Sophomore’s Unlikely Cause of Apathy and Anguish
According to Ms. Ali Iberraken, dean to the class of 2020, the intent was to make sure students “don’t stress about college.”
While Julian Isikoff (‘20) understands that “the point was to make us less stressed out and to alleviate our anxiety,” he does not think it was successful. “I think it did the total opposite,” he said.
Though some took notes, hoping not to miss a word, to most, the time passed slowly. While the intent was to ease stress, only a few left Academic Advising Night feeling glad they came. Others left feeling more anxious than when they arrived, and most just felt it was a waste of time.
Academic Advising Night, a mandatory event for sophomore students and parents, seemed to be mostly about college, though not referring to it in the title itself. The facilitators all seemed to refute that idea, arguing that it was to assist in academic planning and potential travel abroad programs, but almost everyone in attendance thought that the evening’s purpose was purely college based.
Though almost anyone who assists with the college process at Packer would agree that sophomore year is too soon to start worrying, it seems that idea often fails to resonate with parents and students. This, according to Ms. Iberraken, is part of why they chose to create the night.
“I think there’s an assumption that students and parents start thinking about college earlier and earlier, and when there’s ambiguity it causes more stress and anxiety. The logic behind it was, if we address it head on, then it should reduce the anxiety. That was the rational, at least,” she said.
Some students left feeling how the facilitators had hoped: more informed and with reduced anxiety.
“It gave me perspective and it allowed me to realize that I have the time and resources to handle everything stress free,” said an anonymous sophomore, who had been feeling anxious about the college process.
However, the majority of students seemed to disagree. Out of 40 sophomores who were polled about their opinions, 88% said that they did not find the evening useful, and within that majority there was still a myriad of opinions on why it was not a success.
For some, the night made them feel more stressed than before it began. “They were sending us such mixed messages,” said one sophomore who chose to remain anonymous. “The meeting actually increased my nerves rather than subdue them,” said another. One even adding on that they found the night to be “ridiculously counterproductive.”
The most common theme for why students didn’t seem to like it was just because they found it unnecessary. The night was described as “tedious,” “[a] waste of time,” and consisting of information that “could have been [sent] in a short email.”
Something else many found confusing was the decision to make it mandatory. Lisa Shambaugh and Nila Fortune, two of Packer’s college advisors, said what they most want to convey is that there is no need for sophomores to stress.
“Really, it was responding to a parent desire, and responding to a concern that families felt more anxious feeling like they didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing,” said Lisa.
“Parents don’t believe they’re being well informed unless they’re hearing it from the college counselors,” added Nila.
“The parent feedback we’ve received has been excellent. I think sometimes the stress comes from parents, when they don’t know what’s going on,” said Ms. Iberraken, making a similar point to Nila.
While there has been positive feedback from parents, possibly more so than from students, the parent response has not been entirely positive either.
“No sophomore should spend more than a minute thinking about the college process, a belief to which Packer professes a deep commitment. But that ostensible commitment is completely undermined by presenting these same sophomores with a mandatory college information evening,” said an anonymous sophomore parent.
Though the overwhelming response towards the night seems to be negative, previous to my meeting with them all the responses Lisa and Nila received had been positive. They seemed very receptive to the criticism and prior to our meeting said they had heard very little about student response.
“We don’t want to run programs that are not feeling helpful to people, or are achieving the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve,” said Lisa.
Hopefully, with the feelings of parents and students no longer being left in the dark, in coming years Academic Advising Night will see major changes, whether that be making it an optional event so it remains an option for the parents and few parents who enjoyed it, or as many feel would suffice, replace it with an email entirely.