As seniors have walked out of the school for the last time as students, the building gets muggy and underclassmen look to make it through the last 3.5 days of school, my first year of service is nearly complete. As I reflect, there is so much that could be talked about. I could talk about the heartfelt individual stories from some of the greatest young people I know. I could talk about the struggles and inevitable disappointments that have to be endured throughout a successful year. I could even talk about college applications, FAFSA, scholarships and other instances of best practice. But sometimes succeeding in this role is simpler than that. You don’t always have to know the most, or say the most. Just be solid for your kids. Just be there.
I’ve found in this role that you can share college information until you are blue in the face. You can host college rep visits and scholarship nights. You can keep and contextualize data to identify trends. You can stay up for hours on end thinking about the next form of best practice. But these actions may not always persist in the minds of those we work for, our students, who’s concentration and energy are often divided into many different aspects of their lives. I am not saying that it isn’t important to be the source of a wealth of knowledge for our students when they need it, for it is. In fact it is vital. What I’m saying is that a successful college adviser is more than that college knowledge. They are simply a good person. One who students can relate to, and can trust. A person that when a student thinks about achieving a task at hand, like taking the leap to college, they are not overwhelmed by the often times existing barriers, but relieved to know that when their time comes to act they have somebody who they are comfortable with to help them along the way.
Kids are funny, that is no secret. Many are not aware of the significance the next few years will hold in the context of life. Others may be aware, but opt to block out the inevitable truth in place of continuing their carefree attitudes to preserve dwindling years of childhood. And unfortunately for many of our students in the schools we serve, they have grown accustom to the fatalistic outlook that has been instilled through the hardships of low-income and underrepresented communities. In order to spark the hope and opportunity that college provides, they first must know that it is possible and achievable. They must hear and learn that they themselves are capable, and we must be those professional bearers of good news. Students must feel the love before you teach them the match and fit model to discover which school is best for them. They must first trust you before they buy into the importance of sacrificing 30 minutes with their parent’s tax information while filling out the FAFSA. And they must first feel your genuine appreciation and motivation before they put down the deposit, thus solidifying their enrollment at an institution of higher education in the fall. Before you make a change, you must first make an impact.
Of course we would not be the advisers we are without the lessons we learn from opportunities like training, Summit and Professional Development Sessions. We would not be the advisers we are without asking questions and getting answers from those who lead the charge in accessible higher education. And we would not be the adviser we are unless we share this crucial information with our students who will go on to apply this knowledge and change the trajectory of their lives. But it is impossible to be that adviser if we first do not pass the grace period of proving ourselves to these young people, and ensuring that our love is felt.
So keep fighting the good fight. Keep impacting the countless lives you do everyday. And above all just keep loving, with grace and humility.