The 2019 College Panel delves into the college admission process to further educate students


College admissions. 

It’s a looming mountain on the horizon of nearly every student’s high school world. Four years of preparation leading up to the inevitable departure of what is familiar still finds many students lost and unsure of which direction to turn. 

The potential questions stretch on endlessly. What colleges should I apply to? How many? What will my student loans look like? What if I don’t get into my dream school? What am I even looking for in a college?

“[It can be very daunting] if you don’t have a clear direction,” counselor Jodi Arsulowicz said. “[Most students] have been, starting in [their] junior year, doing a lot of visiting and thinking and have narrowed that list down. The difficulty is just in getting it processed and being organized and knowing the different deadlines for different requirements.”

The answers to many of these questions can be found with the very people employed at colleges and universities. On Wednesday, September 18, a select group of college admissions representatives will be at the Forest Hills Fine Arts Center to share their wisdom in a panel structure with prospective high schoolers of the FHPS district. 

These panelists represent a diverse collection of colleges and universities: in-state, and out-of-state, public and private, small and large. Students and their families will be given the opportunity to hear advice and opinions from an assorted selection of viewpoints.

The information provided will span over a wide variety of college and university-related topics. Rather than hearing promotional and individual college-specific details, attendees can expect to gain knowledge on the overall process of applying and selecting a school. 

“Each of the colleges will have some information to share if there aren’t questions driven by the audience,” Arsulowicz said. “But otherwise, I think they want to respond to the people that are questioning. It’s different from one of the college rep’s visits or a tour on campus where you get all the statistical information. This is much more generally informative.”

Arsulowicz and the other counselors spend a reasonable portion of their time working with students to prepare for college admissions, educating them on the ins and outs and providing them with resources that can further their search. While they introduce many “upfront education pieces”, it’s always beneficial for students to explore more avenues of discovery. 

“From the beginning of high school we have tried to impart like, ‘Hey, depending on what you might want to do after high school, these are the actions to consider,’” Arsulowicz said. “Our goal is that we have students keep as many doors open to them as possible.”

The wisdom that the panelists are capable of sharing can enhance the already implemented knowledge that many students possess. 

Mary Vonck, a Board of Education member, has seen success in this panel in years past. Both parents and students have conveyed their value of this experience through feedback forms distributed to the audience. 

Not only can attendees gain an understanding of the college preparation and application process, but they are also provided with insight on the extracurriculars and qualities that colleges value in applicants. 

This is the sixth year we have held the panel, and participants have found it very helpful,” said Vonck. “We are happy to see more families in the audience every year.”

The informal question-and-answer format of the panel creates a casual and conversational atmosphere that leaves families feeling open to ask the questions they may have. This atmosphere is one that families are eager to come back to every year.

While the event may tend to prove more beneficial for families of tenth through twelfth graders, all high schoolers and families are welcome to join and delve into the inner workings of the college admissions process. 

“For students interested in attending college after graduation, finding the best fit is the key to a fun and successful four years,” Vonck said. 

One fact remains evident: opening more doors and gaining more knowledge is never a bad thing. As the departure from home and familiarity edges closer every day, students shouldn’t hesitate to further prepare themselves for what they might find out there in the world.

“We hope students are empowered by what they learn [so they can] embrace and enjoy their high school experience as they consider college,” Vonck said.