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Feature It: Reframing the "Lost" College Visit

Feature It: Reframing the "Lost" College Visit

Kate Peltz
Director of College Counseling
Concord Academy

In a rusty, light grey station wagon, my father and I traversed New York and Pennsylvania. The year was 1995. The month was April. Our objective was to use school vacation week to help me build a college list. Certainly, my family’s thinking about college tours was informed by the environment in which I grew up: an affluent, white, suburb with college decals on SUV windows.

As we find ourselves in pandemic spring 2.0, college visiting is not possible for the majority of juniors just beginning their college journeys and seniors finalizing enrollment plans. When my mother was alive she would say, “If you can’t fix it, feature it.” Her sound advice reminds me to invert the problem of cancelled college tours. Instead of wringing hands over the lost college road trip, we can emphasize the opportunity facing institutions and students. Covid is inviting us to reinvent college discovery and student engagement.

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College Counselors and their Magic Powers

College Counselors and their Magic Powers

Scottie Hill
Director of College Counseling
Annie Wright Schools

When I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, I knew several people who made a good living as witches and tarot card readers. Oddly, we had similar gripes about our day jobs. People come to the local witch for the same reasons they always have, but instead of a thatched hut in the woods, now they head to a fourth floor walkup. They say things like: “I want (this person who doesn't know I exist) to love me. What can you do to make that happen? I’ll do anything.” 

College Counselors, think about that for a second. It’s not really any different than a sweet and determined student cornering you in the hall and saying, “I want to know what it takes to go to Harvard. I’ll do anything.” You know this happens. It an annual occurrence for me, as soon as I schedule the PSAT.

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Exterminating College Process Termites

Exterminating College Process Termites

Kate Peltz
Director of College Counseling
Concord Academy

My husband and I were in the midst of a home improvement project. Everything was going smoothly until we took out a large shrub, could better view a post on our porch, and discovered evidence of insect damage.  More than what I could see, what worried me was the places my imagination took me.  I had visions of swarming termites devouring my porch from the inside out. We did not see evidence of any active critters, but how could we be sure we were not facing a major issue?  My mind raced to dark places, causing me to feel both vulnerable and filled with questions.  How big was the scope of our problem?  Is there such a thing as "normal" wear and tear?  Did every very old home have some insect damage? I longed for an expert; I wanted guarantees.  Then it hit me. 

For parents of juniors in high school, worry about the impending college process is the equivalent of termites.  Instead of a manageable project that might even be fun and informative for both student and parent, learning about, preparing for and applying to college feels threatening and destabilizing.  Here are some examples of what college process termites look like when activated: 

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College Essay Advice Gone Wrong

College Essay Advice Gone Wrong

Tyler Sant
Director of College Counseling
Holy Innocents' Episcopal School

Recently the New York Times published an article titled “How to Write a Good College Application Essay.”  The article would have been better titled “Confusing, Out-of-Context Tips for Writing a Disjointed and Inauthentic College Essay.” 

College admission is confusing.  It’s secretive.  Few people get to see the inner workings of how an admission decision is made.  And not surprisingly when things are confusing and secretive, presumably well-meaning, so-called experts emerge to crack the code for the unwashed masses. 

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