President's Column: A Much-Needed Reminder

By Stefanie Niles, NACAC President

It’s been quite an emotional roller coaster ride these last few weeks. From the terrible tragedy at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh to the school shooting in North Carolina to the attack on the 14th Amendment rights of individuals born in the USA, there has been a great deal of troubling information in the news.

At times like these, my thoughts turn to those working in schools with large counselor caseloads, who can’t possibly know (simply due to a shortage of hours in the day) the full range of concerns and fears these events may prompt for their students. Each new day or week can present another tragedy to confront. In the wake of such events, all of us who work closely with students have the challenging task of helping them navigate oftentimes uncharted terrain—or, more distressingly, situations that are becoming all too familiar.

I read an exchange this past week where an individual within our NACAC community was frustrated by the college admission frenzy in the face of the significant tragedies around us. I understood these frustrations, but personally was bolstered by those who responded that the work our members are engaged in—helping students find the right college fit—is actually more important than ever. Our society greatly needs change agents—individuals who can help address and confront the myriad problems affecting so many. There is much work to be done, and we need a well-educated public to think critically and take actionable steps if we are to collectively work to prevent more tragedies in our society.

Though I think we can all agree that the trials we face in college admission counseling pale in comparison to the challenges our society faces, in the realm of college admission and counseling, October was a difficult month. I read lots of Facebook posts from school counselors going through their days bleary-eyed after late nights writing recommendation letters and saw the caffeine-enhanced posts from our weary road warriors. As the light now begins to peek out of the proverbial end of the tunnel, again we need to remind ourselves—and each other—why we do what we do.

One of the things I love most about college admission work is that every year there is a new crop of students poised on the threshold of “the rest of their lives.” We have the opportunity to help them chart their paths, consider their futures, and take those first steps—some tentative, some bold—toward achieving their goals. Within each new class of college-bound students could be the individual who eventually finds the cure for cancer, who wins a Nobel Peace Prize, or who finds the solution to eradicate the floating plastic in our oceans. Each year I marvel at the promise the future holds and the role those of us who work in college admission counseling play in helping guide students toward their passions.

Keep up the good work, my friends! As Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

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