Navigating the College Admissions Journey with Heart, Purpose, and Brambleberry Crisp Ice Cream

When I decided to leave the world of college admissions more than two decades ago, I recall my then mentor, a long-time Dean of Admissions, trying to talk me out of it: “As a college admissions officer, you have an impact on thousands of students every year — and hundreds of thousands over the course of a career. At the high school level, you will be making a much smaller impact.” And while it may be true that the number of students I have the privilege of counseling on the high school side is tiny compared to the number of applications I evaluated annually in college admissions, the work is far more fulfilling. 

Fall 2002 was my first year working as a college counselor at an independent school after five years of working as an admissions officer at Georgetown University and New York University. As an energetic, idealistic twenty-something, I couldn’t wait to work one-on-one with students and felt incredibly well prepared for the transition from admissions to college counseling. By late November of my first year, I was beginning to wonder if I had made a mistake. I found that I couldn’t help but internalize the stress and self-doubt that my students were sharing with me throughout the college application process. I agonized over every student’s list and endured many sleepless nights. I was full of anxiety while waiting for decisions to be released and worried that I would disappoint my students. All these years later, I’m much better equipped to help students and parents manage the ambiguity of the college process because I have lived through the college application cycle with students for more than twenty years. Though it likely sounds cliché, I can confidently say that everything works out in the end and that seniors gain essential life skills in the process of applying to college. While the college outcome can often take center stage, the 18-month college exploration journey is the reason I love my job and where I see the most growth in our students. 

While the role of a college counselor at a boarding school is not for the faint of heart, it is rich in rewards. College counseling chats happen during study hall, during dinner, on sports sidelines, on dorm, and sometimes even during “sevens” (Episcopal’s version of evening detention). There are late nights, early mornings, and everything in between. This year, I sat with a student on my porch on a Friday evening while she opened her decision from her top choice college. She hadn’t told anyone else about her application to this college and didn’t want to open the news alone in her dorm. With two pints of Jenni’s ice cream at the ready, I was equally prepared for a celebratory moment or a sad moment; Brambleberry Crisp does the trick for either. Just this week, I spent several hours with a junior who was anxious about reading the first draft of her personal narrative out loud in her English class — she practiced over and over again until she felt ready. And, out of the blue this spring, the name of one of my former students popped up on my cell phone, and when I answered, he was looking for advice about applying to graduate school. All of these students were developing important life skills — becoming more comfortable writing about themselves, advocating for themselves, and asking for help and support when needed. As college counselors at Episcopal, our work extends far beyond preparing students for standardized tests, reviewing essays, and helping build a college list. In our program, we prioritize relationships. We strive to know, support, respect, and celebrate the unique personalities and talents of all our students and help them tell their stories in the admissions process and beyond.

Inevitably at this time of year, many ask me if it “has been a good year.” Invariably, my answer is “yes!”; however, there is complexity behind that simple answer. Every year, we produce and present data about where our students applied, where they were admitted, and where they will matriculate. All of that information is available to students and parents on our Scoir database beginning in the 10th-grade year. But the metric that is most important to me has to do with how our students feel about their college process. Were we successful at knowing, supporting, and celebrating each student? Did they gain self-awareness as emerging adults and soon-to-be college students? Did they have the information they needed to make informed and mature decisions about where to apply and where to attend college? At Episcopal, we are privileged to work with bright, adventurous, interesting, and well-rounded students. They apply broadly and confidently to hundreds of colleges throughout the United States and abroad. They attend 70 to 80 distinct colleges in any given year, and the depth and breadth of our college application and matriculation list reflects the diversity of interests and talents in our student body. Even more importantly, Episcopal students manage the complexity of the college process far more independently than most high school students, thanks to the skills they have built while living away from home. They find their voices, express themselves boldly and authentically, and walk across the commencement stage with the confidence that comes from successfully navigating the challenges and rewards of a rigorous boarding school experience and the ups and downs of the college application journey. 

Highlights from the Class of 2023

This year, the 125 members of the Class of 2023 applied to over 250 distinct colleges in the U.S. and abroad. Our college list is full of exciting opportunities, with graduates enrolling at 76 different colleges and universities in 26 different states and Scotland. Seventeen graduates will compete in college athletics.

Among the many college acceptances to celebrate, we are also thrilled that multiple seniors received major scholarship awards: one student matched with the QuestBridge process (our third in three years!), one student earned a Posse Foundation Scholarship, and many more were awarded substantial merit scholarships from the colleges they will attend. 

The College Counseling team traveled far and wide this year — visiting colleges, meeting with EHS alumni who are in college, serving on college advisory boards, leading conferences, and lending their expertise to panels with our colleagues in college admissions. We also hosted more than 100 college admissions representatives on campus this year and offered virtual programs for parents nearly every month of the school year. More than anything else, we spent our time meeting one-on-one with 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students as they tried to answer important questions: What are my unique talents and passions? Am I authentically engaged in academic and community life at Episcopal? What is most important to me?

Congratulations to the Class of 2023! Thank you for your hard work, sense of humor, and for the kindness and support you showed to us and to each other throughout the college process. View the Class of 2023 Matriculation List.