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Faculty and Staff

‘Remember the Pep Talk’

College advisor Aliaha Austin writes on the importance of advising work and keeping spirits up during a pandemic.

The bell tower in front of blue skies

By Aliaha Austin, college adviser serving East Bladen High School

October is a busy time for college advisers in North Carolina. On October 1, The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens, and the annual College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) “Countdown to College Kick-Off” begins. For the last two weeks of the month, participating colleges and universities in North Carolina waive their application fees, allowing students to submit their applications for free. As advisers, we collaborate amongst ourselves, our school staff, and the community to plan completion events, parent/family nights, raffles or anything to engage students and help them complete their FAFSA, residency and college applications.

Gaining participation for these events is always a challenge, but this year with a global pandemic, participation has been at a new low. Advisers have held events like parking lot drive-in events, Saturday “FAFSA Frenzy” workshops, and zoom office hours; however, we, like many others, also feel the effects of Zoom fatigue, juggling varying schedules, a global health pandemic and a tumultuous election year. With everything going on, it’s easy to lose sight of why we are here and question if we’re really making an impact at all. But during those times, I’ve found comfort in drawing from our adopted motto this year: “Remember the Pep Talk.” 

“Remember the Pep Talk” became something we as advisers pulled strength from after our annual Fall Training. On the last day of our training, we spoke openly about our struggles and wondered how successful our upcoming college application week efforts would be. Before we left training, our supervisors gave us an impromptu pep talk where they reminded us that it’s ok if this year looks different from the rest, and they encouraged us to remember to give ourselves grace and remember our “why.” 

My “why” has always been equipping my students with the tools they need to succeed in life. I always tell my students that I’m here to help them with any future plans: college, military or the workforce. It can be easy to forget my why when school looks differently and face-to-face student interaction is slim; however, when I begin to feel discouraged, I remember the pep talk and keep going, knowing that the work we do as advisers is not in vain. The expectations may look different this year, but the goal of helping as many students as we can is ever-present and ever-needed.