Redwood students should (and are able to) ACT on their own

Cameryn Smith

As a junior in high school, when I listen in on my classmates’ conversations, the topic of college is almost always brought up. A wave of stress rushes over me as my peers share information about their Advanced Placement (AP) classes, extracurricular activities and grade point averages (GPAs). Within these academic conversations, a frequent topic that prompts anxiety is college counselors. 

With many students headed on a path to college, private counselors have become a popular part of the preparation and admissions process. “Do you have a college counselor?” “I have a meeting with my college counselor today,” “Every single one of my friends has a college counselor except for me…am I behind?” are all frequent thoughts swirling through my mind as I approach college planning. The growing popularity of private college counselors causes an unnecessary amount of pressure for many students and it shouldn’t. They aren’t as pivotal in the application process as people think. 

According to the September Bark survey, 47 percent of students have a private college counselor. And according to the more recent October Bark survey, 35 percent of students feel stressed when hearing about other students’ private college counselors.

Parents tend to take charge in terms of planning for college and play a key role in pairing their kid with a college counselor. Many get their child a counselor in hopes that it will help them stay on top of everything so they can get into the “top schools”. For students who don’t want a counselor in the first place, this may come as an uncomfortable surprise. It isn’t easy hearing someone tell you what you should do with your future, or imply that you aren’t doing enough to be successful after high school. 

The criteria of a college counselor’s job, according to The Franklin School of Innovation, is to “design and direct a program of activities to assist students with college planning.”

With this in mind, let us take a look at the resources that Redwood’s staff and administration offer. Redwood’s counseling program puts forward unique and beneficial resources to every student during the college application process. There are six guidance counselors working to help the student body with choosing classes, social and emotional help and college advice. Apart from guidance counselors, there is a College and Career Center counselor, Becky Bjursten, who specializes in college counseling. Bjursten is the main facilitator of this program, working to help students through the application process, whether it be helping them with research or essays. 

A large part of Bjursten’s job is promoting and planning college representative visits. These visits allow officials from select campuses across the country to come and inform students about their college’s campus, majors and admissions process, while also answering questions. Bjursten emphasizes this as one of the advantages of Redwood resources, as opposed to private college counselors. 

“The fact that admissions representatives come to our campus, and help students fill out their applications, and are resources for students here is something that doesn’t happen in the private counseling world,” Bjursten said. 

Students can use the school’s counselors to their advantage more than many of them realize. The new appeal of college counselors is unnecessary, as Redwood provides very similar assets and more.

Additionally, students can use their individual skills to research colleges on their own. Personally, I’ve explored the online website Niche, which gives me a checklist specific to my graduation year of all tasks I should have completed by now. For example, making a college list, taking a quiz and researching majors. I have also stayed in the loop of the college representative visits happening regularly in the College and Career Center and logged on to Naviance, the online college research portal provided for every student. While taking initiative helps me to feel confident in my preparation for college applications, I can’t help but get overwhelmed when I hear others talking about their own paths, involving private help. 

Illustration by Calla McBride

College counselors’ job goes beyond a student’s academics, as they work to fill in holes in their application like extracurricular activities or even internships to make students stand out. By encouraging students into activities they may not have done in the first place, college counselors highlight students strengths, while also casting a shadow on them. Having someone over your shoulder telling you how to plan your future may not be a beneficial thing for any high school student still trying to learn about themselves. It’s more important to experience your interests and passions on your own.

This isn’t to say that college counselors can’t be beneficial. They cater to each individual’s goals for college and provide an enormous amount of resources to get a student thinking about their future goals. For first generation college students who are struggling to start the process, counselors can help relieve the stress surrounding college applications, and keep highschool students on task, many of whom are dealing with other classes and extracurriculars.

However, there is a large population of students who might not be able to afford this help. According to Edmit, a college planning website, the average hourly cost of a meeting with a college counselor is $200 per hour. This is a substantial amount to be spending for just one hour when we have free resources available to us. Any student at school, regardless of their socioeconomic status, is able to take advantage of the resources provided. 

Having numerous materials through the door and down the hall opens up a realm of possibilities for students. Regardless if you have a college counselor, you are guaranteed to be on the right path, when taking advantage of the College and Career Center in room 111. See, it’s even easy to remember. During the stressful four years of tests, research and applications, our school is here to help, and the possibility of having private college counselors shouldn’t overshadow that.