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Susan Marrs

Assistant Head of School, Director of College Counseling, & Director of Studies
B.A. Economics, University of Cincinnati
M.Ed. Secondary Education, University of Cincinnati

In college counseling, what are the most important goals you have in mind as you work with your students?

I want them to understand the strengths they bring to the college admissions equation at the same time that they develop a realistic view of their opportunities, and to emerge from this process at least as confident as they went into it.

I want each of my students to find colleges that feel right, academically, athletically, artistically, socially/emotionally, and in every other important way.

I want to help them present themselves as well and as authentically as possible.

What practices do you use to help accomplish those objectives?

I meet with them frequently and listen intently: I want them to know that I care about them, that I work hard for them, and that I am eager to hear what they are telling me about their enthusiasm for learning and their hopes for their future.

I work with them closely and carefully to develop a list of colleges that meets their needs and their desires.

I help them navigate every step of the college application process, from their initial tentative questions to their ultimate decision about where to matriculate. Along the way, we talk about a million things–the difference between chemical and environmental engineering, for example, or between early action and early decision, or between an MBA and an MSW. We also spend lots of time on such topics as application essays, interview tips and financial aid procedures.

What do you enjoy most about working one on one with your students?

Life in a college counselor’s office is always fascinating. We witness, and share, our students’ happiness and disappointments, their growing understanding of themselves and the world around them, their hopes for their future, their realization of their own role in making their dreams come true, and their increasingly mature perception of life’s whimsies.

For the 20+ years that I was an English teacher, I loved talking with students about the intricacies of reading and writing. But the student-teacher relationship is never free from the implicit power of the grade. In college counseling, there is no grade, so the mentoring relationship is free from that shadow. I love helping kids go from those first tentative meetings, when we’re talking about what high school has been like for them, to the final stages of the process, when they are choosing among college alternatives. They grow so much in the 18 months we are in closest contact with them, from January of the junior year until graduation. By that time, they know so much more about themselves and so much more about the world, and they can usually articulate both kinds of knowledge. It is a glorious period in a kid’s life, and I feel very privileged to be part of it.