INSIGHT: The Senior Fall

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

As Labor Day passes and we flow into another school year, I begin to immerse myself into one aspect of school life: the senior fall. While I’ve been engaged with independent schools in many roles and realms, one constant has been counseling students as they move into, through, and out of their final year of high school. I mentioned to a group of parents/guardians that I exist in a weird version of Groundhog Day. I wake up each fall and am a year older, but the seniors remain the same age.

Many things have changed in the world since the fall of 1986, my first with seniors. The mixture of emotions that comes with this time in life, though, remains remarkably constant. It has always been a time of great celebration and optimism, with seniors looking forward to events and life milestones. Excitement abounds for the future, too, and yet it is a time in which many worries also begin to surface. For all these reasons, I’ve loved being able to work with students as they navigate this period in their lives.

As the competition for admission at the most selective colleges grows each year, and the focus on the process ever intensifies, it is easy to conclude that it is all changing in dramatic ways. The landscape always changes, or at least has over 37 years, but the central reality remains. For students in this environment, and it is one of great privilege, the year involves moving on to a new challenge and an experience that will influence their direction in life.  Usually, it is a college or university where they will take new classes and meet new academic expectations. They’ll move to a new home and make new friends. In a more mundane sense, they’ll learn to get themselves up in the morning and choose when to go to bed at night. They might even learn to do laundry. College holds a lot of importance in leading to a brighter future. It also is a pretty nice place to enter at age 18 and emerge at 22, growing up a LOT during that time.

For all these reasons seniors have a right to be a little anxious. They are on the brink of some huge changes. A lot of that anxiety channels into the admission process. And there IS a lot of work and nuance in applying to colleges. We have a program that guides students (and parents/guardians) through these complexities. In doing so, we directly address and ease this anxiety. I’m extremely proud of the people who do this work here: Elizabeth Andersen, Mike Anderson, Stephen Keedy, Allison Luhrs, Jennifer Oakes, Elena Olsen, Kelly Violette, Adam Waltzer, and Katie Yost. I’m proud, not just because they handle it so ably and professionally, but that they do it with such awareness and care for each senior as a person, not just as an applicant.