Year End Reflections

Year End Reflections
Moira McKinnon, Berwick Academy
June 14, 2024

It feels like we’ve been saying, “This is the craziest year in college admissions ever” for quite a few years. And yet, has it ever felt so true as it does this spring? It almost seems quaint now that we were all up in arms when a handful of families and one independent counselor with no ethical core made up some crew stats and got themselves arrested. 

At the dawn of Varsity Blues, we also faced the unknown challenges arising from the Department of Justice targeting NACAC’s best practices. We worried that admissions would become a free-for-all, with rampant poaching of students and ever more outrageous guarantees of nicer housing and bigger scholarships. Then Covid hit, and no one had time for that. Colleges were too busy trying to support the kids already on their campuses to attempt to snag kids enrolled or enrolling elsewhere. Five years on, the Wild West atmosphere we dreaded has largely failed to materialize, if you don’t consider the NCAA transfer portal.

Instead, testing policies and unthinkable FAFSA issues have held our attention for much of the year. That is, when we weren't grappling with ongoing war in the Middle East and widespread protests. Have our schools of privilege prepared our graduates to speak their truths respectfully and peacefully? Did we do enough to help our alums witnessing protests on their campuses think critically about the issues raised?

Meanwhile, we await the admissions data that will reveal what impact the SCOTUS decision has had on future college classes. Almost daily we read of colleges altering scholarship programs, academic requirements, and DEI infrastructures based on the prevailing political winds. Our jobs have taken on a level of complexity that I imagine few of us saw coming. How do we educate our students on campus culture without raising a culture war? Will our administrations have our backs if we talk about the difference between being uncomfortable in college, and unsafe? If we are working in restrictive communities, what are best practices to let students know that we will joyfully support them in all their identities?

Next year is likely to bring a proliferation of AI tools to our profession. We know for sure that our students are already utilizing some of them for their schoolwork. As counselors, we will need to understand the benefits and pitfalls of AI, partly to guide our students in making the right choices, and partly to streamline our work in effective and meaningful ways. Admittedly, my ego gasps in horror when someone suggests I use AI to write my rec letters. But how about for list building? If colleges are using AI as a first reader, should we be counseling our students to fill out the Common App in ways we didn’t before? How do we keep the humanity in a world with increased automation?

With all these questions and more swirling, ACCIS feels like an essential haven in our work. This community of compassionate practitioners has the power to impact thousands of lives and to strengthen our country’s future. Summer Institute will be a fantastic opportunity to reconnect and look ahead in positive ways. Yes, it’s been a crazy year, and next year may bring more of the same. ACCIS gives us the hope and strength to continue serving the young people in our lives with wisdom and grace.

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