Col­lege and ca­reer ad­vi­sors help guide stu­dents to their fu­tures

Maryland Independent - - Community -

There are thou­sands of col­leges and thou­sands of dif­fer­ent paths to a ca­reer. And in all of the county’s seven high schools, there’s a col­lege and ca­reer ad­vi­sor who helps guide stu­dents to­ward the op­tions that best fit each one.

“We pro­vide re­sources to help stu­dents with their col­lege and ca­reer paths,” Janet Mal­herek, col­lege and ca­reer ad­vi­sor at St. Charles High School, said in a news release. “No mat­ter what they plan to do, they need to pre­pare for their fu­ture.”

Each high school houses a col­lege and ca­reer cen­ter and in it, an ad­vi­sor who has in­for­ma­tion about what it takes to get into col­lege, the mil­i­tary or to start a ca­reer. The cen­ters have com­put­ers, lit­er­a­ture and other re­sources which ad­vi­sors use to keep stu­dents on track or bring them up to speed.

Stu­dents should get fa­mil­iar with the col­lege and ca­reer cen­ters — or at least know that one is there — early in high school. Col­leges look at a cu­mu­la­tive GPA from fresh­man, sopho­more and ju­nior years, Mal­herek said. By the time se­nior year rolls around, buck­ling down aca­dem­i­cally won’t guar­an­tee a col­lege will take no­tice. “They are look­ing for well-rounded in­di­vid­u­als,” Mal­herek said. “Clubs, or­ga­ni­za­tions, vol­un­teer­ing. Stu­dents should take ad­van­tage of all the op­por­tu­ni­ties of­fered to them.”

Ava Mor­ton, Thomas Stone High School’s col­lege and ca­reer ad­vi­sor, came to the school in 2014 af­ter a ca­reer spent as a cor­po­rate re­cruiter work­ing in hu­man re­sources. She’s been on both sides — re­cruit­ing and build­ing a re­sume that will get some­one no­ticed. She in­tro­duces her­self to stu­dents, “Nice to meet you. What’s your plan for the fu­ture?” When she runs into se­niors, there’s no time for pleas­antries. “What’s your plan,” she asks. Mor­ton and the stu­dent then get to work.

“I’m here to help them achieve that goal whether it’s col­lege, a ca­reer or go­ing into the mil­i­tary — I give them all the op­tions they have af­ter high school,” she said. Thomas Stone fresh­men visit the cen­ter to get their feet wet and un­der­stand they are start­ing to lay a foun­da­tion for their fu­ture. By the time ju­nior year rolls around, it’s time to put in the leg­work, Mor­ton said.

“Re­search now,” she ad­vises eleventh graders. “You’ll be ahead in the fall of your se­nior year and you can hit the ground run­ning.”

Kennedy Hund­ley, a Thomas Stone ju­nior, is weigh­ing her op­tions. She is lean­ing to­ward study­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions and jour­nal­ism at Hamp­ton Univer­sity where many of her rel­a­tives at­tended, but her step­fa­ther — a Howard Univer­sity alum­nus — is mak­ing a case for his alma mater. Hund­ley is do­ing her re­search with the help of col­lege cen­ter re­sources. “With­out all of this, I would be float­ing,” she said, adding that Mor­ton keeps her on a time­line and ad­vises her what to look for when it comes to find­ing the per­fect col­lege for her needs and what schol­ar­ships will pay for it.

Ad­vi­sors help stu­dents ar­range for the Armed Ser­vices Vo­ca­tional Ap­ti­tude Bat­tery (ASVAB) test for those want­ing to en­ter the mil­i­tary af­ter grad­u­a­tion. For stu­dents look­ing to join the work­force, ad­vi­sors have re­sources on vo­ca­tional schools and ap­pren­tice­ships. For oth­ers, there is tough love. “We have a lot of stu­dents liv­ing in the land of un­de­cided,” Mor­ton said. “At some point, you’ll have to make a de­ci­sion.” She has stopped ask­ing stu­dents what they want to do; she now asks, “What prob­lem do you want to solve?” It helps fo­cus stu­dents and starts the con­ver­sa­tion that leads to a plan.

Col­lege and ca­reer cen­ters are open to par­ents and hold in­for­ma­tion nights about fi­nan­cial aid and other im­por­tant top­ics. Each high school’s col­lege and ca­reer cen­ter has its own page on the school’s web­site un­der the Aca­demics tab. Many pub­lish monthly news­let­ters to keep par­ents and stu­dents up to date and ar­range col­lege fairs or guest speak­ers to bet­ter en­gage stu­dents.

For in­for­ma­tion about the Charles County Schol­ar­ship Fund, visit www. ccboe.com/com­mu­nity/stu­dents/col­lege­info.php.

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