Counselor Career Day

While the seniors apply to college, the senior counselors' job description involves a lot more than just electronically submitting transcripts.

With+her+largest+workload+so+far%2C+Driver+continues+to+write+letters+of+recommendation+for+her+students.+At+the+same+time%2C+the+next+submission+day+for+checklists+is+November+2%2C+so+her+work+is+far+from+over.

With her largest workload so far, Driver continues to write letters of recommendation for her students. At the same time, the next submission day for checklists is November 2, so her work is far from over.

Alicia Wala '16, Associate Editor, Copy

During college application season, the junior-senior counselors’ jobs are much more work than expected. Most seniors do not exactly know the nature of the counselors’ duties, but they have some sort of idea.

“I think that in their job they have to do more than just the ac lab meetings,” says Grace Kilpatrick ‘16. “Most things in the meetings were covered junior year. No need to hold our hands, but they need to be decisive and maybe not set ultimatums.”

Walking into the counseling office and turning the corner leads you to the offices of Susan Chong, Tamara Driver, and Grace Bahn, who is filling in for LaToya Hudson-Spells while she is on maternity leave. Inside Bahn’s office, the blinds on the windows are pulled all the way up, letting natural light into her tidy office. She sits, poised at her computer, typing away.

“The November 1 deadline is very important,” says Bahn. “it’s a lot of work.”

What most students are not aware of is exactly how much work the counselors have ahead of them as seniors apply to college.

“A single letter of recommendation can take from one to two hours, it takes a lot of time for a good letter.” says Bahn.

This large workload comes at a time of change in the counseling department. With the hiring of Chong and Bahn, Driver has had to increase the amount of students she takes care of. Currently having a workload of a third more students than when she started counseling seven years ago, organization has been a key component to staying on top of everything.

“I triage by due date, and I have to be a stickler for checklist deadlines,” says Driver. “I can only focus on what needs to happen by November 1 right now, which can be tough for the students to understand.”

A large whiteboard in Driver’s office has 34 last names of seniors on it. Next to 11 of the names are large, red checks. The list of names is everyone who has correctly submitted a checklist, and the red checks mean that Driver has already written their counselor letter of recommendation. Her increased workload has not been the easiest thing to maneuver.

“I’m going to be writing letters of rec up until October 30,” says Driver. “I’ve never not been done well before then, but I’m writing 3 letters a day. If I’m uninterrupted, I can write a great letter of rec within 40 minutes.”

Of course, the counselors and seniors are both under stress when college is considered. Both parties need to really focus on deadlines, and both parties also have a large writing component ahead of them.

“I think the seniors applying to college and the senior counselors have different types of stress,” says Bahn. “Seniors also have class and their outside lives, but the counselors also have to manage the entire junior class. Everyone is doing a lot.”

The counselors’ jobs are not only about sending transcripts and writing letters of recommendation, though. While also working with the junior class, there is a surprising amount of other work involved, too.

“There’s a lot of family counseling involved. It could partly be because helicopter parenting is the new black,” says Driver. “but most of the time the problem is a lack of communication between the student and their parents.”

Fielding calls and emails from anxious seniors and their parents is a large part of the job as well. While more communication would solve a lot of these problems, the counselors also know how to deal with relentless questions.

“I stay patient and keep up with who showed up to the ac lab lessons,” says Bahn. “Most of the time, those who showed up to the meetings don’t have questions. I just want us to be respectful of each other’s time. If the students put in the effort, then I will too.”

Even when all of the college applications are sent for the year, the counselors’ job is not finished. Some checklists are processed through February, and after that a whole slew of other issues arise. Until graduation, the counselors help students with financial aid, college visits, making a decision, and the FAFSA. Also, they have to take care of the entire junior class, which is usually reserved for second semester. Students can be a big help in alleviating the stress of this neverending work.

“Students’ anxiety comes from the questions of the unknown, so stay informed. There are answers to your questions outside of me,” says Driver. “look in the college handbook, read my emails, check naviance, or just find the information out on your own.”

One of the biggest takeaways the counselors want seniors to know is that they must communicate with their parents. They have experienced a lot of problems with students and parents who have different goals for college. Talking these goals out and coming up with a plan helps both the family and the counselors.

“The parents are stressed, too,” says Bahn. “I get a lot of questions from parents and students, but I try to meet with the student before contacting their parents so I know what they want.”

The counselors are the liaison between the senior class and college. They need to make sure the college is the right fit and match for the student, and that the students accurately understand the consequences of their choices.

“You need to be in a college where you feel happy and challenged. If not, I need to ask myself if I did my job correctly.” says Driver.

The seniors and the counselors both have a lot of things to do before the school year is over. Staying organized seems to be the best way to get everything done well and in a timely matter. Once applications are sent, the seniors feel like their portion is finished. For the counselors, another stressor still remains.

“No one blames you if you don’t get into school,” says Driver. “everyone looks at the counselors instead.”