The pandemic, in all of its upheaval, has also become fertile soil for new ideas, and finding new ways of leveraging technology and connection. The Counseling Department at Gonzaga Prep is actively cultivating opportunities for growth in the college process as the school year unfolds.
Half days of in-person classes means the counseling department has less access to students during the school day. Instead, counselors are connecting digitally and by appointment.
“We’re a lot more intentional about getting our message out to students,” says Morgan Hatcher, counselor to juniors and seniors.
Support for students
While the college application process and timelines remain mostly the same, the way it’s done has been turned on its ear. Hatcher and Brian Spraggins — the other counselor to juniors and seniors — are focused on supporting families in a college planning landscape that feels at times uncertain. In mid-September, they presented the annual college planning event via Zoom. Joining them were Erin Hays, Director of Undergraduate Admission at Gonzaga, and Jim White, Dean of Student Financial Services at Gonzaga.
“We had a great response to the evening,” Hatcher says. More parents were able to “attend” than typically show up for the in-person event. “Families enjoyed being able to watch it with their students,” Spraggins added.
Both are working to ease the heightened anxiety they’re seeing in students — especially surrounding standardized tests. ACT and SAT scores, which used to be an important piece of the college application puzzle, are becoming less and less so. While still important for scholarships, many schools are now either “test optional” or “test blind.” So Hatcher and Spraggins are helping families understand the difference between the two, and which schools use which. “The overarching message is that you have to trust the colleges,” Hatcher says.
College visits go virtual
College visits have changed dramatically — and for the better in some ways. Prep has always had a busy schedule of college visits from a variety of public and private colleges and universities. By going virtual, that schedule has expanded rapidly this fall.
College admissions representatives who usually would not travel to Spokane are now saying “why not?”
And the virtual visits are more interactive. Some show videos, share slide presentations, and also take live questions. Many of the schools allow Prep to record the visits, which makes them more widely available to students who may have missed the day of the virtual visit.
The single biggest impact of these visits, Hatcher says, is the kind of access the students can get.
Resources consolidated in Schoology
The upgrade of Schoology provided an ideal opportunity for the Counseling Department to consolidate college planning resources and put them at the fingertips of students and families. In Schoology, they’ll find applications, recorded videos, slide presentations, and other relevant materials for planning and proceeding through the college selection and application process.
“They don’t have to sift through their email for specific information,” Hatcher says. It’s all in the Schoology College Planning folder.
As the college process rolls along during pandemic, Hatcher and Spraggins are impressed by the resilience of students.
“It’s calling them to a place of maturity,” Spraggins said. Hatcher agreed, “this generation of students is going to be the most resilient we’ve had.”