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Season 1: Independent college counselor projects changes with fall enrollment

Elizabeth Antony, Independent College Counselor in Tennessee, responds

This interview took place on April 08, 2020.

Helping students navigate college choices, fill out applications, and filter through programs that help them reach their life goals is the business of Elizabeth Antony of Nashville, Tennessee. With much ado and much to sort through to help students and parents figure out how to handle the unknown due to COVID-19, Elizabeth shares her insight into what may come.

Guest bio:

Elizabeth Antony of College Application Coach LLC of Nashville, Tennessee, leads an innovative firm offering individualized college admission consulting. She is committed to guiding students through the college selection, admission, and acceptance process. She combines her unique background in Developmental Psychology and critical and personal writing with a strong working knowledge of today's competitive admissions process. 




Sally Hendrick (00:39):

Hey Elizabeth, how are you doing? This is Sally.

Elizabeth Antony (00:43):

Hey Sally. I'm doing well. How are you?

Sally Hendrick (00:44):

Good, good. I'm so glad that we get to talk today because I know that you have really been following what's going on with the COVID-19 situation and a very engaged kind of way. So tell me, tell me a bit about you and what you do and what's going on right now.

Elizabeth Antony (01:05):

Yeah, well this is, these are some interesting times to be in my field. I am an independent college counselor. Meaning that I am not affiliated with any particular institution, high school, secondary school. And so I work with individual clients here in Nashville where we're both based and around the country. These are some unprecedented times for institutions of higher learning and we're all just trying to figure out day by day, sometimes hour by hour what the landscape looks like.

Sally Hendrick (01:44):

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So what's happening with your business, the college counseling part?

Elizabeth Antony (01:53):

You know, it's interesting, a lot of, as we both noticed, a lot of small business owners who are taking or taking a lot of hits and that's hard stuff. You know, I'm finding the reverse to be true with all of the schools being closed. Students are having limited, very limited access to their college counselors that are onsite at schools. And so I have been extraordinarily busy with people, you know, reaching out and, and you know, asking for help, how to navigate not only the typical college counseling sorts of things, you know curating a list and, and working through applications and all the things that we've done in the past very, you know, in a very standard way. But now I'm looking for information insight into how to read this situation and how we move forward through these times of uncertainty.

Sally Hendrick (02:43):

So in particular, you're working with high school students who are applying to college?

Elizabeth Antony (02:53):

Yes, I, my clients some of them are as young as freshman in high school, some are as old as first semester seniors. And it just depends. I, you know, offer a variety of counseling services. So, you know, I kind of meet the students where they are based on what their individual needs are. And that varies region by region, through the country. You know, so you know, something helping somebody get through their application, the nuts and bolts aspects of their application process for older kids. Whereas, you know, with younger students it's helping them curate their curricula for four years of high school based on what they see that they want to do in terms of higher ed.

Sally Hendrick (03:35):

Gotcha. So do you feel like there's more stress involved right now with trying to figure this out? Or are the students, you know, tending to adjust pretty well? What do you, are you seeing anything like that?

Elizabeth Antony (03:50):

Oh, absolutely. I think everyone is stressed. I think everyone's off, you know, working off a baseline of pretty significant anxiety and stress. And I think that's true for the students and absolutely for their parents. I think there's stress and anxiety just with the uncertainty, nobody knows, you know, are they even going to return to school this year? There's still many, many schools that are leaving it open ended. So will juniors and seniors be able to go back, you know, in sophomores and freshmen as well, but it's of particular concern to the older students. Will they go back this year or what does, you know, what will this virus do to the landscape and will they return to school in the fall? If not, what does school look like as we move forward? And and, and you know, I have clients who are you know, a large, a large population of clients in, you know, New York city area and it varies region to region, but they're particularly concerned because it's such a hotspot.

Sally Hendrick (04:50):

Yeah, exactly. And I was going to ask you that next about the location of your students, if they were all over or if they were like concentrated in the Northeast or do you have any in Nashville as well?

Elizabeth Antony (05:02):

Oh, I do. Yeah, I do. I have several students in Nashville the Chicago greater Chicago area greater Boston area, Washington DC, and kind of Metro New York. So, you know Bergen County, New Jersey, Connecticut, you know, that's that area there, right. Westchester County.

Sally Hendrick (05:20):

Do you think this is also affecting the choices that they're now looking at? Are they shifting?

Elizabeth Antony (05:29):

Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, because of what the virus is done, you know, too many families, financial situations. I think you know, I'm seeing a difference in students who were working on applications in the fall to where they are now. I'm coming one young woman up in the greater New York area is coming to my mind and her, her choices were Notre Dame, Georgetown Dartmouth and one of the SUNY schools. And that was her, you know, kind of a safety sort of school for her. And she's, she's going with SUNY because of the uncertainty of the financial aspect of paying for college. And you know that that's going to be broad and widespread and, and deep. I think this is the tip of the iceberg. I think schools like, you know, for us being here in, in Tennessee, UTK, UTC and the other state universities are going to become much, much more popular and much more competitive.

Sally Hendrick (06:32):

Yeah, I can see that as well. I'm actually interviewing the UTM chancellor, a UT Martin next week, next week. So we went to college together.

