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Rod Skinner, director of college counseling, led sessions at Harvard’s one-week Summer Institute on College Admission in 2005. More than 160 school guidance counselors from across the country gathered in Cambridge to talk about the evolution of the college process and its effects on adolescents.

Rod presented a session on writing complicated recommendation letters, and he also talked with colleagues about the demographic shift that will occur early in the next decade, as well as how counselors can, as school leaders, help mitigate student anxiety during the college admission process.

Rod urged counselors to remember their mission: helping students find the best—not necessarily the most prestigious—match. “In our work, we get to touch eternity. We get to help shape lives.

“We also talk about what makes a happy child, what makes for good student growth,” he said.

In a recent issue of Milton Magazine, Rod also addressed the role that parents play in the process: “One of the most difficult challenges we face as parents is shepherding our students through the college admissions process. We want so much to let our children find their own way, to let them grow through experience, and yet our urge to protect, to make things right, grips us so fiercely that being a good parent in these circumstances amounts to dancing on the head of a pin,” he wrote. “And, being more human than angelic most days, we tend to fall off more often than we would like.”

Rod recommends letting students lead the process rather than parents. He asserts that college admission counselors echo that sentiment, expressing the desire to see less processed, less generic (if technically “good”) essays, for example.

The 46th annual summer institute, aimed at helping counselors help students better manage an admission process complicated by demographic, technological and market forces, was organized by Harvard University and the College Board. Leaders in the field of admission and education worked with participants in reviewing legal issues, recommendations, recruitment, score interpretation, budgeting and cost analysis, electronic guidance and application, financial aid, future trends and other connected issues.

The faculty also recommended books such Gate Keeper: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College, Augustine’s Laws (about management principles) and Colleges That Change Lives.

Other faculty included deans of admission at colleges and universities such as Princeton and Bowdoin, as well as educators and a senior educational manager from the College Board.