I was so excited that I forgot to take a picture of my own session at NACAC, but this is probably a pretty close approximation. (Seen one conference room, seen ’em all!) The room was full (I found out afterwards that people were actually turned away, sorry about that!), and I think we did a good job of laying out some of the opportunities and challenges that exist for counselors using online tools as they work to help their counselees develop college lists.
I made some great connections. Maxine Grossman of Campus Compare reached out to me before the conference, and even though we didn’t manage to talk in Baltimore, we’ve talked since. The fabulous Shaun McElroy (he of internationalcounselor.org fame) was able to attend our session, and so got to hear the shout-out I’d promised him. And I had a great conversation with Jeff Whorley of StudentAid.com (I have a feeling it was just the first of many).
In the session itself, Scott White made some great points about the necessity of being familiar with the full landscape of available tools. He also made a good case for using different data for different ends, and I know I wasn’t the only one who appreciated his observation that this process, while not overly complex, is seriously nuanced. Elise Miller and Robert Morse talked with some specificity about the tools they’re responsible for (College Navigator and U.S.News’ site), Lloyd Thacker (of the Education Conservancy) passionately exhorted us to reflect on the values that shape our questions, and Cigus Vanni closed with a heartfelt endorsement of the importance of sharing our collected wisdom.
The Q&A was terrific, and in particular I wish I could remember the name of the counselor who pushed through her nervousness to share a GREAT analogy that has helped her frame differences amongst schools. “When you’re getting ready to undertake a voyage,” she said, “there are multiple methods of transportation available to you. What if some colleges are like a train station, while others are like a carpool. Neither better by definition. But certainly different, and with different strengths.” (If this was your observation, leave a comment so I can make sure you get credit.)
There were, as there always are, things that I would have done differently. I’m already thinking about what I might want to try to pull together for next year. But in the meantime I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to connect with a wide range of people on a topic that has become important to me: how do we leverage existing technologies in support of our students making the best possible college matches?