Take full ownership of the opportunities in your life by building a repertoire of decision-making exercises that you can use forever.
Over the last year, I had the privilege of coaching my daughter and her two friends through their college application process. We met monthly at a local café and engaged in reflective writing, active research, and some happy soul-searching. In between these meetings, I offered feedback, asked a lot questions, and helped them navigate decisions using the same inquiry-based methods I use in my university classes and consulting work. We had a great time together and they just accepted offers to attend Wellesley College, Smith College, and the University of Washington; all with merit scholarships!
While all three of their high schools provided some kind of college counseling, I noticed the following:
a) a paucity of deep conversations about who they are as students and people,
b) a lack of understanding about the many colleges (hidden gems) and non-college options (gap years, internships, fellowships) available to them, and
c) a missed opportunity to strengthen some of the most important skills needed in college and beyond, like inquiry (the art of asking great questions of oneself and others), self-advocacy, effective networking, time management, stress management, and self-love.
Inquiry-based College Counseling is about bringing students back to themselves, rather than trying to fit into someone else’s notion of who they are and what they are meant to do, learn, and explore in the world. My methods draw upon twenty-eight years of teaching experience and are rooted in a genuine respect for young adults and belief in their potential. The end result is not only college acceptance letters from places that fit with students’ visions and goals, but practices that will sustain them for life.
about my journey
I remember as a high school junior sitting with Bruce Bailey, a respected college counselor and cherished family friend from the Lakeside School in Seattle, talking about my dreams for the future. It was such a rare event to have an adult asking me questions about my vision for the future. Even with two parents who attended college, I felt lost. I only knew where friends attended college, or the glossy brochures that came through the mail. Everyone’s choices felt very random and uniformed.
I needed someone in my life who could start fresh with me; someone who could see me for who I was at that moment in my life. The focused attention on my future from someone who was not my mom or dad made an enormous impact on the life. I am forever grateful for this opportunity.
Now, as a college professor, I see what a difference thoughtful college counseling makes. Students who followed a path that may have been right for their friends or expected by their family (but not the best fit for them) seem to be sleepwalking through the college experience, at best. This is a huge waste of time and money. It doesn’t have to be this way. The process of choosing a college and applying should not be the stressful, anxiety-producing experience it’s become either. Every student should feel excited and confident about their next steps. This is the ultimate goal of Inquiry-based College Counseling.