Applying to college is 'the stuff of greatness.' Honest.

Exeter's College Counseling Office helps parents navigate the college admissions process.

February 14, 2022

Exeter's College Counseling Office played host virtually to its annual College Admissions Weekend to help the parents and guardians of 11th-graders prepare for the college application process.

The parents and guardians of students in the class of 2023 might feel as if they have only just joined the Exeter community, but it won’t be long before those students are matriculating at colleges and universities beyond. To help prepare the families for what’s next, Exeter’s College Counseling Office played virtual host to its annual College Admissions Weekend.

This year’s program was highlighted by a panel of admissions officers from a wide range of selective universities and a keynote address from Thyra Briggs, vice president for admission and financial aid at Harvey Mudd College.

Briggs has spent 30 years in the world of admissions and —as she noted in her remarks Friday evening — 25 years reading applications from Exeter students. “We know that when Exeter students arrive on our campus, they have already seen the value of being educated in a community that values diversity and inclusion, are able to take advantage of our many resources and are eager to engage,” Briggs said.

Briggs told her virtual audience that as disruptive as the pandemic has been, it has forced colleges to “step of our virtual game” when it comes to engaging prospective students digitally. “Ironically, by closing our campuses, we opened access to a much broader range of students.”

While much has changed in the college application and admission process through the years, Briggs underscored some universal truths that haven’t changed, including that where a student ultimately lands matters less than what they do while they are there. “This is still not a treasure hunt, with only one prize at the end,” she said.

“We are still looking for a well-rounded class, which doesn’t necessarily mean a class of well-rounded individuals,” she said. “Nor should they all be what we often call ‘pointy’ — students who are incredibly focused on one area. Well-rounded students are great; and pointy students are often the catalysts for discussion in a class.”

Attendees of the weekend’s program also took part in a mock admissions case study exercise, in which parents, guardians and admission officers read, reviewed and discussed the applications of several candidates for admission. The case study was meant to highlight how different parts of the Common Application, test scores, recommendations and institutional priorities factor into decisions as a way to understand the broader college admission landscape.

The two-day program concluded with meetings with Exeter’s college counselors to learn about the College Counseling Office’s mission and philosophy and about CCO resources, programs, tasks and recommended reading.

Exeter’s College Counseling Office employs 10 full-time counselors to help students learn to identify their goals and interests, to navigate college admissions landscape and to make decisions about higher education. Each student has agency for self-evaluation, research and application writing that is essential to make the best choice for them.

Briggs quoted an essay written by Kelly Corrigan in The New York Times in 2019 to encourage parents about a process that can often seem overwhelming.

“Something beautiful is being formed in the dumpster fire that is senior fall,” Corrigan wrote. “Regardless of outcome, the college application process itself can force the kind of growth parents dream of. Tell every high school senior you know this most-encouraging truth: making decisions, weighing fiscal demands, understanding yourself, managing a hundred to-dos, overcoming your worst fears — this is the stuff of greatness.”