Through the Lens of a Conference First Timer
By Kelly Erdman
Lake Forest High School
I had a wonderful experience attending my first IACAC conference! I feel extremely lucky to have been a grant recipient and to have been a part of such an informative event with so many amazing counseling professionals. My experience at the conference started like a student on their first day at a new school; I was feeling excited yet nervous because I’m graduate student new to the profession. I wasn’t sure what to expect or if I’d know anyone there.
I downloaded the conference app to help plan out my sessions for each day and I started with the “First Timers Tips for IACAC First Timers” session. During the session, the speakers did an excellent job sharing their unique stories from their first IACAC conference and made everyone feel welcomed and relaxed. In between sessions, there was coffee in the lobby and booths with interesting products and information on further professional development opportunities. I had the label “First Timer” on my name tag, as a result numerous veteran IACAC members made an effort to say hello or give me a friendly smile throughout the conference.
The first timers’ luncheon, which followed later in the first day, was another excellent way to meet people and feel more comfortable at the conference with fun entertainment and silly games at each table. Throughout the conference I enjoyed the dialogue in each session, as most were structured so there was time to ask questions and discuss topics within the group. The sessions I found to be the most valuable were the “First Timers: High School Counselor Interviews – Part 1” and “First Timers: Unsolved Mysteries – Secrets of the Admissions Committee.”
The entire conference was extremely well organized with helpful volunteers available for assistance and directions. I brought my laptop to take notes during sessions, however I learned that IACAC scans your name tag as you enter each session and after the conference everyone gets emailed the PowerPoints for each session they attend. This wonderful and tech savvy feature was incredibly helpful because it made me feel that I could relax and converse more during sessions instead of having to constantly spend my time typing notes.
Ultimately, IACAC was a valuable opportunity to expand my knowledge of college admissions, network, and learn from experienced counseling professionals while gaining an understanding of the trends in college counseling in order to best assist my students. Ultimately, the friendly people and informative sessions were what make IACAC exceptional, and why I will be returning to the conference next year.