Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Why go to the NACAC National Conference? Who Should go to the National Conference?

Register Early. Register online!Each year when it comes time to register for the National Conference, I find myself in some sort of frantic spring state and the thought of missing school to go to a conference feels overwhelming.

And then, like taking medicine, I sign myself up, go the conference…and inevitably feel much better!

Like so many of us, I wear many different hats at my school and sometimes giving up three/four days to skip out of town for the NACAC conference doesn’t always seem like the best use of my time. Until I’m there – visiting with colleagues in the hallways of the convention center, joining in a lunchtime discussion with someone I met in a session. And then it's over and I’m on my way back to my school full of new ideas, energized by thought-provoking conversations that I’ve had with my colleagues from both sides of the admissions desk.

I’ve attended conferences alone, and in some lucky years I’ve been able to bring a colleague or two with me. While the latter is certainly preferable because then you can truly “divide and conquer” when it comes to the many, many sessions and also talk about your experiences back in the office, I’ve also gotten a great deal out of attending by myself. (NOTE: I’m a complete introvert when it comes to conferences like this!!)

I guess the bottom line is what we tell our students so often: you have to start by showing up. Even if it’s just to soak up the great ideas from others in the room. Sooner or later you might find yourself participating, but remember that we were all first-timers at one time so letting your presence be your participation (especially at first) is completely acceptable!

Some things I think might be helpful to know:
1. Stay tuned for opportunities to tour local colleges. This might mean that you build in a few extra days on either end of your trip to Seattle…it will be well worth it! You can justify it by thinking of what another plane ticket to Seattle would cost!

2. Plan to attend your local ACAC meeting (look at the conference schedule - - for more details). For years I felt overwhelmed at the thought of attending or joining one more group (while at the conference or even just during the school year).

But the members of your local ACAC are your neighbors and their experiences and familiarity with your student population, local colleges/universities, etc…is invaluable to you. (Note: I am not the model of participation in my local ACAC but I’m continuing to try because I know from firsthand experience that it’s really important!)

3. If you cannot bring a colleague from your school with you and you miss sessions that you then hear from other conference attendees were great, check out the opportunities to purchase recordings.

4. Oh, and when you’re in Seattle, try not to get overwhelmed by the number of people or number of sessions…eventually, you’ll start to recognize faces and will be able to discern which sessions are best for you. But be patient at first…wear comfortable shoes…and be ready to sleep well at night!

See you in Seattle!

Elizabeth Guice
Director of College Counseling
St. Andrew’s Episcopal School (Austin, Texas)
Member of the Local Arrangements Committee – Austin 2007

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