Thursday, September 18, 2008

Treading Water in the Midst of the Slightly Chaotic Lives of My Seniors

With the NACAC conference less than a week away, I find myself in a bit of a panic. I’m treading water in the midst of the slightly chaotic lives of my seniors as they are nailing down lists and working on applications.

A group of schools here in Austin have a college fair that comes on the heels of the NACAC conference. Parents are calling daily with worries of their own. I’m trying to make sure that I greet all of our visiting college reps with a smile since I am genuinely so glad they are here! And I’m staring down Early Action and Early Decision letters of recommendation as if I can will the right words onto the computer screen if I only look at it long enough. Oh…and I’m trying to balance all of this work stuff with some sort of personal life, too. Aren’t we all?!

So why do I think I have time to leave the office (and my life) for five days next week? Because it’s the NACAC National Conference – duh! If you’ve heard that you should go but are a first-timer who is really wondering if this is a good use of your time or if you are a veteran attendee who is trying to remind yourself that this is indeed a good use of your time (I find myself in the middle, by the way!), maybe my thoughts about why we should go to the conference will help.

Here was my pep talk to myself:

1) I get to go to Seattle! I’ve never been to Seattle…I’m so excited to spend some time there. (And although Austin has had cooler weather lately – an odd thing for us in September, as some of you might know from the conference last year – I’m excited for fall weather in Seattle!) And I can’t wait to see some of the colleges in and around Seattle.

2) I’m lucky to get to travel with some of my colleagues. It will be a great time to build our relationships but also some time away from school to process all of the college questions and have those conversations that we never have time for when we’re in the normal routine of our lives at school.

3) Speaking of conversations…you get to have LOTS of them at the conference. (Plan to drink a lot of water and maybe bring a package of cough drops in case your voice begins to go hoarse!) If you’re shy like me, you might be hesitant to strike up a conversation with someone. But every time I do jump into or begin a conversation I’m incredibly glad that I did. I learn something; I find a new way of doing something; I meet a new colleague in the field or perhaps a new friend.

4) The national conference is simply irreplaceable in our lives in this profession. There are other great professional development opportunities out there – on a state or even local level – but at no other times are college professionals from both sides of the desk from around the world gathered together to talk to and listen to one another. And the cool thing about the nature of this conference is that it’s a place where people really do want to hear what others are saying. Some of my most memorable educational sessions have been the ones where it’s really a dialogue between high school counselors and college admissions officers.

5) One final thought about getting excited about going when you’re feeling like you just don’t have the time: take a look at the offerings in terms of the educational sessions…and start planning which ones you want to attend! (NOTE: Be sure to have a second or third choice in the event that the session you want to go to is full!)

So there you have it…rather than moving into full-blown panic last night and even (not very seriously) considering cancelling all plans to head west next week, I reminded myself why we go to the NACAC conference and why we give up precious time to be out of the office and away from our hometowns.

I look forward to seeing everyone there!

Elizabeth Guice
Director of College Counseling and Registrar
St. Andrew's Episcopal School (TX)