Feature on College Counseling Office


Courtesy of Chloe Zheng ’23

Even during a global pandemic, Groton’s College Counseling Office (CCO) has remained a bastion of resilience, continuing to fulfill its mission under the radar. Whether you are a freshly arrived Second Former or soon-to-depart Sixth Former, the Groton community is acutely conscious of the college application process and the CCO’s existence. But more often than not, not enough credit is paid to their crucial work and its impact. So, what does the CCO do, and how was the college process impacted by COVID-19?


“The role of the CCO is to guide students on a journey of self-discovery,” Director of College Counseling Megan Harlan says. College counselors help students “find the perfect fit [for college]” by “identifying talents and interests” and “trying to figure out who they really are.” 


Mrs. Harlan describes applying to colleges as a “yearlong process that enables you to see what you like and don’t like.” Through meetings with counselors and resources offered by MaiaLearning, a web-based college and career planning resource, the CCO helps students understand their preferences. “What have you liked the most/least about Groton?” one question on a survey on MaiaLearning asks. Another, located on a form titled “Your College Plans and Aspirations,” examines the various factors that might inform a student’s decision to apply to certain colleges: extracurricular activities, social life, size, distance from home, location, etc. 


Another important component of college counselors’ work with students, which formally begins winter of Fifth Form year and can extend even past application season, is recommending course selections and forming a plan for standardized testing. 


Even in the face of coronavirus-related difficulties, Groton and the CCO have ensured that students continue to have opportunities to demonstrate academic excellence to colleges. Many colleges suspended their testing requirements due to widespread test cancellations, but Groton continued to offer SAT subject tests and the SAT and ACT exams on campus for its students in the fall of 2020. As a result, all students were able to complete testing, but some decided to submit scores only to certain colleges, according to Mrs. Harlan.


Moreover, social distancing measures transitioned many important activities from in-person to virtual. Although working in far from ideal conditions, Groton’s college counselors successfully met with Fifth and Sixth Formers over Zoom. They also communicated with college representatives to arrange virtual college fairs for Fifth and Sixth Formers in the fall. The Kickoff to College Counseling for parents also became a remotely attended event, but the CCO has taken care to offer the same valuable insight it has in years past.


In spite of all these complications, Groton students found success yet again in gaining admission to the world’s best universities, a credit both to the students and the CCO. Mrs. Harlan was “pleased to see that despite the increase in selectivity, the number of sixth form acceptances wound up the same. Around this date last year, 62 members of the Form of 2020 had been admitted, and for this year’s sixth formers that figure is exactly the same.”


From virtual learning to social isolation, the pandemic has disrupted our lives as we know them. Due to widespread suspensions of testing requirements, many colleges have seen a record number of applicants. For example, Harvard University’s total applicant pool reached 57,000, an all-time high representing a 42 per cent increase compared to the previous cycle. Freshman applications to the University of California at Berkeley soared to 112,000, another all-time high. In spite of these changes, the CCO has shown that Groton’s students will continue to be highly regarded by colleges, and that they will find the college that is the best fit for them.