By Veronica Tapia, College Adviser at Heide Trask High School | January 26, 2017
As I entered my first summer training with the NC State College Advising Corps (NC State CAC), I was constantly reminded to “trust the system” and to remember that we are “planting seeds.” Trusting the system meant trusting that each programmatic goal and expectation was in place to ensure our success and effectiveness in our schools. But the seeds… the seeds are the hope and motivation, that we as college advisers are instilling within our students, to fulfill their potential and pursue higher education. But planting the seeds can be tricky.
If you’ve ever experimented with gardening, you may know that you should plant seeds with care; you examine the needs of the seeds to determine how often you water them, appropriate temperature and sun exposure, and you might even go the extra mile to practice composting to further add to the nutritional needs of your seedling. The same goes for our students. Through our 1-on-1 meetings with each senior, we strive to inform our students of all of the steps he or she needs to take. We ask questions to uncover their goals and aspirations, while also identifying any personal barriers to these goals. Throughout the whole year, we are with them every step. We walk them through college applications, edit their essays, help them complete FAFSA, etc. This isn’t always easy to do.
Our students can’t always make our FAFSA nights because they work after school to help pay bills. They might miss their last shot at the ACT because their ride fell through. Their parents might discourage them from applying to four-year schools because they know they can’t afford it. And after overcoming all of that, they might think they are finally college-bound until they realize their family is unable to pay the required $200 enrollment deposit. It is our duty as college advisers to constantly remind them that they are capable and that they are not alone in the process. We earn their trust by going out of our way to meet their needs and advocating for them when they cannot advocate for themselves. This is when the seed is planted.
Sometimes, we see the seed sprout before the school year is over. We celebrate college acceptances, loan-free award letters, and scholarship awards with our students. Students will excitedly rush into our office to share that they’ve filed their intent to enroll and registered for orientation. Other times, students are still as unsure about their future plans as the day they first walked into our office. At that point, we have to trust the system and hope that the seeds we planted will sprout over the summer.
As a second-year adviser, it is truly humbling to watch the seeds sprout within my now college freshman. They are active members of the colleges they attend, with part time jobs, leadership roles, and are involved in club sports and living communities. They are thriving as responsible, independent young adults. Yet they remain humble, eager to revisit their school communities and spread the word about the opportunities that higher education has to offer.
And, they even come back to thank their college adviser one more time.