, but the resemblance is always there. When meeting each other’s coworkers, we typically brace ourselves for someone’s inevitable scream. I get asked regularly what it’s like to be a twin, and my answer is both genuine and unchanging: “I don’t know.” I can’t explain to you what it’s like, or how it’s different from my relationship with my other two sisters. It just is. What I know is that when we grew up, particularly under my parents’ influence (my dad was a counseling education professor and my mother is an education professor), we wanted to be distinct. As children, it meant we chose different friend groups and different sports. In high school, any time my twin sister was interested in a college, even briefly, I struck it from my list. Ironically, we spent four years at very similar schools (The College of Wooster and Hendrix College—hooray, CTCL!), solidifying ourselves as wholly different people.

In my first year as a college counselor, I had a set of identical twin boys on my caseload. There were no phases of favoring each other; they were a copy-paste situation. I was dedicated to treating them distinctly, which started with trying to figure out who was who. Eventually, I discovered one had a small scar on his cheek—success! I committed myself to meeting with them separately, never bringing up the other twin, and I wouldn’t even entertain the conversation when they brought each other up. Their parents graciously came in for twice as long so that the boys could have their own
moments. Despite my efforts to the contrary, I watched as their lists mirrored each other, and they eventually chose the same college. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around that—I couldn’t spend more than three days at a time with my twin sister, how are they going to spend four years??


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The Superpower of Choice

The Superpower of Choice
Chris Rodriguez, Lovett School
December 5th, 2023

spiderman crouches in a gymnasium

Every day when we open the closet, we have the power to decide who we want to be.

Figuratively, of course, we can choose to be brave, to be determined, to be kind. But literally? Well, in my case, I have to decide whether it’s too hot to be Captain America or too cold to be Spider-Man.

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The Power of Vulnerability in College Counseling

The Power of Vulnerability in College Counseling
Charley Burkly, Hillbrook School
November 17, 2023

At the end of fifth grade, I attended my grandfather’s 50th college reunion. Given that this was Princeton Reunions, which attracts nearly 25,000 alumni annually, the weekend set a very high bar: it was my first college visit, my first fireworks show, my first steak dinner, and my first “P-rade” decked out in orange and black attire. Unsurprisingly, I declared to my parents on the drive home that this was where I wanted to attend college. Fast forward through seven years of striving to become the best student, athlete, and community member possible, my Early Decision application was deferred in December and denied in April.

At the time, this felt like a tremendous failure. I had worked tirelessly, and had come up short. I felt disappointed, ashamed, and unsure about what the next four years would hold. Now over 25 years later, I remain struck by the depth of these feelings. In fact, I still feel surprisingly vulnerable sharing the details of my own process, even though this is precisely why I was drawn to a career in education, and college counseling specifically.

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2023 NACAC: Seen and Heard in Baltimore

2023 NACAC: Seen and Heard in Baltimore
Compiled by Shawn Miller, Georgetown Day School
October 18, 2023

With the most recent iteration of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) national conference officially over and the fall season continuing right along for all of us in college counseling, the AdmitAll Blog Team wanted to share a collection of highlights and short takes from Baltimore that resonated with our colleagues across the profession. 

We hope that this collection sparks joy, gives helpful insight, and provides a worthwhile snapshot of what made this year’s conference so worthwhile. Just like the theme of this year’s program, the Power of Us and the collaboration and connection through our profession continue to push us forward in a positive direction in a year of uncertainty and strife. The AdmitAll Blog team is excited to share these moments and thoughts with the ACCIS community, and we look forward to NACAC 2024 in Los Angeles next fall. 

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Helping Students Approach the “Why THIS college?” Essay with More Confidence (and fewer eye rolls)

Helping Students Approach the “Why THIS college?” Essay with More Confidence (and fewer eye rolls)
By Sarah Graham, Princeton Day School
September 13, 2023

This post was originally published on the ACCIS AdmitAll blog in 2016 (but the advice still stands!).

“Maybe you’re having trouble writing the “Why?” essay because you don’t actually want to go to this college?” I remarked to the frustrated senior in front of me. Silence. More silence. Then a half-smile and nod.

