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College Counseling Interns 2024: Astrid, Inci, Feliks, and Dia

Wrapping up its second full year, the College Counseling intern program at Emma Willard School has breathed new life into the suite of Academic offices. We sat down with Director of College Counseling Dr. Ashley Bennett, Senior Associate Director of College Counseling Abbey Massoud-Tastor, and student interns Inci K. ’24, Dia K. ’24, Astrid O. ’24, and Feliks W. ’24 to learn about their efforts to make College Counseling more accessible.

When Dr. Ashley Bennett came to Emma Willard School to lead the Office of College Counseling, she saw a need to draw students into the Academic suite. “We want to remove the mystique around College Counseling and students feeling like we are this scary group of people in this dark part of campus that can seem super serious,” she laughs. “We just really wanted students to know we're accessible. We want them to come in and have a good time, and when it's time for them to start their college search, they're a bit more familiar with us. We've removed the veil and they've become used to this part of campus.”  

“We also recognized that we have now aged out of being the cool college counselors who know what the students want,” Dr. Bennett adds. Although their programming was well-attended, the College Counseling team felt that students could be getting more out of it. This year, when they interviewed interns, they asked the students what kind of projects or programming they might like to see.

With a desire to create a welcoming space where students can come hang out with their friends, or have a quiet space to do homework, the addition of student workers began to open those doors. Inci, an international boarder from Turkey, was drawn to the college counseling internship because she wanted to help create an environment where people could come ask questions, especially if they don’t know the college application process. “We started off trying to make the space more comfortable here,” Inci says, gesturing to the inviting couches and pillows that now fill the lobby. “We did some fun activity projects with the whiteboards that people could just do while they were waiting—like matching mascots to colleges to get people to learn about more schools.”

Astrid, an international boarder from Honduras, wanted to focus her project on financial aid. “A very common theme that I saw was that it was always competitive for international students and always ended up being need-aware, which was very hard because you have other deciding factors that already limit whether you're going to get into a college, and how much money you have is going to be one of them,” Astrid explains. “I was doing [QuestBridge], an outside scholarship for financial aid, and I wanted other students to have an opportunity to apply for a full-ride scholarship to one of the college partners of this scholarship.” To share her hard-earned knowledge, Astrid began asking her friends what questions they found hard to answer regarding scholarships and financial aid. She’s compiling all of these into a frequently asked questions tool that college counselors can share with students in the future.

Even though Dia is a day student, her parents are from Russia and they went to school in Russia, so all of their experience with the college process was completely different than what Dia experienced. Like Inci and Astrid, she felt the challenge of having little experience with the domestic college application process. “I wanted to formulate a project that was based on educating people about the very basics, like Common App,” Dia shares. After creating a curriculum that covered the common app and recommendation letters, she created slide decks to share and held informational sessions. “I went through every single little part of Common App, explaining what students need to be prepared to fill out, what parts they might want to fill out with their parents, and what parts they might want to spend extra time on. I explained the different types of recommendation letters, how to choose your recommender, and that you can have additional ones that aren't provided by the school.”

Feliks, a boarding student from Poland, took a niche approach to helping juniors prepare their applications: the art portfolio. “I helped people who want to apply to art schools or who want to have an art supplement. I met with people and helped them organize their portfolios, looked at their work, and talked about how applying to art schools works and what they're looking for,” Feliks says. “I think that I was really able to help some people be better prepared for what's going to happen in the upcoming school year. It became less of a workshop and more of a conversation space and just a space for asking questions.”

In addition to their individual projects, the interns worked together on a panel discussion that provided a space for students to hear from adults about their college experience. “People were really engaged and everyone really enjoyed it,” Feliks shares. “It gave people more perspective on our upcoming life in college.”

Astrid adds, “My friends were so surprised about how real the faculty’s experiences were because normally you kind of expect a beautified version of college.”

Abbey Massoud-Tastor, who manages the intern program, has found the student presence in the College Counseling office to be refreshing. “It's really fun to work with them because they all come at it from a different lens because their college processes have been so different. They each have ideas of what the office needs and what other kids need to hear.” Abbey notes that some things are just easier to hear and absorb from another student than from an adult, and they are already beginning to see the fruits of the interns’ labor. As they complete their presentations and projects, links are being populated as resources in MyEmma. “Students will say things like, ‘Oh, well, I saw Dia's presentation, so I already know how to do Common App’ or they can go check it out later because they know it’s on their class-specific group page,” Abbey shares. 

After their experience helping other students through the college application process, each of this year’s interns hopes that they’ll be able to find similar positions in their colleges of choice: Astrid at Clark University, Inci at Fordham University, Dia at Cornell University, and Feliks at Bennington College. They leave behind these words of insight for future students regarding the College Counseling office: 

“This place is fun, and not scary at all!”

“It’s low-key.”

“All of these people who work here are super nice and really helpful.”


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