Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Girls

A few weeks ago, I wrote about why I started my own college advising program and since our very first meeting together was exactly one year ago today, I thought I would share some more about what this past year has looked like. 

The whole idea of this program started more than a year ago when I was still in the classroom and probably even further back to 2006 when I was applying to colleges and overwhelmed myself. I knew what I wanted to do but wasn't sure of how to make meetings feasible. My apartment wasn't quite large enough to host that many people. Would Panera really have enough space available on a regular basis for six girls and their families? Then one day, while running through Queen's campus with a friend, she suggested what better place to host college advising meetings than a college campus? So, I eagerly reached out to Queens University and was thrilled when their admissions staff offered me their space on the third Thursday evening of every month until May! 

Next, I had to select the group. There were so many students who had impacted my life that it really was difficult to think about who I wanted to work with, but ultimately I chose the ones I had stayed in touch with the most since school ended in June. I bribed them to come to my meeting with a dinner and promised to explain my crazy ideas once they arrived. Thankfully, the girls and their families believed in me and showed up to our first meeting exactly one year ago. The whole evening was a blur. I planned a presentation on why I wanted to start this program and had planned on being professional and in teacher mode but I am pretty sure I cried throughout most of the first meeting because I was just so excited that everything was becoming a reality for the girls and me. We were going to do this. Together. 

These girls. They are impressive. 

They've started their own organizations empowering students and young women across their high school campus to become educated and motivated for success. They've developed mentorship programs for their IB freshman. They are the leaders on their campus and hold positions in numerous student organizations at their school. They play varsity sports. They have jobs and work 20+ hours a week. They attend leadership conferences. They volunteer in their community They have a passion for global issues and take a stand for undocumented students. They speak up and take initiative on issues within their high school. On top of it all, they are the most resilient, positive, and ambitious young women I know. (Did I mention how smart they all are too? They did have a fabulous Algebra II teacher.)

This past year has been an adventure as we have tried to navigate the sea of college applications together. We spent the first six months meeting monthly at Queens to discuss the process and review information that I gathered by tracking down every knowledgeable advisor in the Charlotte area and begging them to share their wisdom with me. For the summer months, the girls started scheduling their tours to UNC Chapel Hill, Davidson, Queens, Clemson, Wake Forest, and we will take our final trip this weekend to NC State. 

The fall has been what can only be described as organized chaos. As much as I tried to plan in advance, there have been a few hiccups along the way. (You would think there would be one site that could list all of the accurate college application deadlines for both early and regular decision. Wrong.)  We've been editing their essays and deleting a few that were blah. (For clarity, I am not writing their essays. I simply help them to write by having them dig deep and having them write about what is most meaningful to them. We do edit for grammatical mistakes as well but all of the writing is their own.) I triple check every application. These applications do not have built in spell check so you have to read through carefully. I make sure the correct essay was uploaded to their application. Lastly, I do my best to be their overly excited, constantly motivating cheerleader. 

They are definitely overextended with IB senior year course work, clubs, sports, jobs, and applications. I know we are all too eager for April to arrive when we will have all of our acceptances, but for now, we are doing our best to enjoy each step of the way. Too soon, I know, they will be off to college. While I cannot wait for this day (and to visit them all obsessively) I will be saddened by the fact that I cannot simply see them as often as I do now. These girls have my heart. I speak of them as if they are my own and brag to anyone who will listen. This past year, we have laughed, we have cried, we have broken down in the middle of college campuses crying because we are overjoyed, we've been mad at each other, annoyed with missed deadlines, and supported each other every day. 

It is my goal for them to put all of themselves into their applications. They are truly exceptional young women, and I wish I could convince each of the admissions counselors to accept them all because I know they will make monumental impacts once they arrive but sadly- the decision is not mine. While they each have their dream school, and like I did, believe their world will fall apart if they are not accepted, I know that each of them will end up exactly where they are supposed to be. And that college or university will be the luckiest school in the world. 



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