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Reflections

My thoughts on what I've learned throughout the College Access Counseling Certificate program.

The College Access Counseling Certificate program has had a profound impact on how I will conduct my college essay coaching business going forward. I enrolled in this program to better understand the full context of the college admissions process, so that I can better understand how college admissions essays fit into the broader picture of a student’s application. While I specifically focus on coaching students on writing their application essays, I know that to do that effectively, I need to understand the entire picture, and that’s the exact understanding I’ve gained throughout the program. 

The Counseling Aspiring First Generation College Students course gave me an appreciation for the unique obstacles this audience faces in obtaining a college degree. As a result of taking this class, I’ve established a scholarship program to coach five low-income, first-gen students for free each year because I want to serve all families, not just the affluent ones. I’ll also be intentional about encouraging the first-generation students I work with, because this course has helped me realize that what might feel like small amounts of encouragement from authority figures like me can have a substantial impact in showing first-generation students what’s possible for them. Thanks to this course, I understand that my job isn’t just to help first-generation students with their actual essays – it’s to show them that college is attainable for them, and that they deserve to be there. 

The College Match course opened my eyes to an entirely new aspect of the admissions process and left me with a lot of important questions about how I can help my students navigate this subjective process even more effectively going forward. It underscored the importance of getting the foundation right – selecting the best college for each student – before moving on to secondary (though also critically important) factors like financial aid, essay writing, etc. Since my work with students focuses on helping them write strong admissions essays, I typically don’t get involved in broader conversations with students or parents about college match. But, after taking this course, I will be much more likely to encourage my families to also work with a college match counselor to ensure they’re pursuing the right institutions to begin with – long before we decide which essays to write for each one. 

The Letters of Recommendation course prompted me to consider providing guidance to students on this aspect of the college application as part of the work I do with them. I think Letters of Recommendation pair well with essay writing, because together they encompass the qualitative aspects of the college application. If I can offer students guidance on how to approach the qualitative elements of this process more holistically, I can provide more value to them. I think there’s even an opportunity for students to combine teacher outreach pertaining to both essays and Letters of Recommendation and for teachers to use the input they give students on their essays to better inform the recommendation letters they write. I’ve already starting talking to my parents and students about this. 

The Fundamentals of College Counseling course gave me a better understanding of the college access counseling profession itself. College access counselors are a critically important target audience for my essay business, because they can be aggregators – helping me reach dozens or even hundreds of students with my essay coaching services. 

The Role of the College Access Counselor course provided me with a much better understanding of the plethora of responsibilities the college access counselor juggles on a daily basis – from high caseloads to emotionally distraught parents prone to anxiety and misinformation. If I can frame my services in a way that helps make the counselor’s life easier in addition to helping serve their students, I believe it will contribute significantly to my success. 

The Undergraduate Admissions Process course helped me most by providing insightful guidance on the extracurricular activities that are most meaningful to admissions committees – particularly the encouragement for students to participate in extracurriculars that help them get clearer on their career goals rather than simply racking up a long list of activities to appear impressive. In this highly competitive application environment, with so many students who’ve done so many things, I can easily see how students with a cohesive set of extracurriculars that tie into their desired future career would stand out from those with a random, lengthy list of activities that leave you wondering how passionate they truly are about any of them. That also makes it easier to write a cohesive essay that conveys the student’s accomplishments in a way that seamlessly connects to their future ambitions. 

The Financing College: Navigating the Pathways course was easily the most difficult for me because it was different from the work I do with students, but it was also one of the most beneficial because of the exposure it gave me to a significant part of the college application process – and one that I wouldn’t typically get to experience. I learned how difficult the financial aid process is for many families to comprehend, especially those with language barriers. I believe the concepts and terms I learned in this course will enable me to “speak the language” of college counselors more adeptly when needed. 

It's been so rewarding to watch my young, fledgling essay coaching business grow throughout the year I’ve been part of this program, and to identify ways I can integrate what I’ve learned into my ongoing work with parents and students. I’ve found that parents are particularly interested in the insight I can bring about what college admissions is and isn’t interested in reading when it comes to application essays. I’m grateful for my time in this program and look forward to many years of applying the learnings to my growing, thriving business.