Letter to the Editor from the College Office

In response to “Mother Knows Best: Parents’ Takes on the College Process” in Volume 112 Issue 8

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In response to “Mother Knows Best: Parents’ Takes on the College Process” by Momoca Mairaj, Raymond Yang, and Krish Gupta.

Jeffrey Makris is a Director of College Counseling. Elizabeth Hughes and Jeaurel Wilson are Associate Directors of College Counseling.

It was profoundly disappointing to read the “Mother Knows Best” piece in the most recent Spectator issue. Parents and students are certainly entitled to their opinions and to have their voices heard; however, we felt it important to take this opportunity to enlighten readers about exactly what we do in the College Office.

In the article, a parent proposed the idea of “hosting an assembly to introduce underclassmen to the college process earlier.” But, our College Office has in fact been presenting to all ninth graders each spring for the past four years. And, we have presented to sophomore parents each fall as part of our Parent Coordinator’s Sophomore Parent Night the past five years. And, we have been presenting to sophomore students each January for the past four years. Also, our annual CUNY Night and Hidden Ivy admissions panels have been in place for even longer and have always been open to ninth and 10th grade families, whom we have strongly encouraged to attend. This represents hours of content for underclassmen that also connect them to resources to prepare for the in-depth college admissions work of junior and senior year. Information from most of these events is then available in every student’s Naviance account in Document Resources, which they have access to beginning in ninth grade.

Serving a population of students that overwhelmingly pursues colleges with single-digit admit rates means that many students and families will face some disappointment, even when they have done everything right; that is the nature of highly selective admissions. This is even more true in 2022 with the massive increases in application volume most of the uber-selective colleges have seen since adopting test-optional or test-free admissions policies as a result of the pandemic. We will never be able to please everyone, no matter how much we do or how much information we provide to students and families. The pressure students and parents feel sometimes leads them to make requests of us that just aren’t ethical or equitable, and of course, we can’t oblige. We are also well aware of how painful it can be for a teenager to face rejection (and for their parents to witness that). We understand all of this; we’re here to support students having these feelings, hear their frustrations, and be honest with them throughout this process. We also understand that we need to continually pursue our own professional development and assess what we need to do better for Stuy from year to year, and we encourage parents and students with individual concerns to reach out to us.

But, we do speak to many families who do not see us as “useless.” We get their e-mails and calls and cards throughout the year. Yet none of those opinions appeared in this article.

Before any student or parent concludes that we are useless, I would ask them to read our College Handbook from cover to cover. We take the time to write and update that in its entirety every year, and the content is ours and ours alone. Attend all of our presentations (and don’t skip the hyperlinks within the PowerPoints). Read ALL of our instructional emails for juniors and seniors. Attend your junior family meeting and fall meeting with your assigned counselor, and use our daily office hours as needed (virtual or otherwise…the pandemic never interrupted these services). If you’re at a college fair or information session, ask those admissions reps who have been working with us what they think of our program and college counseling staff. Most importantly, communicate with your assigned college counselor whenever you need help with this process.

Articles like this risk undermining our ability to work with our families and undermining their trust in our process, a process which includes spending countless hours on tasks students and parents simply do not see (such as submitting literally over 100 thousand electronic documents to colleges each year, managing Naviance on the massive scale necessary for Stuy, arranging over 100 virtual or in-person admissions rep visits for seniors each fall, or the countless emails and conversations we have with admissions representatives every year, the college advisory boards on which we serve, and the leadership and volunteer positions we take on in our professional organizations…). They distract from the reality that our counselors have over 60 combined years of college counseling experience, extensive training, and a large network of admissions colleagues, many of whom we have worked with for years. We hold ourselves accountable to NACAC’s ethical standards and strive to maintain an accessible college counseling program that suits the needs of all of our students, one that satisfies the mission of the NYC public school system, which might not always please all parents. Nobody gets special favors…there’ll be no “Varsity Blues” here at Stuy if we can help it. Misleading statements in the Spec can make our families more vulnerable to less reputable (and often needlessly expensive) sources for college assistance who hope to promote their brand by taking credit for the successes of a uniquely talented and driven population of students. It also makes families more anxious about the entire process. This does nothing to promote a healthier school climate at Stuy, something that we in the College Office care about very much.

We hope this gives those readers who are not yet familiar with our office a better understanding of what we offer through our college counseling program. Best of luck to all of you as we approach the end of the fall term.