Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Profile: Crys Latham

Crys Latham
Director of College Counseling
The Washington Latin Public Charter School (DC)

How long have you been in admissions/college counseling? Share your journey story!
Officially, I am on my 16th year, but I include a couple years of my undergraduate experience volunteering in the admissions office at my alma mater, Mount Holyoke College, because I was doing work that early in my career, I hired professionals to do!

How did you get started in college counseling/admissions?
I'd known since my first day of kindergarten that I wanted to be a teacher.  As I got to high school, I'd figured out that I wanted to teach high school students music and/or Spanish since I excelled at both.  I got to Mount Holyoke and joined Concert Choir, was selected for a chamber ensemble within the Concert Choir, was asked to join an a cappella group, played in an instrumental ensemble (B-flat clarinet), and signed up for the English handbell choir.  I figured out that I just wanted to continue to have music in my life, not necessarily teach it.  And because I'm quite an introvert, I've always disliked speaking in front of groups.  Having to speak in a language not my own in my 200-level Spanish class my first week at MHC (sadly) cured me of wanting to teach Spanish.  But I fell head-over-heels, love-of-my-life in love with MHC and felt the need to share that with every. single. prospective. student. who set foot on campus, and thus began my journey in admissions.

I landed in senior year, not wanting to return to my home state of OH, but also not ready to be certified to teach in MA despite continuing with Education as one of my majors.  That's when Mount Holyoke created their Admissions Fellows program, which was basically an entry-level admissions counselor position.  That's when I realized, "Hey, I could work in college admissions!"  It became like my college search all over again, finding the best fit for me.  I chose Oberlin for my first job.  After a few years, I was still in love with my work at Oberlin but also realized I had no problem telling a kid that Oberlin may not be the best fit for them...but they should look at schools A, B, and C that I had come to learn about in my down time at college fairs.  It was then I realized that, while I still loved working in admissions  - and would go on to work in admissions at two more colleges - that maybe I should start considering the other side of the desk!  Fast forward several years, and I am now completing my sixth year as Washington Latin's Director of College Counseling.

What's your favorite admissions/counseling memory?
This is a tough one because there are so many - I don't think that's uncommon in our profession.  I would have to say that my favorite memory encompasses the 2011-2012 school year.  It was my second year at Washington Latin, and we were graduating our first senior class.  I'd sacrificed a lot and spent immeasurable blood, sweat, and tears creating a college counseling program at an unproven charter school.  I was seeing our first graduating class receive their - and our school's - first college acceptances, first scholarships, first Posse Scholar winners...  Lots of firsts with that graduating class, but it simply reminded me that all the hard work that my colleagues and I had put into this first senior class was worth it!

What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue leadership (or membership) in PCACAC and/or NACAC?
I have to give loads of credit to PCACAC.  The membership is filled with phenomenal people who genuinely want to do right by our students and their families and each other.  It is also a group of professionals who also want to grow its members in the counseling and admissions fields, providing so many opportunities for professional development and social opportunities for networking.  Because of people like Judy Edwards, Jayne Fonash, Jeff Smith, and Kathleen Martin, who took me under their wings early on and saw something special in me, I grew to be more confident in submitting proposals to present at our spring conferences and NACAC's national conferences and pursuing a spot on the Admissions Practices and Current Trends/Future Issues committees.  If you want to learn or step outside your comfort zone, there are plenty of people in PCACAC who are willing to help you do that.  It's cliché, but just ask!  We're all here to help!

If not working in admissions/college counseling, what else could you see yourself pursuing? 
In charter schools, you wear more than one hat.  It's the nature of the beast, so not only am I the school's college counselor, but I have an advisory (homeroom) and I proctor a study hall and I teach four sections of Financial Literacy most semesters, also a curriculum I created for Latin.  I was even the principal/director of our summer program for three years.  I'd never wanted to do anything but teach, though, which is ironic considering how introverted and shy I tend to be.  A few years ago, though, I realized that I don't ever think it was really about teaching.  I just wanted to be in school for the rest of my life because it was always such a happy experience for me in a childhood that wasn't always happy.  School was my refuge, but when you're five-years-old, you don't know yet that there are lots of things you can do to be in school forever.  You know just "teacher".  Even though I still don't like talking in front of groups of people, I do love teaching my Financial Literacy classes.  I love that I get to share my knowledge and passion for the topic with my students and that I work at a school that encourages that.  I'm just blessed that I get to do what I'm called to do and what I thought I wanted to do.  At the end of the day, I'm still working with the same age group and moving them toward the same cluster of goals, which are graduating and figuring out what comes next.

What's one thing that most people don't know about you?
When I was in college, I had three jobs every summer and Christmas break.  One of them was working in the meat department of a grocery store.  Yes, I used to haul and cut huge slabs of meat.  Not a pretty picture, but oddly enough, I enjoyed doing that, too.

What's a current trend or future issue you're passionate about right now? And why?
Can I say this without starting riots in the street?  The Coalition App.  I think the Coalition has their heart in the right place, but I think there is a lot that can be done that can make it a valuable tool for those at whom it is directed - and to support those who will be working with those students.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Does She Love our College?

