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An Interview with Senior College Guidance Coordinator Shawn Gathas and Senior Katherine Wei - Part Two

I got the opportunity to sit down virtually with Shawn Gathas, BASIS Chandler Senior College Guidance Coordinator, and Katherine Wei, BASIS Chandler Senior. I discovered just what college counseling looks like at BASIS Charter Schools, and what it means for students.

In part two of this interview, both Katherine and Mrs. Gathas discuss the big moments of realization during the counseling process, and the big changes within college admissions.

Katherine, throughout this college counseling process would you say that you were starting to focus on what you wanted, as opposed to worrying so much about what you thought colleges were looking for?

That’s a great question. In college guidance we talk about safety, target, and reach schools. Of course, I wanted to apply to some schools that I knew I would have a chance to get into, but this is a place you will spend the next four years at. You want to make sure that it’s a place you will fit into, have fun, and learn. So yes, the right fit for me was important.

Katherine, what was your AHA! moment in college counseling?

I have had a lot of AHA! moments. Most of them were surrounding my essays, and how Mrs. Gathas guided me through them. The most memorable one was with my Common App essay at the beginning of the year. I had written and rewritten it at least ten times and had two completely different versions of it! Mrs. Gathas would never recommend that, so don’t do that! (both laugh) One of them was what I thought the college wanted to see, about volleyball, and the other was more about me and creative writing. My Aha! moment was trying to figure out which one to settle on, and I realized, after talking to Mrs. Gathas, which one that was. The latter was the one that I submitted, and I think having that direction early on helped me write my supplemental essays as I got further into the process.

Mrs. Gathas: And she got a scholarship for writing! (both laugh)

Mrs. Gathas, what has significantly changed for students in getting prepared for college over the years and what has been the biggest challenge?

The BASIS Chandler demographic generally needs to learn what a holistic review for college is. We tend to have a family network that has come in from overseas where college admission is more test-heavy. The holistic review in the United States school system takes a lot of explaining and building comfort in, and that is a big change for our families. In general, in what is becoming a test-optional, (and I think rapidly moving to test-blind) world, colleges are getting more comfortable with understanding transcripts and class rigor. Essays are becoming more and more important, and Katherine is a great example of that. She definitely has a transcript that speaks to increasing rigor, and moving outside an obvious track or comfort zone. She could write about her life outside the classroom, and demonstrate that level of confidence and will to do more. I think that’s where the college application process is changing.

Katherine, how did college counseling prepare you for your post-graduate endeavors?

A lot of my acceptances haven’t come back yet, but all the things we talked about in college guidance will help me decide where I end up for the next four years. Things like, what to study, the culture, and determining if it is a good fit for me. How I am going to make that decision is my main takeaway from the college counseling experience.

Mrs. Gathas what knowledge do you want your students to walk away with at the end of your college counseling sessions with them?

They are brilliant kids, and every one of them belongs on the “maybe” pile at every school. They accomplish things in high school that even after twelve years in Silicon Valley, I haven’t done. (laughs) I want them to understand the significance of what they are doing, and I don’t mean technologically.

I want them to appreciate the significance of young people pursuing outrageous concepts, young people being invited to intern at these companies, and in these laboratories. For a long time, young people weren’t being invited into these opportunities. They don’t realize the significance of what they do has on the people and organizations they are working with. They are extremely young people furthering an idea, and I think that is amazing. I don’t think they know how significant that is, and don’t give themselves enough credit.

Thank you both so much for taking the time to speak with me, and best of luck to you Katherine! I gained a lot of insight into how college counseling works, and its effectiveness in assisting students with their academic goals.  

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Interviews have been edited for length and clarity

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