Guidance counselors transition to in-person senior counseling

September 5, 2021 — by Sarah Zhou and Nicole Lu
Photo by Sanjoli Gupta
Guidance counselor Monique Young works in her office.

After his first meeting of the year with guidance counselor Frances Saiki on Aug. 16, senior Nikhil Kapasi exited her office feeling as if a weight of uncertainty had been lifted from his shoulders.

“It was nice having more clarity and just walking in and chatting with her,” Kapasi said. “I remember the senior check-in easing my stress because I was assured that there’s someone I can just walk to and ask questions about anything.”

  As students and faculty members gear up for a completely in-person school year, the school’s four guidance counselors — Eileen Allen, Saiki, Alinna Satake and Monique Young — are especially enjoying meeting with students after nearly two years online.

For the Class of 2022, counselors have been making up for the lost interaction by providing options to meet primarily in person to discuss the college application process, like scheduled in-person appointments, while also maintaining an online presence.

For example, after finding relative success in utilizing remote learning technology during the pandemic, all four counselors have decided to continue uploading relevant information into Canvas modules. 

“COVID-19 took away a lot of agency for all of us, and I feel like it’s my job to help provide space for students to reclaim as much independence and agency as possible,” Satake said. “Feedback forms from other people in their lives, parent statements, reflection questions, resumes — all of these help us provide accurate information about our students.”

Though unconventional, the online nature of last year allowed students and counselors alike to have more flexibility with meetings. 

“Even last year, I loved having remote meetings with kids,” Satake said. “They got to decide when they wanted to see me, and I felt like I got to glimpse through a window into their at-home lives. I’ve definitely taken meetings with kids who are in the car on the way to an extracurricular or having a late lunch  at the Burger Bar.”

This increased accessibility, both online and in-person, has helped the guidance counselors address new challenges seniors are facing with the college application process.

Due to continued low standardized testing center availability, some colleges decided to go test-blind or test-optional when the pandemic first hit. Though some colleges only made this feature available for applicants in the 2020-2021 application cycle, others have become permanently test-optional, a phenomenon that Satake believes is “great and important work.”

Because of this, many students are now deciding to apply to schools that they usually wouldn’t consider, causing an influx of applications at most colleges. In fact, colleges of all ranges of selectivity saw record-high applicant numbers last year. Some like Harvard University had to delay admissions release dates, while others like UC Berkeley and Purdue University struggled to find sufficient dorming and class offerings.

The guidance counselors have adjusted their application strategy accordingly, with each counselor urging their students to apply broadly and include choices other than the same 25-30 top schools that seniors here tend to gravitate toward.

Their efforts have not gone unnoticed: As seniors continue to check in with their respective counselors, the general sentiment is that the help of their counselors has greatly alleviated the stress caused by the upcoming admissions process.

“It was just nice knowing that there’s someone there who’s willing to help you,” Kapasi said. “I know our counselors have always been there for the past four years, but it’s nice to have someone who you can turn to for questions and be your second set of eyes on things. It’s helpful to just know that someone is there.”