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May   2020

Fri

15

What Counselors Are Doing to Help Students at Home

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School (and life) as we know it has changed dramatically over the past few months, and the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic means we have more questions than ever about the future of higher education. 

“We’re getting so many questions from juniors about what will happen if they haven't had a chance to take their SAT or ACT yet, or whether students will be penalized by colleges because their high school is now using a pass/fail grading system for this marking period,” says Laurie Kopp Weingarten from One-Stop College Counseling in Morganville, New Jersey. “There is so much uncertainty, and most people don't do well with the unknown. But we’re trying to reassure everyone that it will all be alright.” 

We hope you have a great counselor in your corner that you can go to with your questions. If you haven’t reached out to them yet (or vice versa), don’t be afraid to get in touch and see how they can help you, from college planning through phone check-ins to academic counseling via Zoom sessions. They’re also there if you’re feeling stressed and just need someone to talk to.

How counselors are working remotely with students

We asked counselors in the CollegeXpress community how they’re currently still working with their students and what kind of support they’re offering while you’re at home. We were happy to learn that although school buildings have closed, your counselors are still available—and maybe even more accessible than ever before! 

No matter your grade level, read on to see all the great ways counselors are supporting their students across the nation. This list may inspire you to get in touch with yours or help you remember something important you need to touch base on. 

Related: Stuck in a Rut During COVID-19: A Students Perspective

Real counselor responses

“I’m using WebEx and Microsoft Teams to meet using video chat. I’m also doing college planning, check-ins with seniors, and reaching out to students who aren't doing well academically.” — Anonymous

“I’ve converted to a fully virtual college consulting practice. I continue to offer college and summer planningacademic planning, and standardized testing strategies due to uncertainties. I’m starting brainstorming and essay development with juniors and advising seniors on making college choices with limited information and lack of visits. I'm also checking in with my younger students to be sure that they’re staying on track academically and with summer plans. I'm using Skype with students and Zoom for family meetings.” — Mindy Peterson from CollegeNod, LLC in Malibu, CA 

“We're running all our normal meetings, so we're doing our final college decision meetings with seniors, our preliminary college list meetings with juniors, our SAT vs. ACT meetings with sophomores, and our general check-ins with freshmen. We've also begun working with our end-of-year 8th graders to help them select high school schedules and talk about current and future exceptions in order to prepare them for high school. With each student, we’re also checking in to make sure their stress/anxiety isn't through the roof!" — Laurie from One-Stop College Counseling 

“I've sent seniors a list of resources to help them get to know the colleges where they've been accepted since they can't visit.” — Anonymous

“I’ve been doing Zoom meetings and calls all related to college counseling. We have a wellness counselor who is handling stress and anxiety.” — Anonymous 

“I’m doing lots of Skype calls, academic support, and managing stress and anxiety, but also routine things like making college lists and discussing visits (albeit virtually)." — Jill Madenberg from Madenberg College Consulting in Lake Success, NY

“I use Zoom check-ins mostly to create stability and support but also to talk about concrete skills they’ll need when they have a job.” — Natalie Whitcraft Pacholl from SEH America in Vancouver, WA

“I offer a full range of college planning remotely, including building the college list and guidance with essays and applications. As a clinical psychologist, I’ve always focused on helping students and families manage stress and anxiety. Applying to college can be an exciting process, but I also help students determine whether a gap year would be advisable and how to spend that year most effectively.” — Eric Endlich, PhD, from Top College Consultants in Needham, MA

Related: College Flexibility and COVID–19: Expert Q&A 

Common topics and communication methods for counselors 

  • College planning
  • Admission and application strategies
  • Taking care of transcripts and applications for scholarships
  • College list building 
  • College and career readiness
  • Scholarship ideas and financial aid counseling 
  • Academic counseling
  • Replying to student inquiries/concerns
  • Newsletters
  • YouTube sessions
  • Zoom and Skype meetings
  • Google Classroom 
  • Google Meet
  • Google Hangouts
  • Google Forms
  • Phone and email check-ins
  • Mental health check-ins

Words of encouragement from real counselors

A lot of students are understandably discouraged about the end of the school year and their college plans, so we asked our counselors what advice they want to share with you. We hope these words of wisdom help you finish your classes strong and get you excited about the future! 

