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. Associate Director of College Counselor and 11th/12th Grade Dean Jessica Forinash is one of Randolph's Difference-Makers.
What do you do?
That depends what time of the year it is! In the spring, I am helping seniors complete scholarship applications and process their feelings and options and helping them decide where they want to be. While some students have already made a decision about where they will be going, the majority are still waiting to hear from all of the schools they have applied to. When asked, as they often are, where they'll go, they honestly don't know. I wrote about that in this post. Along with input from their parents, they need to sort through what's important to them. Sometimes they need to write a list of pros and cons. I spend a lot of time talking with and listening to students, giving them resources, but being neutral and objective.
For the second-semester juniors, it's time to think about building their lists for school they might like to visit. Junior seminars, which begin in November, wrap-up in mid-February and we will meet individually with everyone to review their lists of schools and their criteria. Usually this means adding schools to the list, finding other schools that are similar or proximate to schools they already like. How big? How far? How cold? We have a great set of maps of each region of the US that show all the four-year colleges and universities. Then in the fall, they have a plan they can enact.
In the end, in all phases, I want to be a helpful presence and alleviate any stress that I can, because applying to college is a huge undertaking.
What’s different about your work here?
While I worked with a similar population of motivated high school students in my previous position of five years as an admissions officer at Vanderbilt University, I was sitting on the other side of the desk. After the application process was over, I never heard from them again. What pulled me back to a school was that relationship with the students. At the start of the Winter Break, our office is filled with college freshmen. That's immensely rewarding. I love that I can bring my perspective from a highly selective undergraduate admissions office to Randolph.
When you tell people what you do, what kinds of things do they ask?
What’s your philosophy of working with teenagers?
It's important to be one more helpful adult in their lives, not a friend, but a good listener. Being a teen is not easy. They need supportive adults who can listen and help them put things in perspective, but not trivialize their concerns.
What should people understand about teenagers?
I don't think people realize how much work it is to apply to college. Their hard work should be acknowledged and celebrated. It's not just working hard in class, it's the physical work of applying. It's not the same as when their parents or I applied, it's more stressful and more expensive, and all of the adults around them have expectations.
Describe a great day at work.
Hanging out with students and celebrating with them, no matter what their goals are. There are so many little celebrations that come with this work: getting the applications in, scholarships, acceptances. These are things I look forward to. When they decide is fun, too, when they find their fit, especially those who didn't know about a school going into the process, but took a chance. That means I was able to use some of my knowledge to help someone discover a good option.
Favorite school tradition?
Graduation. I love a good rite of passage ceremony. I love that the faculty get to be a part of that. It is a culmination of all that I do here. As a dean, I celebrate their having made it through school. As a college counselor, I have helped them to know where they are going next.
Best time of the school year?
I loved seeing the alumni coming back in December with smiles on their faces. They survived the first semester of college, they've made friends, they're happy. But my favorite day last year was when we took the picture of the whole class in their college shirts with the variety of places they were going and the excitement in their faces reminded me of why I do this.