Commencement 2024
Counselors' Corner
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3w ago
by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D. Graduates, congratulations. Finishing high school has never been easy, even when it’s just the usual twists and turns of making it through 9th grade PE with your self-esteem intact and surviving senior prom. In your case, the ride has had a few more challenges, and still, here you are. Many commencement speeches offer advice about the life that awaits you, and how you should manage it—but you’ve already kind of been there and done that. Many of you started with some online variation of high school during the height of COVID, where learning occurred online, in pers ..read more
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Before You Go to College
Counselors' Corner
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3w ago
by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D. Seniors, here are some recommendations on spending your summertime. College is about trying new things, so give these a spin, and you'll hit the campus more flexible than Gumby after a yoga class. Movie You Must See Before You Go to College The Shawshank Redemption was overlooked when it was released the same year as Forrest Gump. Now it's on TNT every month. A story about second chances, forgiveness and negotiating with the world, this isn't an easy movie to watch, but it talks about hope, determination, and always knowing what's right. It will give you ..read more
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40 Years Later
Counselors' Corner
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1M ago
by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D. There’s a teenage kid No matter what he did Nobody ever understands And he don’t measure up And he’s had enough Can’t be his daddy’s little man So he pulls out that hot rod Chevy Puts in his favorite cassette He ain’t goin’ to no college The world is waitin’ up ahead * It's hard to believe it’s over 30 years since Bob McDill wrote those lyrics as part of the Leroy Parnell hit, On the Road—and while some of the references are dated (cassette tapes?), so much of it is still true today. I’ve been thinking about that, as I complete year 40 as a college coun ..read more
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College Counseling for First Generation Students
Counselors' Corner
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1M ago
by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D. There isn’t a lot of research on the best way to talk about college with students who would be the first in their family to attend, but it’s a research field that’s growing. The Journal of College Access is a space devoted to such research (full disclosure—I am a founding editor), so I’ve had a chance to peruse some quality work on this topic. Combined with conversations with professionals who work with these students, here’s a quick guided tour of things to do to shape a college counseling curriculum for first gens: Start early Students who only know about c ..read more
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Advice for College First Years
Counselors' Corner
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1M ago
by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D. Welcome to college! The opportunities you have here to learn about yourself and the world—from exploring the world of entomology to trying your first naan—are vast, and your goal is to finish your college experience without saying “Gee, I should have tried…” too often. That means staying open to the possible, all while using sound judgment, so that you will also get to the end of your college experience and say “Gee, I’m glad I didn’t try…” (translation: cans filled with mixed liquor should be avoided at all costs). In terms of life in the classroom, the rules are ..read more
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Parenting a College Student
Counselors' Corner
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1M ago
by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D. This is the time of year when many parents aren’t quite sure what to do with themselves. Years and years—and years—of chauffeuring kids here and there created a portal into their lives college doesn’t offer. In a way, that’s good; kids aren’t raised to be perpetually dependent. On the other hand, it’s wise to want to be there when their reality of adulthood is less than their vision of what it’s supposed to be. The adult phase of parenthood is less about doing, and more about watching. You going to campus, and their coming home, are vital parts of your relationshi ..read more
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FAFSA Foul-Ups? Apply Anyway (For Your Students)
Counselors' Corner
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2M ago
by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D. Students, I get it. I used to work for the US Department of Education, and they’re supposed to be helping you get an education—but it sure doesn’t seem that way, if you’ve applied for financial aid for life after high school. They changed the FAFSA form—the one used to apply for aid—and it was supposed to make applying easier. It didn’t work. The new version had flaws, and more flaws are discovered nearly every week. Those students who did manage to apply have now been told there weren’t one, but two, incorrect formulas used to calculate eligibility—and this mean ..read more
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Giving Back
Counselors' Corner
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2M ago
by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D. Hamtramck is a Detroit enclave with Polish roots, a part of town where, in the day, neighbors would scrub their sidewalks together until you could eat off them. It’s a wonderfully diverse neighborhood now, still hosting a Paczki run each Lenten season, named after the Polish donut with a zillion calories you eat on Fat Tuesday. The route runs through neighborhoods, and your 5K effort is rewarded at the end with a table of Paczki to the left, and a table of beer to the right. As I ran past these very-close-together houses with kids in their pajamas sitting on the s ..read more
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FAFSA Foul Ups? Enough—Someone Needs to Go
Counselors' Corner
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3M ago
by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D. I can’t think of a single school counselor who wouldn’t be disciplined, even fired, if they prevented half of their seniors from applying to college. These students want to go to college, and they’ve navigated many hoops and hurdles to build academic and extracurricular records that not only show their ability to be successful in college, but give them the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to be successful once they arrive on campus. Some take tests, some give up summers for additional learning experiences, some beg their parents to let them at least try college, an ..read more
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Working With Disappointed Students
Counselors' Corner
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3M ago
by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D. The slow trickle of college decisions builds to a rushing stream this week and gains tsunami proportions by the end of the month. Predictions are for a record number of college applicants, which most likely means a record number of students going to college in the fall… … but students don't always see this bigger, better picture if one of their top colleges turns down their application. Not every student who was waitlisted or turned away asks for advice, but these three concepts can help you support and encourage those who do: Your first job as a counselor is to ..read more
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