As part of the AP Committee’s desire to proactively discuss ethics, we will be sending out monthly “case studies.” In these cases, we will offer a situation and discuss whether the issue is in compliance with NACAC’s Statement of Principles of Good Practices (SPGP). Thanks to Jake Talmage, Director of College Counseling at St. Paul’s School and PCACAC AP Committee Chair, for this month’s case. If you have a question about a situation or SPGP, please contact a member of the AP Committee.

February Case: A high school counselor is working in her office when the phone rings. On the other line is an admission officer from Cupid College who visited the school the past few years and has developed a strong professional relationship with the counselor. After exchanging pleasantries, the admission officer asks, “Can you tell me about Applicant Adele? I love her music, and think she would be a great addition. But, does she love our college? It would really help me in committee knowing that we are one of her top colleges.”

Is this situation compliant with NACAC’s SPGP?

Discussion: At first blush, this seems like an easy case—don’t ask students, or counselors, for a rank order. But delve a little deeper, and the water gets murky.

According to NACAC SPGP II B 2. “All postsecondary members agree they will: not ask candidates, their schools, their counselors or others to list or rank order their college or university preferences on applications or other documents.”  However, was this a ranking? Maybe, maybe not. Furthermore, this was done as a phone call—it is not an application or document. Is this ethical?

If we look to another section, we can find additional guidance on this issue. According to NACAC SPGP III B 5. “All counseling members agree they will: not reveal, unless authorized, candidates’ college or university preference.” Thus, by asking this question, the admission officer might have put her colleague in an ethical quandary which could be quite uncomfortable. Does the counselor truly know the interest of the student? Has she been authorized to release that information? Would the situation be as difficult if the question was worded differently (for example, “Is she still interested?” instead of “Does she love my college?”)?

Conclusion:  This is a grey area. Although not technically a breach of SPGP, the situation approaches SPGP guidelines for college admission officers and counselors. And, it could make counselors uncomfortable. Perhaps the college admission officer did not even realize the quandary being put on the counselor.

Even though this situation may not be in technical conflict with SPGP, the counselor could contact the AP Committee to discuss the issue. Even if there were not an allegation, the AP Committee might contact the Dean/Director of the college to let them know that a concern had been raised. The student, counselor and school asking the question would be kept confidential, but this could help educate the admission staff about the issues placed on school counselors by such calls.

Want to review previous case studies?
View all of the Admissions Practices Case Studies here.

Monday, February 8, 2016

2015 Student Support Grant: A trip the the Baltimore NACAC Fair

Our Student Support Grant Experience
Christine Shaughnessy, MEd
School Counselor Daw-Harr, Department Chair
Severna Park High School (MD)

Armed with all of the tools necessary to conquer a college fair, 28 Severna Park High School juniors and seniors embarked on a trip to Baltimore, for the Fall 2015 NACAC College Fair.  The pre-identified group was comprised of African American and FARMS students. The Likert scale indicated a good sense of what schools they would like to apply to, but very little understanding of the process, ways to prepare, how to choose, and they confessed that they had not researched.   After determining that these two student populations were sometimes underprepared to take on the college application process at SPHS, the day was designed to provide students with the knowledge, and confidence to take next steps in selecting a college.  

Students met in the early morning for breakfast, data collection, background information, and guidelines for the day.  They completed a pre-test to assess the comfort level and knowledge of the college admissions world.  During our morning workshop, we covered the basics.  Research would be our main focus for the day, but they would also learn what type of college they might be interested in and how to identify those factors that are most important.  Students reviewed the steps of the admissions process and were given a master list of participating schools.  From there, they designed their own list of eight schools they were to visit with that day.  They were feeling prepared and were excited to head out. 

Upon our arrival, we saw hundreds of eager students waiting for the doors to open.  And, at the strike of 10 am, they rushed off, with maps in hand.  They were on their own!  The two hours went quickly and we met for our lunch and debrief.  The students were elated on the return ride to school.  Conversations about academics, applications, and potential schools were floating through the air.   

When they returned to school, they took their post-test and the results were fantastic.  Cumulatively, the students increased their knowledge base and comfort level by 77%.  The largest gains were in “I know where I want to apply.”  In the future however, improvements would need to include, “I know what to do to prepare.”  Meeting with this targeted group will need to start much earlier.

Thank you so much to PCACAC and the SSG.  Our students were very appreciative!

About Student Support Grant (SSG):

PCACAC recognizes that members may not always have the financial resources to implement student programming.  To address this need, in spring 2013 PCACAC began offering the Student Support Grant (SSG) to help underwrite worthwhile initiatives that directly benefit students in the college transition process.
PCACAC members may apply by early March each year for a Student Support Grant to help fund their own student projects. They may also wish to nominate a community member whose volunteer work nurtures college readiness.  Successful SSG applicants will propose events directly benefiting students, such as trips to college campuses, money for student college counseling or financial aid workshops, and college programs to host prospective student groups.  New and creative ideas are welcome!

