Rachelle Bernadel is the IB’s University Relations Administrator at the IB Global Centre in Bethesda, MD, USA. She is also an IB graduate of Parkdale High School in Riverdale, Maryland.
For many students, the outcome of the college application process is both an exciting yet agonizing experience. Counselors, teachers, students, parents and community members together put significant effort into ensuring that applications are completed thoroughly and represent the student holistically. However, the highs of being accepted into a dream school and the lows of a rejection from a considered safe school can intensify the culture of anxiety over university choices in general.
As the decisions roll in, the struggle students have in deciding what they will do with the next 2 or 4 years of their lives is extremely daunting. A majority of high school seniors at this stage are already unsure about many aspects of their life and post secondary endeavors, so to make such a seemingly binary decision can feel like a stark situation. This is especially true for minority families who are focused on ensuring that their children just get into a respectable college and have the financial support to pay for it. With highly selective institutions carrying much credence in the minds of parents and students, a denial from such a university can be a devastating experience.
Counselors, you are often the bedrock of a student’s intellectual and personal development during the secondary years and your influence during this delicate time is essential.
Write ‘worth’ letters to your students (parents should too!)
Think back to when you were preparing recommendations for your students. This would be a good time to write a brief ‘worth’ note to that student as well. An extra step, but I believe a value-added one that can serve as an opportunity to express that as a counselor, you are proud of the growth they have demonstrated in the application process despite their college destination, because that in itself is a key stage of professional development. The admissions process has evolved so much and the numerous hurdles that many students encounter and overcome is commendable. Empowering students to take ownership of their education, not solely the institution, will allow them to thrive in any college they end up attending.
Set time aside to be a sounding board for students and parents
As counselors you often receive the brunt of parent and student concerns when decisions are made. Therefore it is important to give families a structured forum to discuss worries and emphasize that belonging can happen for every student, even if it is not at their top university choice.
Schedule time again to for students to visit local colleges and universities (if possible)
When you are planning budgets and times for college tours, try to schedule follow up visits at local institutions for students now that they have been accepted. Connect with universities that are in the area to help give students that added stroke of confidence needed to make the decision that is right for them.
Encourage students to attend admitted student weekends for out of state schools
It is one thing for students to envision themselves at a prospective university, but that vision can oftentimes change when it is presented as a reality. Questions about financial aid and campus culture become a bit more serious and less of an abstract concept. This is where a visit really counts and can make a difference. However, attending these weekends may not be a feasible option for some underserved families, which is why it is important to also coordinate virtual campus tours or skype calls for groups of students unable to visit.
Best of luck to all of your students, wherever they go.