PCACAC Summer Institute: Where the Counselors Become the Campers

Independence Hall, my dorm for the night

Hello from Baltimore! Summer continues to fly by and here we are, at the beginning of August. I remember this as the point in every summer when I would start to get antsy to go back to school—partly because I enjoyed going to class (I’m definitely a little nerdy, I’ll admit it!), but also because I was so excited to reunite with my classmates/dorm mates/sorority sisters, etc. I loved that sense of being with people that shared my academic and extracurricular passions—they just “got” me. It always felt pretty effortless to fall right back in.

Earlier this week, I got the opportunity to meet a new group of people whose presence made me feel right at home. I spent Monday and Tuesday as an attendee of the PCACAC’S Summer Institute at the University of Delaware in Newark. PCACAC (pronounced “PAK-ak” or “pa-KAK-ak” depending on who you ask) stands for the Potomac & Chesapeake Association of College Admission Counseling, and it’s the regional branch of our profession’s national organization, the National Association of College Admission Counseling. This group brings together professionals from “both sides of the desk,” as they say, meaning that both high school guidance counselors and college admissions counselors can be members. It’s a great way to engage with our peers from other schools in the Mid-Atlantic who might be traveling to the same high schools we are, or college counselors who work at the schools we’re visiting in the fall. I couldn’t believe how easily I was able to connect with this group—it certainly didn’t feel like I was with a bunch of complete strangers after a few short hours. I know that the counselors in our office are a pretty lively bunch, and these folks certainly reinforced this perception of college admissions professionals.

PCACAC’s Summer Institute is geared toward people who have recently entered the field of college or admissions counseling, so many of the sessions I attended covered the more basic topics of the profession. Our first group session, for example, was called “Ethics in the Admissions Process,” and gave us an overview of the NACAC Statement of Principles of Good Practice. There are certain rules and deadlines that we have to follow as admissions counselors when we’re communicating with all of you, just as you have deadlines and rules when applying to college.  It was very interesting to look at different case studies of ethical and unethical situations—some of them surprised me! I also attended sessions that focused on making effective high school visits, incorporating social media into the admissions process, and balancing travel with student group management. It was so great to be able to attend sessions that were specifically designed to answer some of my biggest questions as a first-time admissions counselor, and I’m hoping that they will make me an even more effective ambassador of my office and school!

I had one of my new counselor friends take this dorky picture of me with my PCACAC Summer Institute certificate

When our sessions ended for the day, we headed to a local restaurant in Newark for some dinner and networking. As I said, networking with these people was anything but boring! We had a great time chatting about all kinds of things, both admissions-related and not. The restaurant had a Trivia Night going on while we were there, and some members of our group jumped right in and won the $50 prize! I was pretty exhausted by the time I reached my dorm room (oh yes, we stayed in the dorms!) and said goodnight to my roommate Jenny (yup, we had roommates!). The dorm facilities were very nice and I kind of enjoyed the nostalgia trip back to my freshman year in AMR II, plastic mattress and all. I never thought I’d be digging out my XL twin sheets again! One thing was distinctly different, however: these dorms had AC! Instead of waking up in the middle of the night sweating (eww), I woke up chilly! These times, they are a-changin.

Independence Hall, my dorm for the night

My PCACAC experience felt a little bit like summer camp for admissions counselors, except in this case, the counselors were the campers! I have a feeling that if I run into any of my new counselor acquaintances on the road this fall, we’ll greet each other like old friends.

We’re pretty excited about meeting many of you during our travels this fall, too! Keep an eye on the “Visit” section of our website for updates about upcoming counselor visits in your area as well as on-campus events!