The Department of College Counselling at Cedar College has been instated with the aim of facilitating students to apply to their choice of universities. However, this process of applying is not as simple as one may expect it to be, and actually ends up being quite time-consuming for students. With day-to-day school work, tuitions, and extracurricular commitments; actually sitting down and researching on colleges can be an additional task to your long list of things to do.
In order to aid the students and offer them some relief in terms of double-checking if they’re making the right choice, Cedar’s team of five College Counsellors make it priority to sit down with each and every student in order to better guide them regarding their university and subject choices.
Ms Mehreen Sheikh, Head of College Counselling, hopes to clear up students’ confusion regarding the departments’ roles and duties.
What is the prime motive of having such a department in place?
As a former A Level student in Karachi who received little to no guidance in her own university applications, I think one of the most integral parts about Cedar is its College Counselling department. At this age, and in recent times with the advancements in careers, programs and fields, the biggest challenge an A Level student faces is choosing which career path to follow. That, in my opinion, is the prime motive of this department, helping students channel their ideas, interests and potential towards their university applications and future career prospects. Everything else follows! Deciding what regions to apply to, which teachers to get their recommendations from, what their essay should be about, are based on your career and field of interest, all of which your College Counsellor will guide and support you through!
What are some of the main responsibilities of a College Counsellor?
Not only does a College Counsellor guide and mentor you regarding your future career prospects and your choice of undergraduate programs, they also help you research your schools and courses to make an informed decision about what your university choices will be. We follow a 3:4:3 rule where we ask students to shortlist their universities based on 3 dream schools, 4 realistic schools and 3 backup schools. We have to keep in mind that this list will be different for everyone based on the country they are applying to, their ECAs profile and most importantly, their grades. After students finalize their lists and countries, the College Counsellors provide hands-on assistance in filling out their applications, editing their essays, writing their counsellors’ recommendations, making their transcripts and any other application assistance required. We see students through the entire application process from start to finish.
In your opinion, does College Counselling benefit students on a personal level as well? How?
Yes, because the College Counselling process involves a lot of mentoring and learning from experiences. I encourage the College Counsellors to counsel students by talking about their own experiences and their own time as an A Level student. I encourage them to share their stories of filling out university applications, choosing their major, taking their SAT, etc. I really believe that students are inspired by our stories and experiences because they spend all year with us and see us as their mentors. So, College Counselling really does tie in the personal aspect of an academic experience at Cedar. Meeting deadlines, writing formal essays and letters and doing research to make the best possible decision for themselves, really gives the student the exposure, the discipline and the ability to be independent in order to execute their plans and reach their goals. These skills are essential not only as students, but also as professionals later in life, so I think it definitely benefits students on a personal level!
How does the Department of College Counselling serve as a bridge between the student and universities? Do you think it helps the student in question?
College Counsellors are extremely important when it comes to interaction between students and universities. Not only do we submit their applications, transcripts and recommendations, it is the College Counsellors that build and maintain relationships with universities through outreach and networking that eventually comes in handy during application season. Through these interactions between counsellors and universities, the admissions representatives then reach out to us to visit Cedar College to talk to our students and give them information about programs, scholarships and admissions processes. Furthermore, all information that needs to be provided to students is first given to the Counsellors who then pass on that information to the student body. Similarly, any information universities need about our students, College Counsellors serve as the point of contact when verifying their applications and extracurricular activities. All in all, I think Counsellors serving as the bridge between the two really helps students in the overall process.
What should students keep in mind if they are seeking college counselling; either in school or privately?
I believe that no matter how much someone is able to help you, you can only make your decisions and achieve your goals yourself, no one else can do that for you. Yes, we see Counsellors as mentors and people who can tell us what the right career path would be for us but students need to remember that ultimately it’s their choice. So keep in mind that counselling is just a form of support, you have to also learn to be independent and make your choices yourself which also ties into the fact that students have to be responsible and accountable for their own applications and deadlines.
What is the most important part of a student’s application? Is it the essay, the SAT, recommendations or grades?
It is actually different for every region. Where in the USA the schools care more about your SAT score, your school transcripts and your extracurricular activities, in the UK and Canada they give more weightage to your CAIE grades and your personal statement. I think considering all these aspects of a student’s profile are the most important when it comes to deciding where the students should apply and that is where the College Counsellors come in. After we ask a student about all their achievements, grades, scores, etc. we are then able to guide them towards the right region and program.
Teacher, mentor, or friend? Which role do you think you play on a regular basis as a College Counsellor?
I personally play the role of all 3 on a daily basis. Teacher, because I think as Counsellors the students learn a lot from us. From meeting deadlines, being responsible for their applications to learning how to better organize themselves and manage their time. Our frequent interaction also puts us in the position of being their mentor because they learn through our examples and experiences.
College applications are a long and tiring process; sometimes demotivating when students get rejected and at other times moments of pride when they get their acceptances. So we have to be their friend as well, because we are often the first ones that the students come to when they hear from their universities and on a daily basis we console them and congratulate them. Having this sort of impact on the students is what makes being a college counsellor worth every second of the hard work that goes into it!
“You have the power to determine how the world views us, so represent your country and culture in the best possible way. It doesn’t matter where you go after A Levels, as long as you stay true to yourself!” — Mehreen Sheikh.