A look at the day of the life of a college counselor during the Fall


photo by Jonathan Morris

Here’s a look at the daily life of a college counselor during the busy application process of the Fall.

Jonathan Morris, Reporter

Bleary-eyed but awake, Director of College Guidance Susan Rexford glances over at the alarm clock that taunts her at 5 a.m. However, she is up and ready to tackle another busy day. In fact, the beginning of the school year is the busiest time of her job.

She hops in the car and sets out on her commute, which is 4o minutes or more. She uses this time to return phone calls or mentally piece together a recommendation letter she will be drafting later. Not a minute goes wasted. 

Her official workday begins as early as 7:15 a.m. as stressed seniors line up before school to talk strategy. Then it’s off to the races for the rest of the day, making sure every student is on track.

“This time of year, it’s appointments and appointments and appointments and appointments and appointments,” Rexford said.“Some students will require more time than others, but what we’re doing the first two weeks of school is we’re meeting individually with every one of our seniors so that we can do what we call the touch base….” 

From there, Rexford attends meetings with her colleagues and arranges college representative visits.

“That involves pretty much 45 minutes to an hour because we have to greet them, they meet with the students, and then sometimes they like to talk with us afterward,” Rexford said.

Rexford has been employed at CESJDS since July of 2009, after retiring from the West Springfield High School in Fairfax County, Va. where she worked for 23 years. In addition to her work at JDS, she is involved in the Potomac and Chesapeake Association for College Admission Counseling as well as the National Association for College Admission Counseling where she has been in both leadership and community positions.

Rexford frequently presents at conferences nationwide on topics that are pertinent to the intricacies of the college process. Last March, she was featured on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, a daily radio program hosted by WAMU 88.5, the D.C. area’s local NPR chapter.

Rexford’s favorite part of the admission process is the personal essay because she gets to deep dive into the lives of students. In her job overall, her favorite aspect is working directly with the students.

According to Rexford, “[the college guidance department] will be pretty much slammed until November 1, [the early decision application deadline].” This time is so incredibly busy as she must meet with all of her 27 seniors. During these meetings, which can take anywhere from a lunch period to several hours, Rexford must pore over student’s essays, help import grades into the Common Application and make sure graduation requirements are in order. 

This is tireless work that is near-constant until all applications are done, making time Rexford’s enemy.

“Even if I don’t have appointments scheduled, there is work to do – currently schedule changes, planning evening programs, responding to email,” Rexford said.

Finally, 5:30 p.m. rolls around and Rexford packs up her belongings. Battling traffic, she sets off back home. However, her work is far from over.

“An educator’s job never stays at school,” Rexford said.  “There is always work to do after school hours. For me, especially in the fall, I will be writing letters of recommendation for my students, responding to emails that I didn’t get to during the school day and sometimes returning phone calls.”

After a tiring and full day, Rexford turns in around 11 p.m. At this hour, she carves out a rare moment of time for herself. She reads for a few minutes before bed, helping to relax her. She falls asleep, fulfilled, and ready to do it all again the next day. 

“[What is the] worst part of my job? Probably not having enough hours in the day to do everything I’d like to do,” Rexford said. “I don’t know how you get around that; there is just no way.”