Personally and professionally, I find “commencement” a very appropriate word as I pen this column. Commencement represents a time when students, parents, and those of us who work with students have an opportunity to both reminisce and step forward.
The day after this piece was due, I turned 50. Since then, we’ve rung in 2020—a new year and a new decade. Change is afoot as we all adjust to the recent changes to NACAC’s Code of Ethics and Professional Practices. What a perfect time to take the opportunity to reflect and charge forward.
Like many of us, I entered our profession by chance when I volunteered in my college’s admission office to open, sort, and file mail as a freshman. Soon after, I was a tour guide and then an intern. In 1992, I planned my first travel using maps before reading applications on paper. Over the years, my job and the profession progressed. I read applications on my computer, watched neural networks predict yield, advised students as demonstrated interest was formalized, developed summer application camps, hosted virtual visits on my campus, and the list goes on.
Over the years, I have had incredible personal and professional experiences that I wouldn’t trade for the world. I moved to Vermont to try a career in admission and further developed my love of fly-fishing. I went to Baltimore for a new job and soon after met my future wife. I moved to Florida where I switched sides of the desk and found a new interest in gardening. Friends I made as a rookie admission officer were in my wedding party. I became a father. I came back to Baltimore with my family for new career opportunities and to be closer to grandparents. I became a father a second time. My children enrolled at the school where I work. Along the way, I met incredible people who officially and unofficially mentored me in my job, as a Potomac and Chesapeake ACAC/NACAC volunteer, and as a person. The lines between me and my job became blurred.
As I hit this milestone birthday, I fondly reflected on these experiences. Yet, I also see new opportunities. I remember my children’s first days of kindergarten. My daughter is now a sophomore, and I will soon travel the cyclical path we all live and work with a new lens. I also had the opportunity to serve as a delegate when the 2019 NACAC Assembly voted to remove three ethical guidelines from the CEPP. While I was sad to see these points removed, I also realized the need to look forward to the next opportunities. In other words, the need to commence.
In a way, as a profession, we are all being forced to graduate. How will we do that? Just as student speakers encourage their peers, families, and friends, I encourage you: Don’t hold on to the comfort of the past. Forge ahead. Speak up. Listen. Grow. Engage. We have a great opportunity to make a difference—let’s do this.
Jake Talmage is director of college counseling at Saint Paul’s School for Boys (MD).