Networking To The Right College

Counselors Can Help Encourage Right Technology Use

Howard Freedman
President of Financial Aid Consulting
www.financialaidresults.com

Technology has provided tremendous opportunities for information management for college and scholarship searches. Beyond its convenience and power, it often overshadows the benefits of face to face networking and relationship building that occurs as students confront many of the challenges of finding the right college fit.

Guidance counselors cannot do it all but are the coaches to ensure that each student remains focused and completing their super project of finding the right college.  It starts when students define their interests so that guidance counselors can better advise them where to look, names of resources and tools for effective searches. Students should be warned that selecting the right college should not be based on peer pressure, college fairs or college catalogues that cannot define the students overall gut or feel for it being right. Why buy something before you try it out?

Developing interpersonal and networking skills does not come easily especially for those who lack self-confidence or may be in a more sheltered environment. The daunting task of finding the best a most affordable college, a major or a scholarship is relatively easy. The hard part is knowing if the results provide the best fit for the student. To do this, college bound students should learn the fine art of networking beyond the safety of a classroom, guidance departments or the inner sanctums of cyberspace.

Learning effective networking techniques can start with high school research projects, term papers, and community service projects that require contact with outsiders. This provides a very important opportunity for identifying resources, making the introductions, scheduling meetings, formulating meaningful questions and most of all learning to follow-up.

Role playing is also a great tool for networking. It enables the student to develop confidence and to become more sensitive to both points of view. It is also a fun way to ease stress and provide constructive feedback on how well the student is communicating. Most of all it helps the student to be focused on results and ask more open-ended questions. Counselors have been known to offer this sort of role playing to students who seek out this sort of help.

Guidance counselors can facilitate this process by asking former high school graduates to become resources to underclassmen when they are exploring different colleges. Communications between students are much more relaxed and provide the students with a better opportunity to visit the college, attend classes, stay in the dorms and get candid answers from students who has gone through this process.

Resources

The best way to identify networking resources is for the student to list everybody they know other than their high school classmates. Counselors may have some of these resources or they can point you in the right direction. They can also consider outside resources such as people in the business, civic or government agencies.

Explore the library, town or state records to get the names of successful graduates or college alumni offices. Other sources are clergymen and members of their congregation, people just doing a job of interest, athletic club members, school and professional organizations and yes college fairs. College fairs are great places to network but can be overwhelming. They provide a wealth of information but cannot give the student the feel of actually being there. To be effective, students should have a mission and prepare questions in advance. They should also have a way of following up with the college to arrange an on campus tour or stay over night.

Back To Technology

Students may continue to believe that Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media is networking is the way to network and is certainly a secondary means of networking when in person meetings cannot be arranged. Phone calls are also another back up in addition to e-mails. However, they will not take the place of face-to-face meetings or provide the feel of being there. Many counselors

What computers offer is almost a limitless venue of information and data management but it is up to the guidance counselor to introduce the student on using a combination of technology, traditional media and effective networking to enable the student to make the right decisions that extend far beyond technology.

The following familiar quote epitomizes the power of teaching, wordsmithed to fit today’s climate: “Sit a student in front of a computer and you have fed them for today. Teach a student how to network and you have fed them for a lifetime.”

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