Related: Words of Encouragement for the Class of 2020

“Stay well. Wash your hands and read. Keep on figuring out who you are and what you would like to do once this is over. The opportunities are limitless.” — Jon W. Tarrant, CEP, from Carlisle, PA

“If you’re interested in college, there will still be many fine colleges and universities interested in inviting students to campus. If you aren't interested in college, start experimenting to learn what types of work you might eventually do that can pay a living wage. Try things, and keep track of what you enjoy and are good at and what you can merely tolerate.” — Anonymous 

“The coronavirus is giving all of us a chance to reevaluate what’s important to us and to potentially change our focus or direction. While there are cancellations and setbacks, students can still plan for their future and take time to investigate schools and deepen their interests—both academic and career. I advise students to pursue hobbies that they haven't had time for such as cooking/baking, reading, or learning a computer language. I advise my students to continue with summer planning for lab internships or academic programs in the event that they’re still going to take place. Students should dedicate themselves to their remote high school classes as much as possible and stay fresh with test prep so they’re ready for when the SAT and ACT are rescheduled. I also advise them to stay active with walking or running outdoors or participating in live-streamed exercise classes to keep a positive mood and fitness. Finally, I advise students to establish a healthy sleep schedule to enhance health and to optimize learning potential.” — Mindy from CollegeNod

“Right now, we’re encouraging students to finish the year as planned by their high school and to continue studying for standardized tests if they plan to take them. But we don't want them to worry about anything else. We sent out a long letter acknowledging the uncertainty of the situation and telling them to follow their gut. If they feel that they want to spend their free time communicating virtually with their friends, they should do so. If they want to watch movies or TV, then that's fine. But if they would like to do something to help others, we presented them with a list of virtual volunteering opportunities that they can choose to do. The most important thing is for students to handle this situation in the way that feels best for them." — Laurie from One-Stop College Counseling

We're all in this together, and admission officers will understand everything you're dealing with and will be empathic and flexible.” — Anonymous 

Learning to persevere and finish strong, even when you may lose interest, is an important skill that you’ll be able to apply to many other things in life. Learning how to develop and cultivate this muscle will end up helping you in ways you have not even thought of." — Mark Stucker from School Match 4U, Inc. in Fairburn, GA

“Finish the school year up strong and journal—this could be used later for an admission essay.” — Eliza Garcia from Berta Cabaza Middle School in San Benito, TX

Similarly, “Ask yourself: what traits have you discovered about yourself being home?” (Admission counselors want to learn about your positive traits and characteristics in your college essays!) — Roni Rodier from Knowledgeforcollege, LLC in Fairfield, CT

COVID is temporary, and your future is going to be full of years and years of opportunities. Keep focused on your long-term goals, and use this extra time to take interest inventory surveys, research a perfect-fit college, and explore majors and the coursework required to see if they sound interesting. Keep notes of ideas for college essays. Reach out to current college-aged friends to ask about their experience in college. With this extra time, you can set yourself up for a focused and smooth application season next fall.” — Weeze Cullen from Winter Park, FL

“Be kind. Be patient. Perhaps the road to success may not be college at this time but other vocational training, and that is fine. We will make it through this bigger, smarter, and stronger.” — Anonymous  

“At the moment, the most important person is you. Students need to take care of their physical and mental health. You should never give up on education, but these are very different times and parents, teachers, and educational institutions need to remember this. Take some time for yourself. I promise you—your essays, physics problems, and calculus will still be there. Reach out to teachers and counselors and ask for help.” — Anonymous

“Recognize what you can and cannot control. Try and take good care of yourself and stay positive.” — Rana Slosberg from Slosberg College Solutions LLC in Bridgewater, NJ

“Take care of yourself and take care of others! In the end, it's all about relationships.” — Anonymous

“Try not to let this experience define you. Try to have a specific time and location to do your homework. Create new routines. Look for little ways that you can positively contribute to a small dose of happiness daily. Maybe you can Zoom with a bunch of friends together. Perhaps you could do some volunteer work? Help an elderly neighbor or someone who lives alone. Trying to help others may help you too. Or perhaps you can do yoga or meditation to help. Staying physical and protecting your emotional health is paramount. Get outside! Depending on where you live, the weather will hopefully be getting warmer. Breath in some fresh air and take a brisk walk.” — Jill from Madenberg College Consulting

Keep in touch with your support groups...no matter where they are.” — Richard Murphy from Saint Pius X High School in Kansas City, MO

“Some of your time has been freed up unexpectedly, and it's up to you to decide what to do with it. Try to find meaningful, memorable ways to use this timeBe flexible and open to new ideas about your future. Reach out to others who can help you brainstorm about challenging questions you may be facing.” — Eric from Top College Consultants

“Life will go on, and you need to remember the priorities you had before your lives got turned upside down.” — Kate Sonnenberg from KS College Success in Montclair, NJ

“Stay strong and stay healthy. We will get through this together!” — C. Adams from Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance, CA

Be sure to check out our huge list of COVID-19 student resources for more advice and information. And if you have other questions about college or just need a friend, feel free to email the CollegeXpress Team too. Stay safe and be well! 

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