By the first week of November, I have packaged – Bottom Line lingo for submitting college applications with our students – seven students on my caseload of sixty-two. This is a huge step in the life of each Bottom Line student for a variety of reasons. Our students are often the first in their family to apply to college and, in many instances, are the first in their families to be on track to graduate from high school.
Packaging meetings last at least two hours; however, since Halloween candy appeared in the office, they have been running a little longer. Being the dork that I am, I started calling them “Snackaging” meetings; mostly to satisfy my own desire to sneak puns into my meetings, but also to break the ice and calm my students through the intense experience of actually hitting submit. After their college essays are checked twice (just like Santa’s list), and their Common Application and other applications are filled out – “I’s dotted and T’s crossed” – they sit down, fingers hovering over the mouse for a second, and, in one tiny movement, change the trajectory of the their prescripted lives. After submitting, our work here at Bottom Line is nowhere near done. We spend the last few minutes of these meetings creating checklists for follow-up and broaching the subject of financial aid – another application process we assist students with beginning in January.
Before our students head home, out into the wintry air, perhaps traveling over an hour on public transportation to get home – magic happens. In advance of their meeting, a yellow star is made with the name of said student printed in bold lettering. After a student has clicked submit, they place their stars on a wall in the office under the statement “I Hit Submit!” When a student makes a move towards the wall, star in head, whispers begin to fly around the office. Heads turn and both counselors and students stop their work to clap as the student proudly places the star on the wall. “I have applied,” they silently declare, one giant leap towards something more.