College counseling and admissions offices undergo major reconstruction

With the expansion of college counseling and with the addition of the Wellness Center, Pressly Hall and Scott Hall have undergone a massive reconstruction in order to accommodate these changing spaces. Immediately upon his arrival at the school, president Keith Evans identified that college counseling was in need of an upgrade. Currently, there are four college counselors, with plans of a fifth being added this fall. As the college counseling department has grown substantially, the counselors will now soon be able to work with added ease and comfort in their new, bigger, and more conveniently located offices on the main floor of Pressly. One of the school’s earliest college counselors, assistant headmaster for academic affairs Jere Wells, shared his experience of the job from over 30 years ago.

“When I did college counseling back in the 80s, there was no college counseling office per se at all,” said Wells. “I met with the girls in the office that Ms. Harless uses now, and all of my clerical support was handled by the Askew Hall secretary, Mrs. Bird.”

One of the main reasons for the move of the college counseling offices is the increasing complexity of the college admissions process.

“It was pretty basic then,” said Wells, “but then the college admission scene was maybe half as competitive as it is today.”

College counselor Nancy Beane has also witnessed a large part of the evolution of the department.

“When I started college counseling in 1992, there were only two counselors,” said Beane. “I counseled all the senior girls, and Emma Scott’s grandfather, Leon Scott, counseled all the senior boys. We were located in the back of Pressly Hall where the PAWS offices and the Communications offices are housed now.”

Recently, Westminster has been working on achieving a better student-to-counselor ratio in order to provide students with more individual and personal guidance. The addition of a fifth counselor will be an important factor in reaching this goal.

“The national average for independent school college counselors is now about 40 to 45 seniors per counselor as opposed to our current caseloads of about 50 to 55,” said director of college counseling Steve Frappier. “That is still a fine and manageable number because my staff knows that the national average for both public and private schools is about 400 students per counselor!”

Some of the crucial renovations in the new offices include a larger workspace and a new configuration.

“The college counseling suite will involve a modernized Inman Commons Room that will be located off the main hallway near where many of you put your backpacks during Thursday assemblies,” said Frappier. “The space will have a larger reception space for waiting families as well as a worktable for seniors to study or to work on applications. We will have room for five counselor offices, a small conference room, and a records and work room.  It’ll be a whole new setup.”

One of the main benefits of these re-imagined offices is the more idealized placement on campus.

“Miss Economy, Ms. Fleming, Mrs. Beane, Mrs. Burbank, and I are excited that we will be even closer to the seniors on Senior Patio,” said Frappier. “Now we can ‘fish where the fish are’. Today, when we need a senior, we often take a walk to Senior Patio and try to find him or her; now we will be able to peek out our own door.”

The college counselors, now being within close proximity to Senior Patio, can now connect more often with the seniors they advise.

“Counselors’ jobs are enhanced with every bit of ‘small talk’ that we can have with seniors in the hallway and in classes,” said Frappier, “not just in pre-scheduled meetings.”

The relocation of college counseling to Pressly subsequently resulted in the movement of the admissions office into Scott, taking the place of the school counselors’ offices that have now shifted to the Wellness Center.

“Admissions moved to Scott because the location in Pressly was hard to find for visitors unfamiliar with our campus and because there had never been an office space specifically designed for both the reception needs and the workflow needs of our admissions team.” said Wells. “Their current space now meets both very effectively.”

Despite the mutual benefits shared across all three departments, a few cons come along with the reconstruction.

“The only drawback I see is a little bit of nostalgia,” said Frappier, “and the loss of those few business days while we physically move, setup, and troubleshoot technology installation.”

Overall, the move carries a positive effect for all, especially for the college counseling office.

“My whole staff and I are thrilled,” said Frappier. “We have such support from all parts of the school, and this move is just another great expression of that support. And when you’re in charge of the college process, who wouldn’t want to work directly, literally directly, across from Mr. Evans?”