At this challenging and uncertain time for all students, Yonkers Partners in Education (YPIE) brought together more than 150 high school counselors, college admissions professionals, volunteers, parents, and members of our community to discuss how best to ensure students have the guidance and resources needed to pursue their academic dreams.
Samuel Wallis, YPIE Executive Director, was joined by Jayne Caflin Fonash, President of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) for this discussion moderated by Jacques Steinberg, New York Times best-selling author, to provide insights into the current college admissions landscape and resources available to support students as they navigate an even more precarious path to college.
Jacques opened the discussion by sharing his deep background with higher education and the college admissions process. Jacques was a long time national education correspondent at the New York Times and author of the NYT’s best-seller The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College.
After sharing the objectives of this discussion, Jacques provided a sense of reassurance. “The times we're living in are serious and in many cases quite dangerous,” said Jacques. “But I would argue that the bedrock principles of the college admissions process will remain intact this summer and fall. And we are all here as resources for you to figure this all out together.”
Sam reiterated this theme of all being there together to support students. “It's about every single student one at a time and helping them find what they need. We make sure that students are getting access to the things that will ensure academic success.”
Sam shared several “headlines” that he and the team at YPIE have gleaned through their one on one discussions with hundreds of students and college admissions professionals. “Every one of our students is going to need consistent messaging, reassurance, and in many cases, individual attention. We are asking that colleges think about how they can structure and staff themselves to be able to do the one-on-one work that ultimately we believe is going to make the difference between students enrolling and not. And finally for everyone, we know that this is all about one-on-one work and there's no big silver bullet that's going to get us through this.”
“All of this is predicated on relationships. Now is the time to lean into the relationships that we have with students and with community partners, and to let students who are relying on us know that we are there,” Sam added. “Those relationships will only be deepened by us being honest about the emotional rollercoaster that students are facing, that adults, frankly, are also facing.”
Sam shared several best practices from his discussions and encouraged students to use this time as meaningfully as possible. “What students are doing during this time can reflect very positively as they go into the college admissions process.”
Jayne opened her remarks sharing that she was the first in her family to attend college and how grateful she was for this opportunity. “That’s the work you are doing every day for these kids and the truth is these kids are our future. We need them to be the next group of scientists and economists to solve the next big problem.”
In her role as President of NACAC, Jayne has been speaking with college professionals across the country. “The future is still out there for all of these kids. It's just going to look different than they expected and their path to get there is going to be different, but it is there and there is not a high school or college professional out there that I have heard of who is not listening to what students are saying.”
Jayne commented on many of the topics on the minds of our students and their families, including standardized tests, financial aid, college essays, and best ways for underclass high school students to be using this time.
Following comments by Sam and Jayne, Jacques opened the discussion to the audience to submit questions. Questions ranged from whether students should now be considering colleges “closer to home” or a gap year to the best way for students to visit colleges online.