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The Same, But Different

The Same, But Different
Ashley Terry, The Bay School of San Francisco
July 20, 2023

Working at my alma mater, the question I get asked the most is: “What’s it like working at your old school?” 

To that, my response is always the same: “It’s the same, but different.” It’s the best way I can explain what it’s like to work where I essentially grew up. 

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Why I care about race-conscious admission (a.k.a. affirmative action)

Why I care about race-conscious admission (a.k.a. affirmative action)
Alyson Tom, Castilleja School
May 25, 2023

Growing Up
I remember what it’s like to be “the only one” in a classroom. Growing up in Texas, I was one of the only students of color in my elementary school and endured racist taunts from some of my classmates. Some memories are so vivid that I still feel sadness and hurt. Whenever I hear the claim that elementary school children are too young to talk about race, I shake my head. As an Asian American in a predominantly white environment, I never had the option to avoid thinking about race because it was clear from an early age that I didn’t fit in. 

I was not the first or the last student of color to have challenging experiences, and I can only imagine how much worse it could have been if I were from an even more marginalized group. As I got older, I attended more diverse schools; the more diverse the school I attended, the fewer negative experiences I had in and out of the classroom. The best educational experience I’ve ever had was attending grad school at one of the most diverse universities in the country; no racial group was in the majority, and we learned so much from each other. I share my experiences to illustrate why I care so much about race-conscious admission. The importance of diversity is not theoretical to me. 


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A world without race in admission: a necessary conversation

A world without race in admission: a necessary conversation 
Darius Pardner, Georgetown Day School

April 25, 2023

In a way, seeing students in the library, laying on the turf outside, just being themselves really grounds me and serves as a gentle reminder as to why I do this work. Of all the places I visit, the office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion holds a special place in my heart. It feels like home, it feels familiar. On any given day you will encounter diverse students who are bright, vibrant, and big thinkers. 

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Case Study 2.0: A new landscape means new timelines


Case Study 2.0: A new landscape means new
timelines
Gregg Murray, Vistamar School

"I am concerned about your college list.”
“You may want to consider a few more target or likely schools.”
“Be mindful of how many supplements you’ll be writing during fall semester.”

Try as we might, students don’t always seem to heed the subtle and not-so-subtle warnings we offer to protect them from themselves. In fact, our gentle reminders can often be received by students as discouraging, unsupportive, or downright offensive. We say “reach school,” they hear “you don’t believe in me.” After one too many instances of scratching my head wondering what was getting lost in translation, I started to watch more closely as my students crafted their college lists. They added highly rejective after highly rejective school with the utmost of optimism, nodding emphatically as I asked whether or not they thought they could handle all that they were piling onto their plate. What quickly became apparent was that students and their parents/guardians had very little understanding of how much writing goes into each application or how to build a balanced college list, especially one that accounts for admissibility and workload. “It’s just one more school,” they’d say. As I reflected on my prior conversations, I distinctly recalled telling my students that they would have dozens of supplements to complete and that quality is more important than quantity, but my words fell flat. That realization led to the creation of Case Study 2.0, a new look at building data-informed college lists and balancing the workload.

Case Study 2.0 leads participants through the experiences of two students, one who applied to a lengthy and highly selective list of colleges and another applied using a more data-driven approach. Through interactive cases, participants learn about resources like the Common Data Set, scattergrams, and national acceptance rates, before reviewing each students’ college list. The real fun begins when participants collaborate in small groups and predict the outcomes of our mock applicants. The data reveals that a student’s GPA can fall in the bottom 25th percentile of two different schools with acceptance rates ranging from 3% to 33%, a nuance that can often get overlooked when using broader terms like reach, target, and likely. The jaw dropping moment, however, is when audience members see that one of the applicants wrote nearly 40-60 pages of supplemental essay drafts and sacrificed nearly half of their senior year experience. Case Study 2.0 concludes with a discussion about the importance of students’ wellbeing and mental health, a profoundly important conversation to have with families.



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Exploring HBCUs with Black Students: One Counselor's Self-Designed Tour

Exploring HBCUs with Black Students: One Counselor's Self-Designed Tour
By Jamon Pulliam, Viewpoint School

This article was recently written by ACCIS member, Jamon Pulliam, for the Viewpoint School magazine. In sharing this article with ACCIS, Jamon’s hope is that counselors will take inspiration from his recent college tour of HBCUs and plan similar tours for their students.

In the wee hours on September 7, a bus sat in the Lower/Middle School lot for another school trip, but this trip felt different. Yes, donuts were on the bus for students to enjoy a light breakfast before the long trek to LAX. Where off to this time? The School’s first-ever Historically Black Colleges/Universities tour. Ms. Hicks and I greeted Black-identifying juniors and seniors joining us as they prepared to embark on the trip of a lifetime.

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Old Dogs, New Pronouns

Old Dogs, New Pronouns
Maria Furtado, The Bay School of San Francisco

I walk my son, Cove, to school most days. I’m the person who says “Good morning” to everyone we pass. We have been passing by one particular person almost every weekday for months now. When I first spoke to them, they jumped and looked scared. Slowly but surely, day by day, I seem to have become less scary. This morning I said “Good morning” and got back not just a “Good morning” but a smile and a wave, too.

Since this felt like great progress, I said to Cove, “Hey! She said good morning and smiled.” His response was, “How do you know that’s a she?” He was right to ask. I don’t know for sure. I had made an assumption every day for the past few months that the person enjoying their morning walk was a woman. Why?

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Six Easy Ways to Earn MVP on Turkey Day

Six Easy Ways to Earn MVP on Turkey Day
Bartley Sides, Christ Church Episcopal School (SC)

This is an updated blog that Bartley originally wrote for SACAC many years ago. However, even as the college admission landscape has changed, the advice remains the same.

In a few days, roughly 46 million turkeys will be consumed when our country pauses for a day of thanks with family and friends. However, one thing will certainly not pause this Thursday: the nagging feeling of anxiety and worry for the millions of high school seniors awaiting college decisions. While their younger cousins play football in the front yard, seniors may very well be cornered in the dining room answering endless questions about college from aunts, uncles, and grandparents.  

I’ve had students share with me that they often dread family gatherings because of the questions, the unsolicited advice, and the comparisons between other family members, friends, and neighbors. To be fair, college is an easy conversation starter. It’s relevant, it’s important, and everyone feels like they have a little something extra to add. However, I beg of you: please allow the seniors to relax and enjoy their pumpkin pie in peace!  


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New Home, Same Furniture

New Home, Same Furniture 
Shawn Miller, St John’s School

NRG Stadium has a maximum capacity of over seventy-two thousand people, yet over ninety-five thousand are packed in tonight. My wife, wearing boots purchased from Amazon, is chatting with my new colleague, his pair blending in with the sea of Cavender’s. He is spirited and kind, accepting our last minute invite to join us at the first Garth Brooks concert in Houston in seven years. As the lights dim and the crowd rises, I feel like I’ve finally encountered a small part of what it means to be Texan. 

Napa, California has a total population of around seventy-eight thousand people. With some of the finest wineries, restaurants, and natural beauty in the world at their fingertips, the tourists regularly outnumbered the residents, save for “heavy” traffic on the two lane streets. 

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The Miracle is You

The Miracle is You
Carter Delloro, Marymount School of New York

I am a father to a toddler. And like many parents of toddlers, at some point in the last eight months or so, I was introduced to the new Disney film, Encanto. Repeatedly. Our household is currently averaging one viewing of Encanto per day. Every car ride features at least some of the soundtrack. So I’ve had a lot of time to mull over the themes that Lin-Manuel Miranda and his co-creators were addressing in their film.

Whenever I think about Encanto, and especially its songs, I can’t help but think about my students. While the whole world knows the smash hit “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” (which my wife and I have fashioned into a nifty duet for our bedtime routine), the songs that hit home emotionally for me are the ones that immediately precede and follow that hit. Just a fair warning: light spoilers lie ahead.

