INSIGHT: EPS College Counseling

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

As you all know, we are putting even more emphasis this year into our students’ well-being.  I’m glad to report that navigating the college search and application process in a healthy manner has been a priority from the start.  There is a common narrative, fueled yearly by sensational media stories, that the college application process is one filled with stress and disappointment.  In my experience, this is a false and unhelpful narrative.

No doubt, it is a long process; one that requires deep thought and analysis.  Students must look outward, investigating a seemingly endless array of educational options.  More importantly, they must look inward, to determine their own strengths, interests and desires.  This includes not just academic considerations, but decisions about setting and location.  As Matt Delaney likes to ask students, “How many of you have been previously able to choose where you want to live?”

Obviously, this all takes a lot of time and work. Our college counseling program addresses students in the ninth grade and starts working with students in earnest during the tenth-grade spring.  We do this to keep students informed and prepared.  Necessary steps emerge throughout high school, and knowledge provides the power to control the moment, rather than letting the moment control the student.  This is designed to avoid stress rather than introduce it.

There is a tendency for adolescents to confuse hard work with stress.  Every student I know works extremely hard in some area of their life, and experiences joy from that work, rather than stress.  Yes, applying to college makes one especially vulnerable. Most students do experience at least one “no.”  But that downside pales in comparison to the window of opportunity being opened by choosing and matriculating at any institution.

There are so many great colleges and universities in this country (and in others).  Students who work as hard as ours at EPS are extremely well prepared.  They also will discover that their future, beyond their undergraduate education, will depend far more on how they take advantage of the opportunities afforded them in that school, than on the name and reputation of the school itself.

Our entire college counseling office encourages students to dream big, and we cheer on students along the way to believe in themselves and take risks.  That is balanced by our constant, underlying message:  you are defined by your own actions and accomplishments, not the school you attend.