The College Counseling Office (CCO) virtually kicked off their program for the Class of 2022 last weekend, hosting two synchronous Zoom meetings along with supplying a slew of other asynchronous materials.
Due to Covid-19, the college counseling process has dramatically changed for the current Uppers, according to Sean Logan, Dean of College Counseling. The programming, which typically starts on family weekend in October, was delayed until January this year.
“We normally would do the kickoff with the Uppers during family weekend in October. So for the last seven or eight years, that’s what we’ve done. We pushed it off this year, partly because the college scene is changing pretty rapidly because of Covid-19. So, we thought if we waited until January, we would have a little bit more information,” said Logan.
The first synchronous meeting introduced the CCO’s philosophy, process, and curriculum. It was held on Saturday morning, and during the roughly 90-minute-long session, each counselor spoke to introduce their team’s efforts and values.
The Sunday Zoom session was a panel with the admissions deans of Wellesley College, Northeastern University, Rice University, and Dartmouth College. This second session focused on the process of admissions—what colleges look for and how their processes work—rather than counseling.
The kickoff weekend presented Uppers with much more material than they’ve had access to in previous years, with information offered in the form of synchronous meetings, asynchronous videos, and a Canvas page that the students will continue to use throughout their college process.
Emiliano Caceres-Manzano ’22 watched half of the asynchronous videos along with attending the two synchronous events, and thought they provided a nice overview and place to start. While the entire college process feels quite daunting, he’s excited for his college counselor pairing and looking forward to time spent self-reflecting.
“I was relieved to get some clarity and to be able to talk about college for the first time in an institutional way… I found the financial aid particularly useful. It was a bit longer, but it did cover everything in detail, and it was very useful to have a starting point to talk about it with my family,” said Caceres-Manzano.
There are, however, many concerns surrounding how the process will play out for the Uppers due to restrictions imposed by Covid-19. Nicole Lee ’22, for one, originally worried the delayed timeline would increase the stress on her class but now thinks that likely will not be the case. She believes that the programming has gone smoothly so far.
“I was worried that it would be disadvantageous to the Class of  to get a late start and apply more time pressure on us, but…the College Counseling Office is doing everything they can to help us and allow us to succeed,” said Lee.
Many are also concerned as to how the virus will have affected standardized testing in the coming years. According to Logan, of the colleges Andover students are applying to, around 98 percent are now test-optional whereas in previous years, this figure was closer to 20 percent.
“The tail of Covid-19 is going to be long, and it’s going to be significant. This pandemic is having major impacts, and colleges are going to have to deal with some very, very different looking transcripts, no testing,” said Logan.
There are also concerns as to how the students and counselors will connect over Zoom. Since the pairs will not meet in person for many months to come, their bonds may not be as strong as either individual would prefer. Ingrid Appen ’22 worries that counselors and their counselees will struggle to create the connection that allows for each student to succeed.
“Sometimes it’s just harder to have a conversation over Zoom. It’s much easier to get comfortable with people and have authentic conversations with them when you’re actually meeting in person. And I feel like part of what you need for college counseling is to feel really comfortable talking about your feelings about stuff and what you want, so I think that might be a little bit harder,” said Appen.
Lee echoes Appen’s thoughts, and shares her worry in not being able to create effective connections. Students will need to be vulnerable in order to successfully complete the college counseling process, and not being able to talk in person adds a great hurdle to this vital step.
“Online, [connecting with others has] been a struggle in a lot of academic courses and extracurriculars. I think that can also translate over to this process, but I believe the college counseling office is trying their best to eliminate that worry,” said Lee.
Regardless of the many concerns and worries presented both by typical kickoffs and this atypical year, most students are excited to begin the process. Appen is ready to work with her counselor to explore and discover colleges which would suit her needs perfectly.
“Right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty, but I’ve been looking at some colleges online, just going and looking at their websites. And I think that the college process sounds very exciting… I feel like there’s going to be a lot to explore, and wherever I end up, I’m going to be really happy because there’s so many good colleges in this country,” said Appen.
Logan also eagerly anticipates beginning this 16 to 18 month college process with a new cohort of students.
Logan said, “We have life skills that we think we teach, and this is the fun part of our work—getting to know the students. The beauty of working in Andover is everybody that comes into your Zoom space—at least for a while until we can be back in offices—is a little bit different, right? They come from all over the world, all different backgrounds, and all different kinds of interests. And that’s a really interesting job.”