Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

McManus, Thomas

Dear Editor,

Having sat on both sides of the desk during a college visit, I was eager to read Maureen Johnston’s article in the Fall 2003 issue titled “How to Win Friends and Influence People During the High School Visit.” Ms. Johnston lays out expectations for our representatives that are every bit accurate, including the need to be part Winfrey, part Gates and part bloodhound. However, I urge Ms. Johnston, and all of us on the receiving end of these visits, to exercise the same patience with these anxiety-causing interactions that we exhibit with students, parents and peers.

It’s a two-way street. We on the high school side can (however inadvertently) be every bit as dismissive, impatient and obtuse as these weary travelers. As a college recruiter, I was shoved into uninterested cafeterias during lunch hours, left to talk to “parent volunteers” who spent 45 minutes telling me why their child would never attend my institution, and told repeatedly (at much pain to my professionalism) that “Without your suit, I’d have mistaken you for a student.” Young college recruiters are the next experienced college admission professionals, but only if we can retain them and make them feel valued in the field. Only with our “guidance” and positive reinforcement will we earn the visitors our students deserve.

As a counselor, my first question for a representative who has come in my door (be it on-time or late) is never, “how are our graduates doing?” or “are you still somewhat need-conscious for wait-listed students?” It is always, “do you need anything before you get started?” While the bathroom or a glass of water is a small thing to offer, this is the kind of care we’d like the colleges to take with our kids. And-let’s face it-the realities of our working climate mean that our visitors often look just like our students. At the same time, we have a stake in their sticking around. What part do we, as counselors, play in the high turnover colleges experience on their staff? Low pay and insane hours are often their rewards for choosing to work in education, but people stay where we feel valued and professionally respected.

As a professional, I owe much to the connections that I made with experienced counselors in my first years on the road. Those small interactions sustained me and helped me learn all I needed to know. Yes, many of these counselors knew more about the field (and even my own institution) than I did, but they supported me. I’m certain that I wasted the time of a few patient folks in those early days, but the best counselors always gently put me back on track with the focus and tenor of their questions and comments. Isn’t this part of what makes our professional association vital?

Thank you Ms. Johnston for your on-point article. All visitors would do well to read it and take your recommendations to heart. May I suggest, though, that college professionals keep their bagels and new pens (unless you happen to have extras you stole from the Motel 6). As counselors, we will all do our best to welcome you and “leave the light on for you!”

Thomas McManus

Director of College Counseling

The Tatnall School, DE

NACAC Assembly Delegate,

Potomac and Chesapeake Association

of College Admission Counseling

Thomas McManus

Director of College Counseling

The Tatnall School, DE

NACAC Assembly Delegate, Potomac and Chesapeake Association of College Admission Counseling

Copyright National Association of College Admissions Counselors Winter 2004

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