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The Waitlist: The Final Frontier

The Waitlist: The Final Frontier
Matthew DeGreeff, Middlesex School

On July 17th, 2020, I was standing in the parking lot of Drake’s Island Beach in Wells, Maine when I received a phone call from a college admissions officer with an urgent request. He wanted to offer Sam, one of our recently graduated students, a spot in the Class of 2024 for the fall semester; however, he wanted to know before the offer was made if Sam would take it. Breathlessly, I called Sam, pulling him away from his summer job to ask him the big question:  do you want to go to your dream college that deferred you in early decision, waitlisted you in regular decision, and now wants you to join their incoming class?  And by the way, they are asking you to commit on the spot in the middle of the summer!  An eternal optimist, Sam had the full range of emotions from sheer joy to momentary confusion. He had done the hard work we asked him to do. He finished his senior year brilliantly, nailing terrific scores on his APs and was recognized by the faculty for his remarkable senior leadership during the crazy spring of 2020. He fell in love with the college he deposited with, and he had found roommates, started registering for classes, and was preparing with his parents to make his first tuition payment. He was in a very good place, yet he kept hope alive for his dream school, just in case something changed. In the spring of 2020, COVID changed everything, and the world of college admissions witnessed record numbers of waitlist acceptances as deans of admissions tried to figure out what the fall of 2020 would look like on their campuses. Within an hour on that hot July day, Sam accepted the offer from his dream school, feeling a bit guilty about saying no to the college he was intending to enroll in, but knowing that he could not turn down an opportunity that he had been considering for nearly two years.   

As I reflect back on Sam’s story I wonder who benefits from the waitlist and what are the costs to the students. There is a lot to unpack. In many ways, the waitlist is the most unregulated, least watched, and emotionally loaded space in the admissions cycle. For students, the offer to remain on the waitlist means, as Jim Carrey noted in Dumb and Dumber, that “there’s a chance” that a spot might open up in the incoming class. However, for this generation of students waiting even longer cuts against the grain of their online existence and need for immediate feedback. The waitlist requires another round of “letters of continued interest” to demonstrate their unquestioned fealty to the college along with finishing senior year strongly when their classmates are thinking about attending prom and walking across the stage at graduation. The waitlist requires patience, resilience, and the strength to buckle up and ride out the process to the bitter end, and this is a tall task for students as early May turns into late June with their final notification still pending. One of my old admissions colleagues used to remind younger members on the admissions committee that “until the last acceptance letter is in the U.S. Mail truck that there was always a chance.”  As an admissions officer and a college counselor, I have always believed that if there is a chance why not pursue it with eyes wide open, knowing we gave the process our collective best effort; however, I recognize that the elongation of the process is not always healthy for teenagers who need to move forward with their lives. I have found that more and more students are done with the college process by late April. Once they have attended revisit days, felt the love from the college they deposit with, and start to feel a sense of belonging with their college, they are ready to move forward with their lives. The hardy few try to keep hope alive.       

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To Educate is to Lead: Empowering Counselors as Leaders

To Educate is to Lead: Empowering Counselors as Leaders
Timothy L. Cross, The Lawrenceville School

Two decades ago with my Classics diploma still curled into a scroll, I assured myself there was no shame in not wanting to become a Latin teacher. Nothing of note had been written in Latin in a couple millennia plus no exciting discoveries in grammar or syntax were making headlines. In reflection, I realized that teaching Classics was too slow an expedition because I didn’t see the opportunities for growth for me. I still wanted to help students develop and mature, and I thought back to how my greatest moments of personal growth during high school transpired beyond the classroom. Now, partnering with students through the ever-mutating college process has provided me the opportunity to join their journeys while ensuring that every day brought progress–both for them and for me. With all that is going on in the world, I recently needed to remind myself why I counsel students: to walk stride-for-stride with them toward their goals.

The etymology of the term “education” comes from the Latin verb ēdūcō, ēdūxī meaning “to lead forth, draw out.” The definition depicts physical movement: an educator driving a learner from one place (of not knowing) to another (learnedness). Thus, to educate is to lead. Educators must recurrently generate and sustain movement toward a shared goal among colleagues or students; I believe this because complacency begets obsolescence while the unpredictability of the world—and the college process—is constantly evolving. The etymology of “education” shows me that all educators are, by definition, leaders.

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