There was a time when if you wanted to get my Mother, who reads this blog (hi Mom!), really pissed off all you had to do was ask her about my high school guidance counselor. Forget about it! My Mom used to get really fired up over what my high school counselor did, or more aptly didn’t do, for me when I was a high school student.
Oh, this is going to be one of those longer entries that deals with a personal story from my past which I think you might find entertaining. So sit back and relax and read a little bit of my history…
Before I get started with my story, I thought that I would let you know how this memory was dug out of the recesses of my mind. The other day the New York Times published an article that talked about how high school guidance counselors are receiving failing grades from their students. The article says:
Most people who graduated from high school in the last dozen years believe that their guidance counselors provided little meaningful advice about college or careers, a new study has found. And many said the best advice on their futures came from teachers.
“Most young adults who go on to college believe that the advice of their high school guidance counselors was inadequate and often impersonal and perfunctory,” according to the study by Public Agenda, a nonprofit research organization.
I just fall into that category of people who have graduated high school in the last twelve years. And I can safely say that my high school guidance counselor strongly falls into the category of someone who never gave me “meaningful advice about college or careers.” She definitely “was inadequate and often impersonal and perfunctory.” Frankly, she absolutely sucked at her job and I hope that she didn’t do to other students what she did to me.
Intrigued yet? Read on!
Let me set the stage. I was always an outstanding student. I swept the eighth grade graduation winning almost every academic award that Mount Arlington Public School offered including the Academic Excellence award. It was the same story in high school, where I routinely received straight A’s in honors and advanced placement classes. On top of being a great student, I was a highly involved student, too. I was Vice-President of my Freshman class and then President of my class through Junior year when I became the President of the Student Council for my Senior year. I was a varsity starter on the football, wrestling, and spring track teams and captain of the wrestling team in my Senior year. I was the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association scholar athlete of the year my Senior year in high school. I was in a bunch of honor societies including the National Honor Society. I even wrote for the school newspaper!
Needless to say, I was clearly a highly involved student – and not just “involved” with bullshit clubs that had two or three members. I was one of the leaders in my high school of approximately 1800 students.
So we’ve set the stage.
When a kid like me is getting ready to start applying to colleges, he obviously gets offers from all over the place. Now, I could go into how we were bombarded at my house with letters and packages from colleges who wanted me to apply, but that would detract from the story about how inept my old guidance counselor was during my senior year. So we’ll focus on a few schools – Muhlenberg College, Bloomsburg University, Harvard University, Princeton University, Rutgers University, and Monmouth University. Why focus on just these schools? Because these are the ones that I applied to when I was in high school.
In truth, I really wanted to go to Muhlenberg College because my football coach had worked out an arrangement for me to get, essentially, a free ride at the school where I would be playing football and possibly even wrestling in the off season. That’s what I wanted to do and I was glad that an arrangement was being worked out – I even remember meeting with the Muhlenberg College coaches on one of their visits to Roxbury High School my Senior year. In fact, I only applied to the other schools just because I wanted to see what the responses were (although I did apply to Monmouth University because they were also recruiting me to play football – which is a story for another time).
Like any overachieving student, I prepared all of my college applications well in advance of their due dates and brought them to my guidance counselor at Roxbury High School at the beginning of October in my Senior year (this would be October 1998). The reason I had to bring them to my guidance counselor was so she could attach my official transcript and get them out during the early admission period. Roxbury High School also had a service where they sent the entire application package out on behalf of the students, which was great! So, I brought my applications to the guidance counselor, she told me they would be sent off by the end of the week, and that was the end of that process. She also mentioned that sometimes colleges take weeks or even months to get back to the applicants, so I should sit tight for a while.
And I sat tight…
My senior year of football was incredible. We were going at a million miles an hour and we wound up winning the first state championship in Roxbury High School history which was major news in our town. From that victory I went on to become the captain of the wrestling team and I even won one of the winter tournaments that the wrestling team went to each year. I was pretty packed with things going on and while the college letters continued to come in, they eventually stopped coming in altogether at some time in January 1999. I thought this was weird so I asked my guidance counselor what was going on and I also brought up that I hadn’t heard from any of the schools that had I applied to yet. She told me that the applications were sent and that she would follow up with the colleges to see if they had accepted me yet.
My guidance counselor never got back to me with an update.
