A First-Year’s Guide to Parenting

ATLIngham (1)

We were warned. Oh yes, we were warned.

They told us each school has a unique culture. They said to appreciate the peacefulness of August, because September through October would only be a blur. We were warned that having more than one school might require us to get over our “Fear of Missing Out”.

We. Were. Warned.

Being a first year College Adviser is, well, I imagine it’s a lot like being a first time parent. (It should be noted here that I have no children or experience raising them, but follow me down this rabbit hole for now). Every second year has advice, and we can read articles about advising high school students, but we don’t really know what it’s like until we’re in the game. We don’t know how to run a College Application Week without a counselor until it just kind of happens—true story.

For first years with two schools (Me!), when September 7th came around it seemed like suddenly I went from being a twenty-something, to a twenty-something with twins. I currently run on six hours (or less) of sleep. I spend ten hours a day with a group of teens, and I swear they are the only things I talk about at parties.

Two different calendars! Two sports events! Two moments of silence while making lame jokes! What applies to one school probably won’t apply to the other (if only it were so). All the while I’m just trying to make sure I don’t screw up somebody’s future. There’s laughter, there’s exhilaration, and there’s exhaustion.

For me in particular, I was well aware of what this job would entail. I discovered this job at a point in my life that very few people talk about. The point where people stop telling you what you’re “supposed” to do. You know what I mean? In middle school they say you’re supposed to get good grades for High school, in High school you’re supposed to get good grades/test scores for college, and in College you’re supposed to pick a career. What they don’t tell you is exactly what you are supposed to do next. “Pick a career” is not helpful. That’s why in the fall of my junior year when I stumbled upon the MSU College Advising Corps at a career fair I knew in my gut: This was my next supposed-to.

Currently, I have two small rural schools outside of Lansing: Webberville and Stockbridge. Despite all of those warnings (and more) listed above, I had the naïve idea that because my schools seemed so similar on paper that maybe it really wouldn’t feel like I had two schools.

Boy was I wrong. For two small schools they could not be more different. At one, FFA (Future Farmers of America) is a huge deal and they only have an eight-man football team. At the other, if I ask about FFA I will most likely receive the response, “FF-whaaa?” And football is very much a big deal. That’s just the extra-curricular activities. The process for pulling students from class, arranging a classroom presentation, and even how administrators communicate has been vastly different between the two.

I am still learning a lot. There isn’t a moment when everything feels completely in place, or even completely calm. There’s always that thought in the back of my mind that I could be screwing something up. Slowly, I am learning to live with that feeling because it’s generally wrong. What I have recently realized is that back in the fall of my junior year I knew I was being given an opportunity to pursue a dream I didn’t know I had. Each day I tell kids about opportunities they didn’t know were actually possible for them. It’s not every student, but it’s been enough for me to notice. Some of my students didn’t know they could re-take the ACT. Some didn’t know they could get a fee waiver to apply to college.

So yeah, we were warned about a lot. We were warned about how big of a learning curve this job has. But we were also warned that time flies. We were also warned that these kids would get attached. We were warned about the tears of joy and chest swelling pride we would feel when a student gets into school.



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