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College Counseling in the Age of COVID

College Counseling in the Age of COVID 

One of  joys of working in a college counseling office is helping our students visualize their future. Clarifying their goals and exploring opportunities, many of which they have never considered. You can see their eyes shift upwards, seeing themselves on a campus, or in a new city, or learning a new language. In the busy life of a high school student,  asking them to stop and consider what life beyond high school looks like can be empowering, but sometimes scary as they consider moving from a fairly structured life timeline to one that is now theirs (and their parents) to decide. 

Here in Singapore, we do an exercise with our grade 11 students where we ask them to visualize their future lives at age 30. Where will you live? What kind of city will you be in? What does your home or apartment look like? Where are you working?  Our students find this challenging to say the least. Teenage brains are not well equipped to think beyond lunchtime, let alone 15 years into the future. 

In the past, for our office, the graduates’ immediate future felt predictable as students chose pathways well trodden by their older siblings to recognisable universities or gap year programs. We felt secure in advising our students towards those institutions.  But in March 2020, Covid-19 threw all of this into disarray, and the uncertainty of the near future became fraught with thousands of unknowns. Will I be able to enter that country?  Will my university be teaching online or in person?   Will my parents be willing (or able) to pay $45,000 USD for an online learning experience?  Are my gap year travel plans completely blown!? 

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Member Spotlight: Jacquelynne M. Modeste

Member Spotlight: Jacquelynne M. Modeste

Name: Jacquelynne M. Modeste

Title: International Program Director & College Advisor

Institution: The High School Attached to Jiangxi Normal University

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Reflection on Town Hall Webinar and Impact of COVID-19 on Secondary Schools

Reflection on Town Hall Webinar and Impact of COVID-19 on Secondary Schools

By: Ning Deng
Vanke Meisha Academy

Changing hats from an audience member to first-time panelist, the COVID-19 International ACAC webinar marked a personal milestone. Of course, I never expected this switch to happen in such a challenging time—the outbreak of COVID-19 spurred my engagement in the Town Hall discussion as an Advocacy & Outreach Committee member. As Christmas is to Westerners, Spring Festival is for Chinese the time to travel home, celebrate and enjoy festivities, and hang out over nice cuisine. However, the “STOP” button was pressed for the 2020 Spring Festival when Wuhan locked down on January 23rd, a day before China’s New Year’s Eve. Life changed for students and teachers at every school in China, unable to return to campuses and with no clear return date. Consequently, new buzzwords of “cancellation”, “online learning”, “college admissions impact” spread quickly among concerned students, parents, and counselors.

A first impact on students has been online learning, which started mid-February with technology support from Zoom, Teams, Dingding, etc. In the webinar, panelists shared counseling best practices such as periodical online counseling workshops/classes/one-on-one counseling sessions with students, virtual parent meetings, WeChat sharing, E-documentation—all of which are keeping students informed and prepared. Panelists also fielded tough questions about online learning quality and assurance measures and how to maintain engaged learning and quality services during this difficult time.

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Member Spotlight Todd Johnson

Member Spotlight 


Todd Johnson
College Counselor
Colegio Americano de Quito

What drew you to the world of international admissions? 

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Educational Equality in China: How Online Learning During Coronavirus Has Changed the Status Quo

Educational Equality in China: How Online Learning During Coronavirus Has Changed the Status Quo

By: Francis Miller
Director of College Counseling, Xi'an Tieyi High School International Curriculum Center

Make no mistake, much of China is currently in lockdown due to the COVID-19 coronavirus. In urban centers, streets are empty and many businesses remain closed. Subways and buses are shuttered or running on limited service. The most visibly functioning public places are supermarkets, but even those lack their usual hustle and bustle. 

While the lockdown continues, educators are doing what they do best: making do with the time and resources available. Public schools across China have been ordered by the Ministry of Education to put off the spring semester, and to tíngkè bù tíngxué 停课不停学 — stop classes but don’t stop learning.

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School Profiles - Nuances, Benefits, and Fresh Ideas!

School Profiles - Nuances, Benefits, and Fresh Ideas!

For many of us who have experience managing and creating our school’s profile, it’s well understood that the purpose of it is to provide insights and knowledge of our school and our students. And rightly so - the school profile is used by university admission officers to understand the context of every senior class and to evaluate students within their educational environment. 

Each portion of the school profile is important, but there are elements most schools would consider the be “fundamental,” -- the school’s name, contact information, history, demographic breakdown, curriculum, and university matriculation list. However, when it comes to displaying this information as well as using the school profile for advocacy purposes, we see great diversity. 

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7 Stellar Gifts for the Globally Mobile High School Graduate

By Barbara C. Chen

China Admissions Representative, The University of Tulsa

In this on-going series of articles on students 'returning home', Barbara Chen speaks about supporting third-culture students who may be 'returning' to a home country they have never lived in.  Check out her first article on Tips for Parents of College Bound Expatriate Student.

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Counselor View: The Value of International Counselor Fly-in

By Kelly Braun
Int'l School of Sacred Heart, Tokyo 

The contents of my suitcase are strewn across my bedroom floor, new college swag separated from laundry, toiletries that exploded twice waiting to be cleaned for the third time, and just enough room to maneuver around the bed to sleep and then make it to work in the morning. I've just returned from a week long international counselor fly-in and unfortunately there is just not time between returning home and school on Monday to deal with things like suitcases when you have a week of emails, lesson plans, and looming AP exams to prepare for.

Would I trade my week away for a clean room and empty inbox? Never.

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Is the Admission Process Broken?
A Counselor's Perspective from China 


By Hamilton Gregg
HGIEC - Educational Consultant

The following is a submission from a long time OACAC member expressing his view on the current state of admissions as it pertains to students in China, and beyond.  Hamilton offers this reflection as the start of a dialogue, and with any discussion there is surely to be different points of views. OACAC invites readers to provide their views and perspectives in the Comments section at the bottom of the article. 

This year has been a bit tumultuous with month after month of SAT cheating scandals, continued reports of unethical agents or companies manufacturing outstanding student portfolios, intense “coaching” on essays and all sorts of other behavior to throw out the question “what’s going on?”

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FAQ : 2015 SAT Update

The past several months the SAT has been a hot topic amongst our members. From security concerns and reports of test fraud in Asia to international testing dates to the pending roll out of the redesigned test, there has been a lot to think about with regards to The College Board's SAT.  In February, OACAC was pleased to present a Webinar in cooperation with The College Board as opportunity for members to listen to updates and ask questions.  Clay Hensley, Senior Director, International Strategy & Outreach, walked through the latest news concerning the SAT.  

As a follow up to the webinar, Clay has provided responses to a good number of the questions that were poised during the webinar and shared the answers exclusively with OACAC members.


Would CB consider different security measures for different parts of the world ?

What are the consequences when a student is caught cheating on the SAT?  Is the cancellation of scores between ETS and student only?  In what case would the student´s parent, school or institution where s/he is applying be notified?

When will practice PSAT questions be available?

Would you provide info to counselors for parents ?

Will Khan Academy use practice questions from the actual redesigned SAT?   Some of the questions I've seen from them don't seem helpful.

Could you speak more about the three sections of the Essay Section?

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Find Yourself Not Your "Passion"

By Kelly Braun
 Int'l School of Sacred Heart, Tokyo

If I have another admission rep come into my school and tell my students that the best thing for them to do in high school is find their passion, I am going to scream. No joke. I am going to scream at the top of my lungs with reckless abandon. 

Passion is such a huge word. These kids are dealing with waaaaaay more pressure than I ever remember dealing with. They worry about their SAT scores, the amount of vocabulary they know, what their parents want, trying to ace all those classes that they are taking, and round out their extracurriculars with violin practice and basketball. Kids think that they need to fit into the “perfect student cookie cutter” so they can get into Harvard, even though I tell them that the cookie cutter is going to get them nowhere, just a mental breakdown.

So when admission people tell them they need to find their passion?

Add that to the short list of things they still need to do. 

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Naviance Tuneup - Holiday Season Edition

By Tim Munnerlyn

American Community School – Abu Dhabi

Many of us are winding down the semester thinking of warm sunny beaches, shopping for those last minute presents or finalizing plans for friend and family get-togethers.  In the spirit of giving, Naviance is a gift which continues to give beyond the mangled wrapping paper and proud, fleeting New Year resolutions.

Here are a few Naviance tips to get you through the holiday season and into the New Year.

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5 Fast Facts 4 Foreign Apps

By Beau Benson
New York University

    It’s that time of the year again.
For a large portion of universities, applications will be due within the next month and a half. Around the world, students are placing the finishing touches on documents that will be shipped to admissions offices around the world. And in the weeks that follow their arrival, these documents will come to define and represent the applicant as universities begin the difficult task and building a unique and diverse Class of 2019!

While countless college admissions blogs have reiterated the standard tips for all applicants, regardless of citizenship, below just a few that should be highlighted specifically for the international community.

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The Best of OACAC Series

Announcing … The BEST of OACAC SERIES …. Inspired by “The Best of American Essays”, a series which includes: 

Do you ever run a “best of” list in your head? Share it out loud!  Best book to get for your office, if you can only get one! Best program to run for your juniors, if you can only run one! Best database program to convince your admin to get, if you're tired of excel sheets!  Let’s pool ideas, share suggestions … after all, that’s what the Best of OACAC is about!   

Here’s our first “Best of….” column for counselors. Next column is for admissions officers! Share, Enjoy, Laugh, and most of all, Use! 

>> Elisabeth Marksteiner (International School of Zug and Luzern, Switzerland)

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The UK: A System in Flux

by David Hawkins
Head of Careers, Taunton School 

The British Higher Education system used to be straightforward, certainly for those like me working in British schools and who attended a UK university. However, recent changes in government policy have made steps towards creating a market for university places, with this to change yet further in future years. Though some of my colleagues across the UK find this all quite worrying, for those of us working on an international stage it simply brings the UK into line with the rest of the world. So, from a British counsellor’s perspective here are the key changes to be aware of.

Number Controls

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Senior College Application Kickoff 2013

By Tim Munnerlyn
HS Counselor – American Community School – Abu Dhabi

It’s early September and another busy season of assisting, motivating and bribing seniors to complete their college applications on time, is upon us.  Oh, where did our summer vacation go?  Amidst, the buzz of the hallways as students make their way to classes and teachers revving up their courses; high school counselors must find ways to focus their seniors for the important tasks that awaits them during the fall.

Over the years, we’ve offered a Senior College Night presentation to students and parents providing information and answering questions regarding the college application process. This has typically occurred during the second or third week of school. 

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