A NEW PERSPECTIVE: SWITCHING SIDES OF THE DESK
If you’ve ever attended one of our Higher Education events, you will have noticed the fondness and collegiality that extends over our networking tables. Our university admission representatives love our guidance counsellor members. And our guidance counsellors love our admission reps. These bonds often start in one part of the world and can last for years, through various global relocations and career moves.
So what happens when an admission representative wants to switch sides of the desk? As a part of the CIS community, they are surrounded by a very supportive network of schools and counsellors. We spoke with some of our members that have made that leap from university admissions to university guidance and found an enriching connection with their students. Anne Payne (International School of Latvia), Lauren Sharman (South Island School) and Kyra Kellawan (UWC Costa Rica) shared what they’ve learned:
What motivated you to switch sides of the desk?
|Kyra: The part of my [university] job that was giving me the most joy was the time I got to speak with individual students and help guide them on what they wanted to study. I realised that I wanted to be able to take longer, more quality time to help guide students to the study or career plans that were right for them, without having to "sell" any one institution. I wonder also if there is commonality among high school guidance counsellors that we had limited career advising ourselves, and somehow wish to do better for the next generation than our schools did for us!|
|Lauren: I realised my favourite part of my job was the interaction with young people and it was a wonderful counselling colleague who was working in Prague at the time, Kathleen Schultz, who encouraged me to take the leap.|
|Anne: As much as I loved the time I spent connecting with students around the world, and the diversity of students that I encountered, I missed being able to develop long-term relationships with smaller groups of students. The opportunity to share in their journeys really appealed to me… Additionally, I didn't have much support in the college counselling process as a high-schooler, so the opportunity to work with students on finding the right fit in terms of both country and university excited me as well.|
What advice would you give to someone considering moving from admission to guidance?
|Lauren: What I found critical to being successful in this role is being student focused, having a real enjoyment of working with young people, patience (teenagers can be hard work!), a willingness to learn and take risks and a sense of fun. My role in addition to helping with university and careers guidance also includes being a pastoral tutor, running Year 7 netball club, camping for a week on uninhabited islands with school groups and many more things! It is really fun, but probably not for everyone!|
|Anne: I was given this advice by a colleague and professional mentor, and I echo it to anyone making the transition in the future. Get to know your students! Don't just be their college counsellor. Go to their robotics meets, basketball games, and help out at their student retreats.|
Kyra: I would advise any admissions colleagues to consider the very particular challenges of dealing with and managing family expectations. In a school setting, there is a longer run-up and more possibilities for both parents and students to freak out about one low grade and you will feel the pressure of that in a different (and more personal) way than as an admissions officer. You will also reap great satisfactions and share in your students' joys as they pursue many different avenues. I also think that if more and more admissions officers move across, we might see some movement towards more reliable measurements of "college readiness" or "ability to do well in college" that moves us away from scoring students in grids and takes a more human approach.
It might surprise you what "success" looks like when you have spent so long talking up the most challenging curriculum, or good test scores - I know this certainly changed for me. The first step towards this profession would be to start actively listening to the questions of students and parents you encounter, and think about how your institution could help them navigate what is a very complex, confusing process. Once you know those things, you're in a great position to think about how you can represent and advocate for those students on the high school side. If we're lucky, you could make some important institutional changes on your side along the way.
What have you learned from this transition?
|Kyra: Personally, I have learned a lot of patience, and listening skills from this career move. I understand now, in my third year on the school side, why the profession is called "counselling" - the majority of the work we do is about allaying fears, building students up, actively listening to them and their needs, and giving them some hard truths when they need them. And much of this work is mirrored with parents.|
|Lauren: Making the move requires a huge learning curve and you don't really have a grasp on it until you have done a full cycle. Every day is different because the students' needs vary greatly and it is wonderful being able to offer the opportunity for them to just drop by when they have questions or concerns. However, this means that you never know what is going to come next!|
Anne: Working in admissions, it's often easy to forget the demands that are placed on students, both from a curriculum perspective and an admissions perspective. My grade 12 students are often incredibly stressed and have so many responsibilities, in school, at home, and in other spheres. This switch has really contextualized for me how few opportunities students may have to be "kids" -- the pressures are immense. It's been an incredible lesson in empathy in education.
Are you considering a taking a big step in your career? If you’re coming to the CIS Global Forum on International Admission & Guidance, you can attend the session “Getting Ready for your Next Career Step as a Counsellor by Applying the STAR Method.” Members from our CIS Career & Recruitment team will teach you how to present yourself and your experiences in the best possible way so that it’s meaningful to your future employers. If you are not able to attend the CIS Forum, you can still reach out to our Career & Recruitment team.
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