By Stephanie Szczepanski, Saint Louis University
As we start 2016, I can’t help but reflect on what a crazy, busy year 2015 was for the counseling profession. So many things happened last year that have changed the way we will all work moving forward. I absolutely love this profession and our impact on helping young people. However, I have been a counselor for over 13 years and I have always felt that whether you worked for a specific high school or college, we were all part of the same team. We all had the same goal; to help young people further their education at their best fit institution. This was the first year that I felt high school counselors and admission counselors were somehow on different sides of a desk, and were attempting to achieve different goals. I have actually sat on both sides of that desk, but never did my passion or purpose in this field change. I have always kept what is best for the student at the heart of all that I do. I also believe that most people in this profession attempt to do the same thing.
Keeping the student at the heart of what we do has forced me, and I am guessing many of you, to reflect on the changes our profession has seen this past year. The high school graduating class of 2017 will feel the largest impact from these changes. They have a new SAT, a new way to file the FAFSA, as well as a new application to navigate. These changes have brought our passion for what is best for the student to the forefront. I attended our National Conference, read the IACAC and NACAC list serves, and actively follow the College Admission Counselors Facebook page. Based on these emails, postings, and articles, I feel that we may have let our passions get the best of us and hurt each other in the process. There are reasons the Assembly must update the SPGP and clarify best practices and guidelines. There will always be someone or some school who does something that upsets us, and this is why we have affiliate and national admission practices committees. If you haven’t gotten involved with IACAC yet, I would encourage you to do so in 2016. Being involved in IACAC, attending the annual membership meeting, and voting are just some of the ways you can make a positive impact on this profession and let your voice be heard.
We are a group of professionals who pride ourselves on being inclusive and doing everything we can to help our students. We work well beyond the hours of nine to five, typically without additional pay. Yes, we work for specific institutions, however, we still do what is best for every student. I guide students on admission, financial aid, and next steps even if they don’t eventually become a student at my institution. I help read essays and do workshops for students who may never even consider the school I represent. We all work to help students find the best fit institution, no matter what. We do this because we know education is something that will make our students’ lives better. It is something that no one can ever take away from them.
We continually give our time to better our profession, which ultimately benefits the students we serve. We volunteer for standing and ad-hoc committees, conference committees, and national committees in order to help move our profession forward. This work is sometimes not supported by our institution or organization, and we do it anyway.
As we start the new year, I know I will stop and think of the many reasons why I am grateful to work in this profession. My list typically starts with all of my IACAC mentors and colleagues who have helped guide me along the way. The beginning of a new year is always a great time to think about and reach out and thank those who have helped you. Who has gone above and beyond for you or for your students? Who has helped you with your travel and files? Who has helped mentor you? As we take on the new challenges that 2016 will bring to our profession, I hope that we can be kind to each other and remember that even though we sit on opposite sides of the desk we all have the same purpose: to help each student find the right fit.
I wish you all a wonderful new year!
Editorial note: The Media Communications Committee invites all IACAC members to share their thoughts by submitting essays and articles to The Admissions Essay.