Put Yourself Out There

September brings many “firsts” for new counselors. First college fair, first long road trip (or for some, first time flying solo) or first time getting lost on your way to a high school. It’s no surprise that the entire first year is a learning curve for new counselors, both on the high school and college side. 

Just when you feel like you’re in a groove talking to students and families, there’s a new topic to cover, or question asked, and it can feel like you’re never going to learn it all. Reflecting back on my time in higher education, there’s one key takeaway that I think is worthwhile for anyone to keep in mind as they continue to learn and develop in this profession: don’t be afraid of putting yourself out there. What do I mean by that? Let me explain:
  1. Don’t be afraid to meet new people. Put yourself out there and get to know your colleagues, both in the office and on the road. I was fortunate to start my career with people that turned out to be close, lifelong friends. You spend more time with your colleagues than you do your own families sometimes, so you might as well try to get to know them! Schedule time to connect over coffee, or try an activity together outside of the office (sand volleyball, anyone?). When traveling, make an effort to connect with people you meet at college fairs or in the high schools. The Iowa ACAC is hosting member meetups in a variety of areas across the state during travel season, so stop by and meet your fellow road warriors. Besides, it’s a lot less lonely on the road if you have a travel buddy to join you for lunch in between travel stops!
  2. Don’t be afraid to take risks or learn new things. The longer that I worked in admissions, the more opportunities I had to learn new skills or take on new responsibilities. While I was eager to take advantage of advancement opportunities, I was always hesitant if that meant that I had less direct interactions with students. Meeting with students and their families has always been the highlight of my job, and the reason I wanted to start working in admissions. However, I soon learned that I could also love training new counselors, or supervising student ambassadors, or learning about the communications flow or about operations and administration. If there’s ever an opportunity that presents itself that you have even a remote interest in, don’t be afraid to take that leap. You never know what else you might learn to love about working in this field!
  3. Don’t be afraid to follow your passions. I remember attending my first Iowa ACAC conference in Des Moines and hearing all about the Iowa ACAC Executive Board. The common theme was about getting involved, whether that be by joining a committee or eventually an executive board position. I remember thinking at the time that I was a long way from that. I was just learning after all! However, after a few years in, I learned about a committee that sounded interesting: the Inclusion, Access, and Success Committee. I had always had an interest and passion for helping underrepresented students across our state achieve better access to higher education. Joining this committee allowed me to meet more admission professionals across the state, many of whom I still look up to as mentors and role models. It didn’t feel like I’d been part of the committee very long before I was asked to chair it due to staffing and relocation changes. I was nervous, but I cared about the mission of the committee and didn’t want to lose the momentum of all the progress we’d made. This was one of the greatest learning and growth opportunities I’ve had in my career, and I’m so grateful that I never lost sight of this passion area of mine. Spend time trying to figure out what YOU are passionate about. Maybe it’s helping specific student populations. Maybe it’s helping plan events. Maybe it’s making a difference at the legislative and policy level. Whatever it is, never give up on pursuing it and incorporating it into your day-to-day work.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or for a mentor. There are going to be times where you’re filled with self-doubt. Did I do enough to help my students find their right college fit? What can I do when a parent is upset about their child’s financial aid package? How do I know if I can continue to grow in this profession? Just as we tell our students, you should never be afraid to ask for help. Find someone that you trust and respect to bounce ideas off, learn from, and ask questions. Better yet, find multiple people. You’ll likely find someone at your own institution but you should also utilize the connections you’ve made with colleagues you’ve met on the road or through Iowa ACAC committees. Everyone will have different insights to offer, which you can then use to help create your own path and make your own decisions.

Working in higher education can be stressful and demanding, while also being the most meaningful work you can do. There’s no better feeling than seeing the students you work with reach their goals, whether that’s finding the right college fit or crossing the stage at graduation. There are tons of opportunities within this profession, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and explore all the possibilities that await you.

Share this post:

Comments on "Put Yourself Out There"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment