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A big shout out to all the school counselors out there

Kat Swantak
Kat Swantak, Assistant Dean of Admission

Can we just take a moment to give a huge round of applause to all the hardworking school counselors out there?

This year has been absolutely bonkers when it comes to getting students ready for college. As if applying to college wasn’t hard enough, COVID-19 put a huge wrench in the process. No, wait. I take that back, make that like 10 wrenches. Heck toss a screwdriver and a hammer in there too. Every year, standardized testing policies change, application deadlines get extended, and lists or requirements grow longer. But what stays consistent is the true dedication school counselors have to their students’ success.

If you’re a school counselor, thank you. I can’t even count how many calls I’ve had with you to advocate for your students that happen after school hours or even over the weekend. I can’t imagine how huge your caseload is, yet I always see you make time for your students. You field emails from stressed students and parents on Saturdays, and you assure them that colleges actually did receive your their scores even though they may have received an email saying we haven’t.

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What I wish I knew – Alisha Boerstler, Assistant Dean of Admission

Alisha Boerstler
Alisha Boerstler, Assistant Dean of Admission

I didn’t believe this 10 years ago, but there is, in fact, zero chance that you will wreck your life by choosing the “wrong” college. Or the “wrong” major. The wrong roommate? That might be more serious. I had one who slept during the day and worked on her assignments, lights on, from 1:00 – 5:00am. But that’s another story.

I was a giant ball of stress my senior year of high school, largely because I felt so much pressure to choose the perfect college so I could get the perfect degree so I could land the perfect job…etc. There are thousands of colleges in the US, as you have probably discovered, which can be overwhelming. Do I want a rock wall? Do I want to go to Vermont? Do I want a D-1 field hockey team? Do I even know how to play field hockey? (No.) I painstakingly narrowed down my search criteria to three things:

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Someone asked me why I work at Juniata College

Kat Swantak
Kat Swantak, Assistant Dean of Admission

So, I thought that was kind of strange. It’s almost the kind of question you get in a job interview that forces you to spitball something about job satisfaction and professional development. But, the mother of a student that I’ve been working with since her junior year asked me this a while ago. They’re from NYC, and had their world completely flipped upside-down when they came to rural Pennsylvania. I get it, I grew up in a large town where you can get falafel, acupuncture, and Wegmans within a mile of each other.

“And then what did you do, Kat? We await your response with baited breath!” said no one. Well, I did as I was writing this. Internally though.

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What I wish I knew – Steven Simons, Senior Associate Dean of Admission and Marketing

Steven Simons
Steven Simons, Senior Associate Dean of Admission and Marketing

“College is the best four years of your life. You’ll make your best friends there!”

I remember when I came home from my first semester in college and it felt like it hadn’t even happened. It had gone by so unbelievably fast and yet so painfully slow. Everyone wanted to know: Was I having the time of my life? Had I made lots of friends?

But nobody seemed to be asking me the other important questions. Are you struggling? Are you managing the transition? Do you even want to go back?

I wish I had known how hard college would be, and that not every day, especially as a first-year student, was going to be perfect. I experienced a level of academic rigor that forced me to work harder than I had ever worked before. I remember earning a “D” on an exam and wondering if I was smart enough to succeed. Was I in over my head?

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Have you ever asked yourself, “What’s my why?”

Jason Moran
Vice President for Enrollment and Marketing

What I really mean is, have you ever asked yourself, “What’s my purpose?”

Recently, I was on Forbes.com and saw an article titled Do You Know Your “Why?” 4 Questions To Find Your Purpose. In the article, I was immediately drawn to a tweet posted that stated – a clear sense of purpose enables you to focus your efforts on what matters most, compelling you to take risk and push forward regardless of the odds or obstacles. Why am I sharing this? Because this tweet defines a Juniata College lived experience.

After reading both the tweet and the article, I found myself reflecting back on my past eight months at Juniata College serving as Vice President of Enrollment; my move to Huntingdon, PA to join the Juniata community; and my many interactions with Juniata College students, faculty, staff, and alumni.  Why did I find myself reflecting?  Because I instantly made the connection between the article and Juniata College where students, faculty, staff, alumni, and yours truly land to find purpose… or their WHY.

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