Have you ever wondered if the email you addressed to Rice but sent to USC traveled between the two schools? Did your high school counselor really used to sit next to your admission counselor at your dream school? Are they actually still friends? How did the YouTube video you made for your high school open house make it to the admission counselor who is interviewing you? Do counselors who work at rival schools hang out!?
Higher education is a small world. This picture, from left to right, is Joel Hart (Pomona College), Meredith Britt (New Jewish Community High School) and I at the 2013 WACAC Conference. Joel, Meredith and I all went to Vanderbilt and while we overlapped there, both as students and in the admission office, we never knew each other until we connected at work (Meredith and I worked at USC together) and at WACAC. If you’re like any of my friends, you are chuckling as you say WACAC out loud. WACAC stands for Western Association of College Admission Counselors and is a regional part of the National Association of College Admission Counselors (NACAC) that is the overarching professional organization for higher education professionals. Every summer, the various regional organizations meet for a three day conference on issues facing our profession and how we can improve the work that we do (while wearing snazzy name tags). In the fall, NACAC has their conference which brings attendees from all over the world! This is just one example of the professional development and ongoing education we take on as new issues in college and admission counseling emerge and trends change.
Admission counselors also make connections by befriending other admission counselors in the geographic territories where we recruit. We bump into one another at college fairs, high school visits or even restaurants year after year as we all travel similar circuits. We exchange stories from the road but also have meaningful conversations about how to improve the quality of our work, manage our workload better and yes, talk about students. I was once discussing an essay that had offended me with a colleague from another institution and he immediately remembered reading the very same essay. Since I’ve recruited in the same area of Texas for four years, I have also established relationships with the high school counselors at the schools I visit. We’ll touch base about specific students, both the good and the bad, general trends that we’ve noticed and just random things that pop up. When I return to a high school one of my favorite things is to ask a counselor how their students at USC are doing!
Networking, talking to each other, learning from colleagues, and building relationships is part of what helps move our profession forward. Although we work for different institutions and in different capacities, we all want the same thing: to help students get to and succeed in college. Building trusting relationships with high school counselors makes it easier to share information and have honest conversations throughout the admission cycle. Those same relationships with our peers make planning travel season a bit easier, reading thousands of files more bearable and smiling until your cheeks hurt during spring events not as tiring because you have other people you can talk to about it all. We may all do things a little bit differently, but we are definitely all in the business of higher education together.