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Happy new year to everyone. I hope you all had a restful and serene holiday season. I recommend seeing True Grit and The King’s Speech, neither of which has anything to do with college counseling. But the power of language is very much in evidence in both, and I’m pretty sure the kid in True Grit would have been accepted just about anywhere she might have applied if she had been so inclined or if colleges were accepting women at the time. (I know there are exceptions…) With Harvard Law a slam dunk after. (Again…) Also, read Keith Richards’s autobiography Life, which is sly, spry, and surprisingly disarming. Even after assuming a certain amount of whitewashing, there’s plenty to like about the person and the voice that comes through loud and clear. And his clear joy in making music, with the Stones and without, is evident all through the book. I’ve been reading it while listening to the music and it’s been fun to rediscover some tunes and hear from “Keef” what made them tick or how they came to be written. He aims some very pointed barbs at Mick, too. Fun.

That said, I wanted to respond to some readers who’ve asked about the college process seminars I’ve developed for counselors, teachers, and community organizations. I’ve used these with charter school counselor and they’ve been the basis for some of my work with Chicago Scholars, Latinos Progresando, and other groups. Here is the list:

Listing of Workshops/Seminars

A program for counselors, teachers, administrators, and other adults working with students in underserved schools. It was designed to educate them not only in the basics of the college research, application, and transition process, but also to inform them about the unique needs and underlying complications that can affect first-generation, low-SES, and other students coming from non-privileged backgrounds. It is a comprehensive approach that considers middle school a starting point for college readiness preparation.

This program acknowledges and addresses the ways in which planning for college and career can influence and affect students’ plans, motivations, familial relationships, and other personal issues in positive ways. Its basic premise is that all students have the potential to attend college if they desire to do so and have the right guidance to prepare for it. It also aims to provide these students and their counselors with the information and connections taken for granted by their more privileged peers.

Each session is approximately four hours long, opening with introduction and expansion of the topic, followed by discussion and review of handouts (compiled into a notebook for counselors’ use). Each session had a guest speaker from a college or university admission office who spoke on the day’s topic and also provided information about his/her institution. We included time where appropriate for computer research, such as looking at college websites and others (Black Excel, National Hispanic Scholarships, etc.) that would be helpful for the counselors and their students.

Basic Workshops

  1. College Counseling as a Critical Part of the School Experience How it intersects and influences other parts of a student’s high school life and how a college counselor can and should work with teachers and other adults at the school.
  2. Structuring a College Counseling Office for Maximum Effect The nuts and bolts of creating a college office from the ground up, including where to locate it, what to have in it, and recommendations for materials, programs, etc.
  3. The College Research, Application, and Enrollment Process Step-by-step through the process, starting with 9th grade through enrollment and transitioning.
  4. Putting the College Process in Context: Developing Connections and Social Capital Addressing the needs of first generation, low-SES, and other underserved students so they can use their own backgrounds effectively to connect to new frontiers as they prepare for college. Also addressing ways students can become their own advocates.
  5. Financial Aid: Understanding FAFSA, CSS, EFC, and other Acronyms A basic but detailed introduction to the various forms and concepts essential to applying for and receiving financial aid, including ways to plan ahead.
  6. Special Topic: Encouraging Parental and Community Involvement & A Discussion of Two College Counseling Models Determined by participants, this seminar dealt with ways to get the various communities that intersect with the school to support students in the college process. It also compared and contrasted the “mentoring” versus the “gatekeeping” models of college counseling.

Advanced Workshops

  1. A Mentoring Model for College Counseling A more thorough discussion of the preferred model for college counseling, including role-playing and discussion of the ways it can affect other areas of a student’s life.
  2. Mock Admission Panel To give counselors a real flavor of what goes on in a competitive college admission environment, an admission dean from a local college (in this case The University of Chicago) prepared applications for them to read. They then met as an “admission committee” and struggled to decide whom to accept/reject/waitlist. The admission dean gave the “committee their instructions and led them through the process, followed by discussion afterwards.
  3. Supporting African American, Latino, First Generation, Low-SES, and Undocumented Students in the College Process This session was devoted primarily to looking at resources in print and online that are specifically aimed at these students, as well as to ways counselors can tap into their school communities to bridge gaps between the students and their future college lives.
  4. Finding the Right “Fit” for Your Students A consideration of the idea of “fit” and how it can be applied to maximize the chances that a student accepted to a college or university will graduate. Looking at “match” in relation to “fit” and seeing beyond the numbers to the qualitative aspects of the college application process.

Because we had several charter schools that only went up to 8th grade in the program, I also developed two sessions exclusively for them on ways to encourage and support early college awareness for students as young as fourth grade and what to think about as they approach high school and beyond.

So that’s the layout. If you’ve read this far and are interested in learning more, give me a jingle or send a comment or visit my website at http://www.collegeforall2.org.

All best wishes for a great 2011. And yes, Crabby will return. Unfortunately, he’s feeling a bit conciliatory right now, so it may be a week or two.

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About Will Dix

I am currently writing a book about college admission. I'm interested in the intersection of the college process and American culture. I attended Amherst College in the 1970s, taught high school English and theater at The Hill School in the '80s, returned to Amherst in the '90s as an admission dean, and began the '00s as a college counselor at the University of Chicago Laboratory School. I then joined Chicago Scholars as Program Director. Currently, I blog about college admission for Forbes.com. I also help community organizations serving low income students understand the college admission process so more students can consider gaining access to higher education. I have a few private college counseling clients that I take by referral only. The views expressed in this blog are mine alone.
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