Students aid counselors with college information

BY HOLLY HINES | APRIL 06, 2010 7:30 AM

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Iowa high-school counselors are turning to University of Iowa students as experts on transitioning to college.

Mike Thompson, a counselor at Solon High, plans to find out what UI students have learned outside the classroom and relay that information to high-school students, parents, and faculty.

Sometimes, high-school teachers focus too much on academic preparedness, he said.

“But college readiness is more than that,” he said, and he wants to learn how college students handle social issues and study habits on campus.

On April 14, Thompson and other members of the UI’s Iowa High School Counselor Advisory Board are set to have lunch with roughly 30 to 40 UI students in Burge to discuss the transition between high school and college, said Kathryne Bassett, the UI senior associate director of admissions.

UI officials invited about 1,400 students from Iowa high schools the counselors represent.
Tom Carey, a counselor at City High, said past board events have helped him learn about the retention process at the UI.

“Iowa has done a great job of looking into what factors possibly affect retention,” he said, and he applies some of the retention-related facts he’s learned to help keep City High students involved and in school.

Advisory board members, who number 15, have attended similar meetings with UI students since 1992, the year after university officials created the group, Bassett said.

“It’s been a mutually beneficial relationship we’ve had over the years,” she said.

Bassett said meetings between counselors and students are private, but counselors will debrief UI officials, including staff in the Office of Admissions and the Provost’s Office. She noted past feedback has helped UI officials adjust the academic-advising process.

The UI isn’t the only regent institution with an advisory board.

Dan Schofield, senior assistant director of admissions at the University of Northern Iowa, said UNI officials meet with a similar 24-member board twice a year. He said counselors from throughout Iowa, and one from South Dakota, come to discuss academics and financial aid.

Officials at Iowa State University met with a similar board in the past, but the group has been inactive for the past year, said Phil Caffrey, ISU associate director of admissions.

Charlene Paper, a counselor at Wilton High, said she enjoyed reconnecting with former students at events on the UI campus.

Based on student suggestions, Wilton High officials have adjusted their course catalogue, Paper said.

Thompson said the program at the UI has helped him learn about the types of students the Admissions Office seeks, and how many applicants are accepted each year.

He said he’s enjoyed his three years on the board, and he thinks the way counselors adapt to suggestions helps their students transition better.

“We have a role in determining what the students’ lives will be like at the University of Iowa,” he said.

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