College Counselor and CAC Adviser Team Together to Reach Students


Tyler O’Donnell, Illinois College Advising Corps adviser serving Crete-Monee High School

Julie Pagliuco, College Counselor at Crete-Monee High School in Crete, Illinois, and Tyler O’Donnell, a College Advising Corps adviser from the University of Illinois, have formed a unique partnership to help students at Crete-Monee obtain their higher education goals. This partnership described in the interview below has helped Tyler have a huge impact. This year, Tyler met with 80% of his seniors at least three times! Moreover, 80% percent of his seniors submitted a college application, 261 seniors submitted their FAFSA, and he has helped his students secure $5,804,920 in scholarships. In the below Q&A, learn how Julie and Tyler tackle the challenges of college advising and discover the keys to a successful partnership.

What are the biggest challenges you face while advising students?

Julie Pagliuco: I would say the biggest challenge facing me as a counselor is having enough time throughout the year to meet the needs of the seniors. All the counselors have all grade levels, so sometimes it is hard to have the time to catch up with the seniors to make sure they completed their applications and to follow up with them to see if they have been accepted. I am so grateful to have our [Illinois College Advising Corps (ICAC) adviser], Tyler O’Donnell, to assist us with keeping up with our seniors’ demands.

Tyler O’Donnell: Communicating deadlines and the extreme brevity of the early college application timeline [is my biggest challenge]. I serve over 300 students, all of whom have different needs, goals, and capabilities. It is crucial to make sure students that are striving to meet early application deadlines are informed and equipped with all the necessary information. When do I need letters of recommendation? How soon will my transcripts be sent and processed? How long will it take my teachers, you, or other school personnel to edit personal statements? All of the necessary smaller steps to have a complete application can be overwhelming to the student if [he is] unprepared.

Julie, what is it like to work with a College Advising Corps adviser? 

Julie: It has been a pleasure to work alongside Tyler this school year. He has assisted our counseling team in so many ways, such as coordinating college rep visits, college campus field trips, assisting students with college applications, and helping [students] complete their FAFSA. It is nice having someone to work with that fits right in with our team, works right along with us, and does not try and step on our toes.

What about you, Tyler? What has it been like to work with an established counselor at a school?

Tyler: The experience has molded me into a better young professional. I cannot overstate how important Julie and the other counselors were in my development as an adviser and future education professional. I learned many different styles of counseling, witnessed truly jam-packed weeks where counselors barely had time for coffee, became part of a real team that collaborated, innovated, and achieved some remarkable results in a brief blip of time. I honestly can’t thank them enough.

Julie, is Tyler an asset to your work and team?

Julie: He has built tremendous relationships with our students. Many of our seniors are so thankful to him for staying after school to help them fill out their college applications. I appreciate that Mr. O’Donnell is very reliable. When he says he is going to do something, he is right there doing it for you.

Tyler, how does your work support Julie?

Tyler: I provide a level of one-on-one support to supplement what the counselors and teachers have already laid the groundwork for. Our counselors have a huge caseload and try to accommodate as many students as possible; I strive to give that extra boost. I stay late, host after-school workshops, [and] attend weekend or late evening events not just for ICAC and the reputation of [College Advising Corps], but because I love the work I do. The students need our support and, in my mind, sacrificing a little time here and there is a small price to pay for positively impacting the lives of my students.

What advice would you both give to College Advising Corps advisers on how to best work with a counselor?

Julie: First, set aside time to have a meeting with the counseling department to set goals and expectations, not only for the college adviser but the counselors, too. I think this discussion minimizes confusion [as to] who is supposed to be in charge of [which] tasks throughout the school year. One other thing I would suggest is to get a feel for what the counselors already do within their counseling curriculum and see how you can work collaboratively together. For example, we already do a scholarship presentation, and Tyler presented with us and included a discussion on the FAFSA.

Tyler: I agree with Julie. Maintaining open dialogue preferably at a weekly meeting or even daily conversations about what is expected can be extremely helpful in navigating school politics. You never want to step on anyone’s toes. Teamwork makes the dreamwork.