High school counselors see all Lees-McRae has to offer at second annual School Counselor Experience

In mid-summer, July 11−July 15, a group of high school counselors moved onto the Lees-McRae campus eagerly seeking opportunities and information for soon-to-be high school graduates back at their respective schools.

This group came to campus as part of the annual School Counselor Experience, a week-long immersive campus tour that shows these counselors everything there is to know about Lees-McRae. This year marked the second annual experience and established the event as one that will become a staple of the college’s admission efforts over the summer.

“With this event we’re trying to get more exposure for Lees-McRae. The counselors know their students better than we do, so they can see that the students might be a great fit for the college,” Jamar Jones, associate director for online recruitment, said. “The impact that connecting with these counselors has for us is that it helps make it easier for us to get into these schools and get in front of these families. They're constantly being reached out to by other schools all the time, so it helps us get to the front of the line if we have a connection with somebody that these families trust.”

Many of the unique offerings and programs at Lees-McRae appeal to a specific kind of student, and sometimes that student may be unaware that these opportunities are available to them. When college counselors learn about everything Lees-McRae has to offer, they can identify students who would thrive here, and connect them with the right resources for application and enrollment.

“Parents and kids don't know where to start looking for colleges, especially if it's not their state school and right in their own backyard. It's really hard for them to find schools that are off the beaten track, and I'm really committed to finding schools that are right for the individual kid, and maybe schools they've never heard of before,” Allison Slater Tate, director of college counseling at Lake Mary Preparatory School in Lake Mary, Florida, said. “I think that Lees-McRae is doing a really good job of highlighting what is special for them.”

Tate noted the college’s Theater Arts, Wildlife Rehabilitation, and Ski Industry Business and Instruction programs as distinctive academic opportunities that could attract students from all over the country.

“What I see is that a lot of parents are very worried about their children being able to be financially independent and having specializations in these niche industries is very valuable,” Tate said. “You want to have practical skills on top of a liberal arts education. I'm a very big fan of the liberal arts education but also practical skills.”

Tonya Withers, the director of student services at Carver High School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was also drawn to the unique academic offerings at Lees-McRae when she first toured the college nearly 20 years ago. However, upon taking a deeper dive during the School Counselor Experience, she was also impressed by the layers of support across all levels of the college.

“A student who would thrive here is that student who needs a little extra support, or who needs those reminders. In high school you have your counselors that are there saying, ‘Hey, remember you need to do this application, you need to do this scholarship, or you need to you need to go to class,’ someone to follow up with them,” Withers said. “Some students just need that continuation, and from what I've seen here at Lees-McRae during this week, they have staff that are available and that really care.”

Withers explained that for some students, particularly first-generation students, this support can mean all the difference for a student’s success, as parents do not always know the best or most effective ways to guide their children through college.

“A lot of our kids, at least from the school where I come from, and especially your first-generation students, the parents don't really know what to expect, and neither do the students. The parent can't advise or guide the student in their first year because they've never experienced it,” Withers said. “A lot of these students will get homesick if they go away for school, and then after the first semester, they're back at home. If they get that connection and know that someone here cares, know there's someone here they can trust, that's huge for our population.”

Both Withers and Tate say they look forward to taking what they learned during the School Counselor Experience and bringing it back to their high school students. They agreed that touring colleges is an extremely important part of their job, as it allows them to be knowledgeable on what is out there and guide students to the best institution for them.

Looking into the future, Jones and the rest of the admissions team hope to expand the reach of this event even further, inviting counselors from all over the country to learn about what Lees-McRae has to offer and bring that information back to potential future Bobcats at their high schools.

“This event can go pretty much world-wide. There's not really a cap to where we would invite a counselor from. They could be from New Jersey, they could be from California, they could be international, we extend this to anybody who wants to learn more about Lees-McRae,” Jones said. “Even though we do serve a small community in North Carolina, we want to reach out and get to these students as much as possible, because a lot of them might not know what's up here in Banner Elk, North Carolina.”

If you are a high school counselor interested in learning more about Lees-McRae, visit our Counselor and Educator Information page

By Maya JarrellJuly 19, 2022