The months kept going by and I never heard from any of the colleges. Finally, at some point at the end of March 1999 I went in to my guidance counselor’s office and asked her what I should do. She said that she would follow up with the colleges and get back to me (sound familiar?). At this point, I began to get the impression that she was incompetent and that something must be up. I should also comment that I had been keeping my Mom apprised of the situation the entire time…
About two weeks after I went to see my guidance counselor (we’re in the middle of April 1999 at this point), I was called to her office where she told me that I had to sign some paperwork. I signed the paperwork and nonchalantly asked her what it was for. She said that it was for my transcripts to be attached to my applications so they could be sent out.
You guys putting the pieces together here? Can you see what happened here yet? If not, let me make it very clear for you…
My guidance counselor received my college applications in October 1998 and did not send them to the colleges until April 1999!
This idiot finally got around to sending out my college applications half a year after I gave them to her in the first place and months after she had already told me that the applications were sent out! My reaction at the time was, “WHAT?!”
I almost immediately knew that my chances at getting that free ride/double sport package at Muhlenburg College were gone. However, at the time I couldn’t comprehend how
this woman even had a job bad of a position my guidance counselor put me in…but my Mom knew what this woman did to me. And Mom took action!
I went home and told my Mom what my guidance counselor told me and, from what I remember, all Hell broke loose! My Mom may need to refresh my memory on what happened next, but she either physically went to the high school or called the high school and went ape shit on this idiot guidance counselor. Like most Moms, my Mom is good at going crazy when other people’s incompetence negatively affects her children. Hey – you don’t mess with someone’s kids, you know? As I recall, I’m pretty sure my Mom threatened this woman with lawsuits and possibly with some physical damage (my Mom doesn’t take any shit from any one – she’ll smack a bitch if the situation calls for it).
From what I remember, after Hurricane Mom dealt with my guidance counselor I was called back into the useless counselor’s office and the woman promised me that she would be calling each college personally to admit that she made a major mistake and that my applications shouldn’t be viewed negatively because of her incompetence. She was also going to try to get me the dual sport package back at Muhlenburg College as well as the various scholarship money that I was eligible for given the fact that I was averaging a perfect 4.0 on a 4.0 GPA basis.
Well, Muhlenburg wasn’t interested so that whole package was gone. Rutgers said that they were interested, but that I was past some deadline for certain types of financial aid and that I’d have to pay most of the tuition. Bloomsburg said that they would take me, but only if I was in their History program (which I didn’t want to be in at all). Harvard never responded. And Princeton said they would be interested, but that they couldn’t offer a financial aid package and that I would have to be in an academic program that I didn’t want to be in (I don’t remember which one it was – something with science, I think). The only one who accepted me on the spot and offered multiple thousands of dollars in scholarship funds was Monmouth University. I accepted the Monmouth University offer and that was the end of my dealings with my completely incompetent high school guidance counselor.
My Mom thought that I had a legitimate lawsuit against the high school and the guidance counselor and I agreed (she probably still thinks I have a legitimate lawsuit). In fact, I think that the incompetence of the woman who was my guidance counselor cut short what was an otherwise meteoric academic rise for me throughout my younger years. I mean look – I was on a roll! And I was going along at the speed of light until I hit the brick wall that was the incompetence of my high school guidance counselor.
Looking back, I was pretty aggravated at how this whole thing went down. At the time, I really wanted to play football in college and I thought that with my grades and extracurricular involvement that I should be qualifying to go to school for free (and I still believe that I should have gotten a free ride in college). Granted, I did have an opportunity to play football at Monmouth University, but it didn’t work out – which, again, is an entry for another time (which most of you will find pretty interesting).
However, I’ve learned many things from my experience with my inept guidance counselor. First, I’ve learned the ins and outs of the entire college admissions process. This is something that no one in my family really knew inside and out prior to me going to college and this fiasco with my guidance counselor. Second, I learned that most high school guidance counselors cannot be trusted to be effective at their jobs (also proven by the New York Times article linked above). And third, I learned that when it comes time for my kids, my nieces, and my nephews (when they’re all born) to apply to college that I would like to take an active role in their application process so that they aren’t screwed over by their guidance counselors like my counselor screwed me over.
I wonder how many other students were academically harmed by this woman’s inability to perform the basic functions of her job. I wonder why she was able to keep that job for so long. I wonder how many students could have gone to Ivy League schools if this woman knew how to do her job correctly. Isn’t it amazing to consider how many lives one person’s incompetence has either ruined or negatively affected?
To end on a good note, though, the other day I went to my old high school’s website and the incompetent moron who served as my guidance counselor is no longer employed by Roxbury High School. Thank God no one else has to suffer getting their legs cut out from underneath them because of that horrible, miserable woman.