Profile: Samuel Shoge

Samuel T. Shoge
Assistant Director of Admissions
Washington College (MD)
Chair, Government Relations Committee - PCACAC

How long have you been in admissions/college counseling? Share your journey story!
4.5 years at Washington College. 

How did you get started in college counseling/admissions?
I happened to apply to a vacant admissions counselor position at Washington College a couple months after graduating from college. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life and there just so happened to be an opening at Washington College where I lived 5 minutes away from. I kind of got caught up in how fast things moved because 3 days after applying, I had an interview and an offer. It was hard to say no to my first job offer right out of college. My first day on the job was attending Summer Institute at Bucknell.

What's your favorite admissions/counseling memory?
My favorite admissions stories revolve around working hard to recruit students you know would be excellent fits at your institution. Nothing beats seeing that student deposit after a long journey of meeting them at their high school, seeing them on campus for tours, and counseling their parents through the FAFSA process. 

What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue leadership (or membership) in PCACAC and/or NACAC?
For those looking to get more involved with PCACAC and NACAC, the best thing to do is dive right on in. I see to many people express the desire to get involved but hesitate because they overthink the time commitment and their schedule. Look, everyone is busy in this profession but if you really want to make connections in this profession, get your name out there as a mover and shaker, and make some great friends, you just simply have to get involved. Yes, it is A LOT of work and requires true organization skills but it's a time commitment that pays dividends in this professions and one can honestly look at it as an investment. 

If not working in admissions/college counseling, what else could you see yourself pursuing? 
I eventually see myself doing something that revolves around city planning/public policy/public administration. 

What's one thing that most people don't know about you?
One thing a lot of people don't know is that I am training to be a volunteer firefighter.

What's a current trend or future issue you're passionate about right now? And why?

Affordability is the name of the game right now in terms of trends and issues I am following closely. I like how it is a hot-button issue in national politics and being addressed by state legislators. As someone who graduated with student loan debt, I am a first hand example of how so many things in life have to be delayed because of student loan payments. A political figure cannot reasonably talk about fixing the US economy without addressing the student loan issue. An entire generation delaying or canceling major purchases because of student loan obligations is no way to get the economy back on track, especially when that economy depends on modest population growth and people buying cars, homes, and just stuff in general. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Profile: Lucy Neale Duke

Lucy Neale Duke
Assistant Director of College Counseling
McDonogh School
Owing Mills, MD

How long have you been in admissions/college counseling? Share your journey story!

I joined Georgetown University's admission staff in 1982.  After two years there, I moved to the secondary side and spent 11 years at Connelly School of the Holy Child in Potomac, MD. Next, eight years home with my children, and then I re-entered the college counseling world at City College, Baltimore's humanities magnet high school.  After three years at City, I read very part-time for Hopkins's admission office and then went to Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, where I founded the college counseling office. I left CRJ after six years, and tried a year of mostly-retirement, only to land back at McDonogh School this year, where I enjoy working as a part-time Assistant Director of College Counseling.

How did you get started in college counseling/admissions?
I was a history major with vague notions of going to law school, although I'd also met with my university's admission dean for an information interview while I was still in college. I did NOT enjoy my first job in DC as a legal assistant at a large, corporate firm, and I found myself thinking a lot about my own college counselor and an admission dean from a college I didn't attend, both of whom were exceptionally helpful to me when I applied to college.  So, I contacted Georgetown, they had a few openings in admissions, and here I am, almost 34 years later.

What's your favorite admissions/counseling memory?
Too many to choose, but here's a sample: Visiting my former college counselor (who'd moved to a different independent school) as a Georgetown admission rep - he kindly treated me with professional deference, even though I'd been on the job for two months. My helpful and fun colleagues at DC-area independent schools in the 1980s and early 1990s. The freezing cold PCACAC conference luncheon at The Carousel where we sat atop a thin plywood floor covering the ice rink, the last time our conference was in Ocean City. Renewing friendships with admission and counseling colleagues after my eight year hiatus. Sitting with a City College senior as she called her grandmother in tears to tell her she'd won a scholarship and could afford to attend college (I was a puddle). CRJ's first graduation in 2011, with everyone heading off to two-and four-year colleges. Seeing many first gen students thrive and grow in college and beyond.

What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue leadership (or membership) in PCACAC and/or NACAC?
PCACAC members are generous, experienced and well-informed. When I returned to college counseling after eight years at home with my children, it was huge to still have professional connections and friends who remembered me through PCACAC; they helped me get up to speed. Volunteering with PCACAC and/or seeking office is a great way to become a better counselor and to learn more about the profession.

If not working in admissions/college counseling, what else could you see yourself pursuing? 
Not sure!

What's one thing that most people don't know about you?
My most popular hors d'oeuvre is my mother's cheese pennies recipe.

What's a current trend or future issue you're passionate about right now? And why?

Access, and all its components: quality education and counseling starting in Pre-K; financial aid; college counseling for low-income, first generation students; effective college retention and graduation programs.