For this new edition of #HowWeGotThis, Natalie BITTON, Director of College Counseling & Guidance at LFSF, on the Ortega Campus, explains how she and her team proactively adapted to the new normal in 2020 and shares the projects and goals for this school year.
LFSF : Hi Natalie, could you please introduce yourself and tell us more about your role at LFSF?
Natalie: For the past 14 years, I have managed and directed the college counseling program at LFSF. It is a vibrant and comprehensive program that serves primarily high school students. We are also available to the entire LFSF community as families plan for the student post-bac success. We are a team of three: myself, the director, Dustin, the college counseling assistant, and Talia, the registrar. We support student success in many areas, including course advising, enrichment, college counseling, scholarships, diversity and Inclusion, and social emotional wellness.
LFSF : How would you describe the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on your department? How do you manage to continue delivering high quality counseling to LFSF students during these extraordinary times?
Natalie: While the pandemic has negatively impacted many lives and at LFSF, brought a new level of complexity to the way many departments are operating, it hasn't had negative consequences on the way the College Counseling department works with students and families. In fact, it has had many positive impacts, and put into place best practices that will undoubtedly continue once the pandemic has been managed. The work and research we do for students is mainly online, and covid made it entirely online, which increased the access we have to students and families. It has been wonderful to be able to communicate easily and quickly with students, and match them with resources they need for their college plans. We worked hard to adapt swiftly to 100% digital and it’s been going very well: we’ve consistently been improving the quality of College Counseling services to students
LFSF : College counseling hosts hundreds of colleges from around the world each year to visit students on campus and virtually. This past Fall, LFSF hosted the virtual fair Salon Europe, and the Canada Fair. Could you tell us more about this event and share how it went ?
Natalie: Yes, in previous years, part of the college planning process were the campus visits from college representatives from around the world. They would visit one school at a time, and we also set up fairs. This year, of course, all visits became digital. Once again, this created great access for students to interact with colleges that would typically not have the chance to visit due to travel distance or time zone constraints. Salon Europe was a live online fair with over 45 universities in Europe - students and families could ask questions, watch videos, collect virtual brochures, and visit the digital booths of the event participants. The fair was geared specifically for students at French Bac schools in North America. Students and families reported that they loved this format - similar fairs are listed weekly in the college counseling newsletter.
(Poster for Salon Europe hosted virtually in 2020 by the LFSF and its College Counseling team for HS students interested in studying in Europe)
LFSF: 2020 has finally come to an end. How would you describe the outcome of this year for you: can you identify a silver lining to this complicated year?
Natalie: As mentioned, the most positive factors of this year is 1) being able to counsel digitally has provided access to students and families to the college counseling staff, and to college and university staff in a way that was not possible before. 2) Testing requirements such as SAT and ACT were suspended which opened up many more opportunities for our students, as they now did not need to include testing as part of their application procedures. 3) The social justice and anti-racism movement has provided a profound awareness of inequities in our society, and our students want to be part of the solution. This is wonderful and inspiring!
(6 LFSF student delegates, with the help of the College Counseling team, spent 5 days at the Student Diversity Leadership Conference training to become Diversity Leaders on campus and shared their experiences).
LFSF: How do you see the context impacting this 2021 year for college admissions?
Natalie: I am really looking forward to 2021, as we deepen how we counsel online. There are so many wonderful ways to communicate online, and for students to build their personal projects - research projects, online volunteering, enrichment programs. College counseling around the world has been re-imagined, and has fueled innovation and inspiration. It is an exciting time!
LFSF : Thank you Natalie for your time! To conclude, what message would you like to share to the community?
Natalie: All the services we offer are for the benefit of the students, their personal and professional development, and most importantly their growth as a contributing member to our global society. Here is a quote that inspires me, and which influences my daily work and the work of our team.
“Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.” ― Thomas Merton.
High School students in 12th Grade (Terminale), in front of the Ortega Campus main entrance (May 2019)
#HowWeGotThis is our series of testimonials showing how our teams and community are pioneering, reinventing themselves and imagine new ways to operate in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.