Insight: Building Community in the College Counseling Process

By Bart Gummere, Associate Head of School for College Counseling & Alumni Relations

The fall is here and with it an intense period for our seniors, or at my age perhaps better to clarify, our 12th graders.  As a rule, seniors are enrolled in the toughest schedule of classes yet, including many taking on the considerable challenge of a self-designed Independent Study.  Additionally, our 12th graders are often leaders in their many extracurricular pursuits, taking on more responsibility there than ever before.  And then added to that is the unrelenting schedule of applying to college.  Many parents may remember a time when application deadlines stretched into February. Some still do but, in most years, about 90% of our seniors apply somewhere by November 15. The fall is ever more compressed.

Although our students often wonder how they will make it through all this work, they all do.  And they run into great success throughout.  As everyone knows, flourishing in a process and making it through with a smile are two different things. This is where it is so nice to all be back on campus.  The support of community is alive and well this fall.  Students are actively connecting with each other. In so doing, they are answering each other’s questions and recognizing they aren’t alone in these challenges.

We’re also seeing students pop into our offices with frequency and ask questions as they pass in the hall.  Asking questions was possible last year over Teams, but the threshold for setting up a call seemed higher in that setting, and I expect a lot of questions went unasked.  More importantly, the question “do you think I am doing what I need to do?” takes on very different meaning depending on tone and body language. Those things that just don’t convey in a written message.

I am so happy to see the significant impact of our cohesive, supportive community in this realm. Our students are comforted to be operating in a school where their classmates are not active competitors in the college process but instead positive reinforcers for each other.  Nothing makes me happier or prouder.