- Axel de Vernou ’21
In response to the fall semester being online, SHP’s College Counseling Department pivoted to a week-long series of workshops, guest speakers, and lessons to prepare the senior class for submitting their applications.
College Week replaced the in-person gathering that seniors usually participated in right before the start of the school year, where one day of the summer was dedicated to activities surrounding the college process. The extension of the event to span five days enabled the counselors to introduce a wide variety of opportunities to the senior class.
The workshops, which lasted between 9am to 3pm with a lunch break in between, eased seniors into the fall semester by providing space and instruction to complete materials for the application process. “College Week was just something that we’ve never been able to find the time in the overall school schedule to do,” says Ms. Lauri Badar, Director of College Counseling. “When we had that opportunity presented to us, we grabbed it and ran.”
The fact that there were multiple days with both morning and afternoon sessions allowed for a wide range of topics to be covered. Students heard from college representatives, completed essential steps for submitting their applications, and participating in engaging activities like scavenger hunts and raffles. And while some lessons were more valuable than others depending on the student’s progress in the college process, space was carved out in the schedule for independent work and asking questions.
“The time given to students to get a head start on [supplemental] essays was very useful,” says Joey Guardino ‘21. However, he found some sessions like “the Monday dedicated to Adult 101 Learning” to be less productive. Since College Week was a preview of the pace of online school, some seniors found the transition to multiple hours on Zoom to be quite a change from the summer. Ms. Badar agrees that “five days felt like a slog. [It] was a lot of intense work – we definitely have some notes for how we would change it.”
When school returns to an in-person format, the College Counseling Department anticipates that it will blend the comprehensive schedule of this year’s virtual week with the previous format. The five days that seniors spent on Zoom during College Week would probably be redistributed, with “two of them at the end of the junior year” and perhaps “three at the start of senior year,” explains Ms. Badar. “They would probably be some combination of workshops through a screen and a bit of face to face instruction.”
Fortunately, the college application process is already very digital. “During normal times, we would still be sending our essays and questions via email to our counselors to look over and answer,” says Joey. “The difference would be that we would physically meet with our counselors to discuss this information, but Zoom has allowed us to still have that time electronically,” he adds.
There are some concerns, though, with the amount of screen time that results from having both school and college applications be online. College counselor Ms. Silke Sen illustrates the scenario that some seniors might find themselves in. “After I finish my math homework, I’m going to write my supplement because it’s staring at me from my computer screen.” The main problem is that “no matter how hard you try to create breaks, we don’t have a better choice at the moment.” In short, while seniors have been provided with more time to work on their applications, the fact that everything is digital makes it more difficult to remain focused on the supplementals, yet another task that must be done on the computer screen.
Among the obstacles that seniors have faced this year, between the difficulty of accessing testing centers and the cancellation of extracurricular activities, one benefit they can draw from College Week is increased preparedness for the workflow they will face in college. “Just being remote…[provides] us with so many great time management skills,” says Ms. Badar. “Learning to build in the self-care is an important skill” that the senior class has also had to practice, according to Ms. Sen.
In future years, the College Counseling Department will take certain elements from the virtual experience to build the best week that helps rising seniors feel prepared for the application process.
Creative Commons photo provided by Katie Sandhu ’21