A Day in the Life of a College Advising Corps Program Director

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 4TH

7:30am – My iPhone alarm goes off. My first thought is that the advisers are already at their schools starting their day. As a former teacher, I don’t miss the in-school hours! Today is an “out” day. After a year working from home, I’ve learned to strategically schedule meetings in the city on the same day. I’m looking forward to a packed schedule taking me all over Boston.

8:00am – Donning my full-length down coat and snow boots that are already looking dirty, I wait in my car as is it struggles to heat up. I’m grateful there wasn’t snow last night and the roads are “clear” (if you ignore the 5 ft. tall snow banks on either side).  It’s only about 7 miles to my first stop, but with traffic, parking, and the added weather elements, I know it’ll be a long drive.

9:00am – I walk into the conference room at the Boston Foundation and am greeted by a room filled with familiar faces.  It is the monthly Student Transitions team meeting of Success Boston, a college completion initiative aimed at doubling the college completion rate for the Boston Public Schools Class of 2011 and beyond. The Student Transitions Team is made up of representatives from the Boston Foundation, Boston Public Schools (BPS), Bunker Hill Community College, University of Massachusetts Boston, and about 12 community organizations. We meet regularly to review and strategize around the barriers students face as they transition from high school to college.

Today, we review trends in remedial education, a big issue for BPS students. The team is working to understand where students are falling through cracks in remedial education, outline the current resources available at local campuses, and make policy and procedural change recommendations. With varied perspectives and a shared goal to better support BPS students, we have a great discussion.

11:10am – These meetings are a great time for me to catch up with partners with whom we are collaborating in schools across the district. On the way out, I pull aside a colleague from uAspire to quickly discuss our collective FAFSA completion strategy. uAspire and College Advising Corps Boston advisers are doing a fantastic job tag-teaming to complete financial aid forms and educate students about college affordability issues. We have been strategically working together throughout the year and our efforts will ramp up even more now that FAFSA season is upon us. After the conversation, I walk away feeling very lucky to be in such a strong community of practice in Boston. I conclude discussions and travel along for a high school visit.

12:00pm – I’m at the front door of one of our first and largest school partner — Brighton High School. I’m here for a meeting with Christelle, a CAC Boston adviser. Christelle is a Haitian immigrant and first-generation college student. A Boston Public School graduate herself, Christelle grew up in the community where many of her students currently live. She very much understands the challenges students at Brighton High face tackling the college application process.

When I arrive at Brighton High, I see the line of students waiting to speak with Christelle. I peak my head in and laugh to see her surrounded by three more students. It is clearly lunchtime during application season! I wave and tell her to take her time, using my few extra minutes to say hi to the other guidance staff.

12:15pm – After follow-up student meetings are scheduled and a few forms are signed, Christelle and I meet with Mr. Travers, the head of guidance at Brighton. From the beginning, he has been a great ally in this work and a huge support to College Advising Corps. With over 88% of students classified as low income, 40% English language learners, and 20% special education, the five guidance counselors at Brighton have their plates overwhelmingly full.

We are meeting to discuss Christelle’s mid-year review, a meeting I am holding with all advisers and on-site supervisors throughout January and February. This is a time for us to check in on how the partnership is doing, discuss opportunities and challenges advisers are experiencing, and provide direct feedback to the adviser. This meeting quickly takes on a tone I have experienced many times already with advisers and school supervisors.

“This young woman is a gem,” says Mr. Travers. “Our guidance counselors are often overwhelmed with students requiring responsive services for students facing social, emotional, and behavioral challenges. Christelle has filled in that void by working with students on scholarships and applications, visiting classrooms to talk about choosing and paying for college, and helping students access opportunities like dual enrollment. She is an outstanding role model for our students and does everything in her power and ability to help them.”

1:20pm – I smile all the way home, happy to get the chance to visit with one of our school partners and hear rave reviews about an adviser. We all left the meeting with high energy and ideas on how to strengthen our work in the second semester and next year. We’ve gotten off to a great start, and there is always more work to be done!

2:00pm – Back at home, I eat a late lunch and answer some emails. Since I don’t see my advisers every day, I try to be in touch as often as possible via email and phone. By the time I add a few items to my to do list, the hour has escaped me.

3:00pm – It’s time for me to log on to the Program Director webinar and call. Held monthly, these meetings bring together the national staff and the Program Directors across the country together to share best practices, get updates, and receive professional development. This week, we cover a variety of topics we all encounter, from adviser recruitment to training to school relationships. Every time I have the opportunity to hear from other Program Directors, I walk away with great advice and new ideas. Even though it’s just my advisers and me in Massachusetts, I feel connected to the larger work of College Advising Corps nationally.

4:15 – I close my day back on email, scheduling more school visits and talking with advisers. I send out a reminder about our upcoming in-service training this Friday. Even though we meet as a group twice monthly, it’s felt like a long time since our last in-service! I’m excited to see everyone and hear updates on how application season is fairing. Until then, tomorrow is an “in” day, and I have a stack of mid-year reviews to look over. But who can complain when you’re spending your day reading about the amazing impact your team is making on a city you love? Not me!

Katie Magyar is the Program Director at College Advising Crops Boston.