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Find what won’t change

By October 4, 2019Uncategorized

Last week, under pressure from the Department of Justice, the National Association for College Admission Counseling reluctantly voted to make several significant changes to their code of ethics. Broadly speaking, the ethics code used to prevent colleges from doing two things: (1) offering incentives to students who applied under binding early-decision programs, and (2) continuing to recruit a student once he or she has submitted a deposit to another institution. As of last week, those clauses of ethical standards no longer exist. Eric Hoover of The Chronicle of Higher Education does a wonderful job laying out the story behind the changes here, and counselor Patrick O’Connor brings his usual combination of expertise and empathy in his post to fellow counselors about the potential impact on their work.

The scope and impact of this change will likely vary based on a number of factors. Depending on where a student applies to college, many families likely won’t even notice—it will be college-application-business as usual. Some counselors, as O’Connor describes, will see changes not just in the nature of the conversations they have with their students, but also when those conversations take place. And the admissions staff at some colleges will likely see big changes as they assemble—and now will have to work harder to keep—their incoming classes, especially at those schools that have traditionally had to compete with other colleges to attract similar applicants.

But while tomorrow’s lesson will explore the wisdom in embracing change and the opportunity it presents, today’s is just as important.

Lesson #23 of my final 31 posts: Seek opportunities to invest in what won’t change.

Most of us have never lived in a time of greater change than we do today. At work, at school, and even at home, the world and technology and the implications of it all can be dizzying to try to keep up with, much less to look around the corner of tomorrow and anticipate what may be coming next. But there’s a lot of potential opportunity in stepping back, recognizing what won’t change, and then investing in it.

Collegewise has been through repeated substantial changes over the last ten years. We’ve grown exponentially. We’ve been bought and sold. We’ve launched new products and initiatives, some to great success, some not. But through it all, every single day, we’ve stayed focused on what we knew would not change: Collegewise counselors will always be sitting down individually with families and helping them through an important, stressful time. So we invested in finding and training the very best people to join us, and in creating a company where they could do their very best work. We’ve broadened that investment to many roles that didn’t exist here ten years ago. But we knew that if we could consistently invest in and improve on what would never change, we’d be OK no matter what changed around us.

Families experiencing the anxiety of college admissions can regain control and comfort by investing in what won’t change. A student’s work ethic, curiosity, and character will always be central to their success and happiness. Kids will always benefit enormously from supportive parents who love them unconditionally. No grade, test score, or admissions decision from a college will change those truths. And right there is your opportunity to double-down on that investment.

Whether the resulting changes from the NACAC policy shift prove to be subtle or substantial, kids will always benefit from a school counselor who hears them and genuinely wants to help them get where they want to go in life. Counselors will always be even better at their jobs when they make reasonable efforts to provide themselves and their student communities with good college planning information. Colleges will still need to create environments that inspire the right students to say, “Yes—this place feels right for me.” And any professional involved will never have trouble looking at themselves in the mirror at night if they can honestly say that they acted in the best interest of the student(s) that day.

To do this well means differentiating between what won’t change and what you hope won’t change. It’s one thing to say, “My son will always be able to talk to me when he wants to.” It’s another to say, “My son will still talk to me every day when he goes to college.” But once you make that distinction, the investment opportunity becomes clear.

Sometimes the best way forward is to find what won’t change and then invest in it.