Board Counselor Chris White Reflects on Counselors' Role in Higher Ed Community

Jun 28, 2016

Board Counselor Chris White Reflects on Counselors' Role in Higher Ed Community

First Lady Michele Obama often talks about the importance of school counselors' efforts to get students to Reach Higher - to pursue education beyond high school. We couldn't agree more.

Counselors are key.

We're lucky to not only have an Outreach Advisory Committee made up of college counselors; we also have four counselors on the Board of Directors. Recently, we caught up with board counselor Chris White, Director of College Advising at The Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs High Tech High in San Diego, CA, to discuss his reflections on some of the changes our community has experienced during the past four years.

CA: How did you become interested in joining The Common Application Board of Directors? 

CW: As a counselor at a non-traditional, project-based public charter school, I wanted to see how the experience of a progressive learning environment could help shape such an important part of the college application process.

CA: Talk more about High Tech High. What's the make up of your students?  

CW: High Tech High is a public charter organization in San Diego that includes five high schools. 45% of our students are on the free/reduced lunch program, 66% come from underrepresented groups, and 40% are first-generation. I have 134 students in the Class of 2017.  

CA: Many counselors now have quite a large and diverse caseload. Do you find that the role of counselors in the college admission process has changed?

CW: Counselors are supporting the Class of 2017 through an unprecedented amount of changes to the college admission process. But I also believe that rapidly changing technology will continue to introduce changes (big and little) in every cycle thereafter. I feel the time and resources that counselors must invest in continuing education is more valuable than ever. Schools and districts cannot be a barrier to professional development for counselors - a lack of student opportunities will be a by product of misinformed counselors. At the same time, not all students have sufficient access to school counselors, and we all need to work together to figure out how to bring information to the students who need it most.

CA:  How has The Common Application evolved as an organization during the last four years? 

CW: The amount of school counselor outreach and professional development opportunities have increased tremendously, and the Common App has recognized that need. From the ready to use powerpoint presentations of Common App Ready to the new commonapp.org with online tools for educators - the resources and ongoing communication with counselors reflect how much The Common Application values the counseling community and the importance of keeping counselors informed.

CA: Looking ahead, what do you hope The Common Application will accomplish during the next four years? 

CW: The Common App has made tremendous strides in the last two years of providing support to students in the area of financial aid - from the FAFSA Completion Campaign to the Scholar Snapp partnership. However, I hope Common App continues to explore opportunities that will reduce the hurdles that exist in the financial aid application process. My dream is that there will be integration where student Common App information could populate the FAFSA. For two reasons: 1. All students who seek financial aid need to complete the FAFSA. 2. With the changes coming to the financial aid timeline, families will be completing the FAFSA and the Common App almost simultaneously, so this would streamline the duplication of efforts.  

CA: Any parting words for counselors who want to get involved? 

CW: Serving on the board has enabled me to witness first-hand how much enrollment deans and admissions officers value the voice and experience of school counselors. They know that the success of a student's experience through the college admission process hinges on the quality of counseling provided. The voice of the counseling community on the Common App board is invaluable. A student's knowledge of the process is only limited by the experience of the counselor who leads them. The most informed counselors are active counselors. An informed caseload is the result of an active counselor.

Thank you so much for your service Chris!

Counselors on the 2016-2017 Board of Directors include Danya Berry, The Dayton Early College Academy; Patrick O'Connor, Cranbrook Schools; Mitchell Thompson, Scarsdale High School; and Katy Murphy, Bellarmine College Preparatory.

If you are interested in serving on the Outreach Advisory Committee or being considered for the Board of Directors, please contact us at counselorscount@commonapp.org.