College counseling system expands options


Senior Jen Kreis and her cousin Andrew Engle stands with a statue of James Madison at James Madison University. The new college counseling system has increased out of state college searches.

Sifting and sorting through countless papers and innumerable websites adds unnecessary stress to the college search. JC’s new counseling arrangement, with one college counselor, has singled out one source for students to access college information. As the program’s first year winds down, both the department and students reflect on the college search as a whole.

Seniors this year have trended towards “big, southern schools,” according to college counselor Carrie Siemsen. “Historical trends” such as these are unique to each class, according to Siemsen.

“Kids here tend to be drawn to Southern schools and drawn to the warm weather. This year, we have a lot of students really reaching for some very competitive schools, which is great,” Siemsen said.

The college counseling setup has mainstreamed college facts and figures. “It makes the whole process a little more fluid, a little more smooth,” Siemsen said.

As far as expanding students’ college searches, according to Siemsen, this is nothing new. “We have always encouraged them to look beyond what they’re comfortable with. I don’t think that this new structure has necessarily created students broadening horizons,” she said. The new arrangement has, however, caused more students to branch beyond Maryland’s borders than in previous years.

Seniors Allison Blackman and Thomas Sullivan have both explored schools outside of the state of Maryland. Blackman applied to High Point University in North Carolina, while Sullivan applied to James Madison University in Virginia.

Although the college counseling process helped him discover James Madison University, Sullivan “only applied to three schools,” so he doesn’t consider his search “very broad.” He does believe that the way JC handles the college process is “efficient and effective.”

Blackman agrees, but also believes that the new arrangement helped her find schools that she otherwise would not have applied to.

“[The new setup] definitely helped broaden my search,” she said. According to Blackman, it was beneficial having both her personal counselor and a designated college counselor suggesting schools to fit her.

“While [Director of Guidance Carol Heflin Shupe] gave college suggestions based on my personality at a deeper level, Mrs. Siemsen was able to bring up some options that [Heflin] would not have connected to me,” she said.

Although previous classes have followed a trend of popular schools, they have not had the advantages that the class of 2013 and future classes have, according to Siemsen. The additional resources, added communication with students and parents, and the fact that there is one person whose “sole responsibility” is the college process is “an advantage.” These resources are more “than we have provided them with in the past,” she said.

Junior Brian Matejevich believes this individual role is a benefit, but thinks that other opinions are helpful. “I guess it’s good that we have one person who is specialized in it [the college search], but it’s also good to have multiple people we can go to for it,” Matejevich said.

In the coming years, Siemsen plans to do “creative” communication with students and parents. This includes videos of seniors giving juniors advice about the college process, and bringing in a variety of college related speakers for parents.

Looking at the variety of colleges seniors applied to this year, Siemsen feels confident in the new college counseling structure. “Overall, I feel like this is a really good move in the right direction for JC and for JC’s college counseling process.”

Kailey Tracy is the Copy Chief for The Patriot and