Wednesday, November 5, 2014

You Should Know About #hscc2015

By: Patrick O'Connor Ph.D

There is a movement afoot to help out public school counselors in a very important way. Here's how it's worked, so far:

When it comes to helping students apply to college, there's nothing like the annual conference of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. About 6,000 college representatives, school counselors, and other professionals involved in college access meet to get caught up on current trends and issues, consider where the college application process is heading, and talk about the students that are applying to college.

NACAC is a great experience for every counselor who can attend, but the cost isn't always within reach of most school counselors -- especially public school counselors. A conference this big has to be held in a big city, and that can be pricey. NACAC moves the conference around the country, so it's easier to get to when it comes closer to a counselor's school -- but three nights in a hotel and the conference fee are still sometimes out of reach, even after NACAC offers significant scholarships to public school counselors who couldn't otherwise attend.

Enter David Quinn, an educator from Washington who has paid his own way to more than one NACAC conference. David decided more public school counselors needed to attend NACAC, not only to learn from those in attendance, but to help conference attendees hear more about the challenges public school students (and counselors) face when it comes to college.

Bates College in Maine accepted the challenge, and has agreed to pay all expenses for a public school counselor to attend the 2015 NACAC conference in San Diego. Bates then challenged Pitzer College to do the same; Pitzer said yes, and then threw the challenge down to Brandeis. The challenge is now shuttling across the country, with some colleges offering to pay for two counselors;  recently, a private high school (Harvard Westlake) has taken up the challenge, and is also paying for a public school counselor to attend NACAC.

No one has sent the challenge to me, but I know a good thing when I see it. I don't do independent counseling any more, but I do have some royalties saved up from the last book I wrote -- and I can't think of a better way to promote better college planning than to bring a public school counselor to NACAC 15.

I'm proud to be the first author of a college guide to accept the High School Counselor Challenge, and I now challenge every other college guide author, independent counselor, motivational speaker, college essay writing coach/tutor/guide, test prep organization, summer counselor institute, and -- what the heck -- Julia Roberts to take up the challenge as well. None of us make a fortune off of what we do with our books and services (well, Julia does OK), but none of us have to figure out how to help 900 kids get to college with no resources, either. It's time for some perspective.

There's more to figure out here -- like how to pick the counselor, when to introduce them to NACAC so that the conference doesn't overwhelm them, and what might happen after the conference -- but there's time for that. Two dozen colleges know that in order for good college counseling to occur for everyone, the college conversation has to include everyone -- which means my fellow college guide authors and suppliers of college application support have some catching up to do.

I'm in for #hscc2015. Who's next?

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