We have a number of Randolph employees whose roles are unique to our school and whose work makes a difference to the quality of the student experience. Rusty Allen, Director of College Counseling, is one of Randolph's Difference-Makers.
What do you do?
I help seniors and their parents make choices in the college search and selection process. We engage students from 9th grade on as they begin to develop their personal choices. You have the seniors' ears and without trying to push them, you want to direct them ... I'm like the college whisperer.
At school, I’m never without…
Time to engage with students. They know they can walk in here for two minutes in between classes or sit down for 45 minutes when they have a free.
What’s different about your work here?
Most other counselors in our professional organization are envious of the time and opportunities we are given to just talk with students. They're involved in all kinds of counseling and scheduling roles. Our school, by having this office, by having someone whose sole responsibility is college counseling, is saying that we value the connection between high school and college. This role is a very valuable asset the School provides students and their families. I've had dads walk out of the meeting we have with the junior class and their parents saying, "That's what I'm paying for." It represents the investment they are making in their children.
When you tell people what you do, what kinds of things do they ask?
People assume we tell the kids what to do or get them in or help them write their applications. We do not. We read and critique, and we are here to help the students establish a clear and identifiable voice. We don't have special powers or "make phone calls." Jessica Forinash and I work hard to promote the mission and culture of the School to colleges and universities across the country and develop those relationships, so that when our students make applications, those schools understand what kind of a place they're coming from.
What’s your philosophy about working with high schoolers?
The nice thing about working with high school kids is that for the most part they have reached the age of reason. They can think and analyze, and sometimes you can detach the emotion from the rational thinking. There are times when you can have them see cause and effect. It's a fun age group to work with. They're almost adults. It keeps you going without making you pull your hair out. We meet with students in all classes for course selection. We know the right questions to ask them without giving answers or telling them what to do. We promote choices.
What do kids need to be happy/successful at school?To find their niche academically, first; to learn to struggle. Students need to find that point where they can do it, but it doesn't come easily, so that they have to work for their success. Once they have found that, they need free time to engage with school and community activities, to socialize, read, watch TV. They begin to balance their lives. There will be stressful and easy days. When they figure out that balance and find ways to de-stress, then they can do the hard things. We help them do this while they're here, and they see how useful it is when they leave home. That's probably a hallmark of our graduates: persistence, tenacity, balancing the fun, engaging with things, and getting it done.
Describe a great day at work.
I've got a cup of coffee and the sports page, and a student pops into my office with a bit of news that something wonderful has happened—a college acceptance, they've been admitted to a summer program, got a great test result. It may be a two-minute conversation, but that kind of thing truly makes my day!
What are some things you love about your work?
Trying to make a difference in the lives of our students. Some days are easy, some are very, very hard, like when really good kids get cut either because they don't get accepted to a school or the school offers them a spot, but no aid. But then we work through their options and find a solution. When alumni come back two or three years later to tell me they are happy, successful, engaged, it's rewarding. I've been at Randolph since 1997 and I still have students stopping by 10 or 15 years on. It's satisfying to learn about their careers and life choices.
Best time of the school year?
Seasonally, it's Fall. There's excitement and newness. The seniors are excited about the possibilities. Nowadays, the application process is less cyclical and more ongoing. We are busy from the end of August when students start applying to our state universities all the way through mid-January when most of the regular decision deadlines occur. Decision day is April 1, so that's an exciting time, too.
Favorite school traditions?
Senior-Kindergarten Buddies and the Senior Parent Dinner and Slideshow. The slideshow has become much more of a gift from the parents to their graduating seniors. There is laughter, joy, and there are tears. I really enjoy being a part of it.