Q&A: Kathleen Moriarty Skiff, Director of College Counseling

Actions is a new editorial feature from Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child. Each week we will spotlight the dedicated faculty and staff across the PK-12 campus who make a difference in the lives of OKS students and the life of the school. This week, we feature:

Kathleen Moriarty Skiff

Director of College Counseling

Q: What are the changes this year that your office is seeing by way of college admissions?
A: The pandemic has certainly changed the world of college admission, as it has just about everything in our lives. Many colleges have abandoned campus tours, others are offering them to small groups without entrance to the buildings. During the fall months, admissions staff members traditionally visit high schools throughout this country and the globe. Those opportunities to exchange information have been ended as well. In response, the admission offices have greatly expanded their offerings online – from virtual tours, small chats with professors and/or students, virtual interviews, and group information sessions. Just as Oak Knoll has adapted, the colleges have as well.

Q: Will college admissions counselors be looking at and taking into consideration how applicants spent their year during the pandemic when things slowed down? Will they be looking to see how and if applicants used their time wisely?
A: College admission counselors understand the world in which we are all living and the lack of opportunities for our students and others once the pandemic forced the closing of schools, summer camps, outdoor recreations facilities and many businesses. They also know that not all students have access to alternative activities. If students were able to find engaging activities, they are happy to hear about those experiences, but the lack of those activities will not negatively impact students’ applications.

Q: What is your best advice to high school students who are getting ready to apply to college this year and how is this advice the same or different from advice you have given students in the past?
A: Our advice has been to take advantage of all that is offered on the college websites both to learn as much as they can about the colleges, but also to demonstrate their interest. Most of the advice we have offered as been the same. Every year we remind the students that they should focus on the aspects of this process they can control – their dedication to their Oak Knoll academic and extra-curricular responsibilities, the colleges where they choose to apply, the essays they submit with their applications, the thoroughness of their applications and keeping the process in perspective. It is a privilege to be able to attend college, with or without a pandemic.

Q: How is Oak Knoll preparing our students for college and is there anything new that our school has put into place this year because of COVID?
A: As part of our two-year College Seminar program, we have always spent the second semester of the senior year discussing the transition to college with our students. There will be many changes in their lives – being away from home, living with a roommate(s), handling illness, learning to manage an active academic and social life, solving any issues that arise, managing finances, eating in the college dining room, etc. As we approach the winter months and we see where the COVID-19 situation is, we will add to our class discussions issues related to life on a campus with COVID-19 restrictions, as well as managing college life as a remote student. Like everyone, we are hoping that by next fall, when the Class of 2021 matriculates to their colleges, the world will be much more open because the virus has been contained and a vaccine is widely available. In the meantime, we will prepare them as best we can for their new educational home.

Q: What do you want the OKS community to know about our college counseling services here on campus?
A: Families should know that our college counseling program is one based on the student’s self-exploration to determine her preferences, talents, weaknesses, and contributions in order to explore which colleges will provide the community in which she will thrive and contribute. It is a comprehensive two-year program beginning in the fall of the junior year with group and individual offerings to provide advice and support for the student and her parents. We very much believe the college process can be a reaffirming and positive experience.

Kathleen Moriarty Skiff is an Oak Knoll graduate who returned to our community in 2012 for her current role as Director of College Counseling. At the time, she had spent the previous 20 years in the same role in two independent day schools in New England. Prior to those positions, she was the Associate Director of Admission at a liberal arts college and she managed the College Relations Department at a large, international bank located in New York City, selecting college seniors for the management training programs.

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