Elizabeth Antony (06:44):

Oh, okay. Okay. Yeah. I, yeah, I recently had a conversation with some, a student from UT Martin and and we talked about how this is going to probably change the perception of different diplomas in the, in the work field as they graduate. So as they, these kids graduate and coming out of schools I perception is going to change about everything. And

Sally Hendrick (07:12):

Yeah, I find that very interesting cause he I know who you're talking about. He and I actually spoke about this and I'm going to interview him as well. And the interesting part I think is that with the way things are going online, imagine three years, five years from now, everything's changed over to more of an online course taking situation just to, for an example or at least part of it, you could potentially go and select curriculum from multiple places.

Elizabeth Antony (07:52):

Exactly, exactly. And many colleges at this point have that sort of setup kind of in that real life, bricks and mortar setting lots of schools in the new England area, that cluster of small liberal arts schools offer a consortium of education so you can take different classes at different places. And that's always been appealing to a lot of kids. If you're going to a, a small liberal arts college and you want to major in English, but Hey, you also want to take a exploratory course in engineering, you can pop over, well, this just got a whole lot easier. This whole, you know model and you know, as I said on a conference call with the national organization a couple of weeks ago, you know, I was, that was somewhat kidding, but you know, Harvard now an online school, the model has changed, you know, it's everything is different moving forward. I think this is a time of, of and I don't use this term lightly revolution in higher education.

Sally Hendrick (08:49):

Wow. I mean the possibilities are endless how this is going to play out. The other thing that we personally have a concern with is that one of our children, actually two of them are supposed to go abroad one in the fall and one next spring in Europe and in two of the most effected countries Spain and France. And so we don't know what's going to happen with that. The latest word we got was that the Spain trip was still on as far as they were concerned for the fall, but that, that would be it. It's really up in the air

Sally Hendrick (09:29):

But they haven't canceled it as of yet.

Elizabeth Antony (09:32):

I think that's pretty standard right now. That's the communication I think most students are receiving with the exception of some students. I know the who were planning to study in Asia those programs have been canceled pretty much across the board at this point. But Europe seems to be still holding steady, kind of a wait and see approach. You know, I, I don't know how much longer that will will play out. I would expect until I think parents and students would need an answer probably by the end of the fiscal year for many of these schools, which is, you know, June 30. So we'll see.

Sally Hendrick (10:09):

Well, we're actually looking at taking some classes in the summer now that things are kind of up in the air, we don't know what we'll be able to register for in the fall. We don't know if we're registering for the Spain courses or if we're registering for something in Boston and you know, or if we're registering for something online through the Boston university that we're, we're associated with. So it'll be a very interesting time. We may be doing the summer classes just to preempt any issues that the fall may bring.

Elizabeth Antony (10:44):

Absolutely. you know, I'm very engaged with the undergraduate institution I attended up in new England and was on a call there. And there are more questions than answers at this point. And and I, I appreciated, you know, the leadership transparency around that, you know, you know, Dr. Fauci, you know, it says the virus determines the timeline and so there is really no way to anticipate where we're headed. There really isn't. And it's gonna vary region by region as well.

Sally Hendrick (11:20):

Yeah, I agree. It will vary. I mean, we are so geographically separated and, and you know, divide it another way, the United States of America, but at times it feels like the divided States of America with with all of the governors having different messaging and the president going from one, you know, situation to another and how that all tends to trickle down into individual mayor's decisions. So it's, it makes it difficult to not have a cohesive, consistent approach for anyone to make any real decisions.

Elizabeth Antony (12:02):

Absolutely. And I think decision making is, is, you know, is largely hinges right now on, on cultural interpretation of what's happening. And so you know, despite the fact that I, I, I've lived here in Nashville for 15 years now I lived in Boston for many, many years and have family up there and it's very interesting and enlightening to hear how they're talking about how they're receiving information versus the kind of information we're receiving here. And it's all coming through different lenses and different filters and and so that's gonna be, that's gonna make that cohesive approach even more difficult. I think, you know, certainly nationally and in terms of education as well, I think it's kinda going to be each institution for him or herself at this point.

Sally Hendrick (12:53):

Yeah. And that's kinda sad cause I feel like a lot of these great institutions, some of them might not come back or they looked completely different.

Elizabeth Antony (13:05):

Right. They're going to have to adapt and change. And I think a lot of that's going to depend on, you know, the size of the school's endowment. You know, I don't think Princeton's going anywhere. But you know, there is a small ungraded school up in new England called Hampshire college, which was you know, kind of a experimental form of learning kind of a, a Waldorf approach to higher ed. And they've announced that they're, they're closing their doors, they just aren't able to make it. This was the final nail in the coffin for them, which is sad because it was meeting the needs of certain types of students. The students don't have, there's not one type of college student, you know, every student has a different set of needs and wants. And so when we lose a school that's so unique like that, it's, it's really, I feel a tremendous loss to the landscape of higher ed.

Sally Hendrick (14:00):

Yeah, I agree. So can we switch the conversation a little bit to more of a, the medical side of things? I know that you have dealt with personal pulmonary issues and then you have a child who has allergies. And what do you, what, what are the fears that you have related to that? What's going on in your mind?

Elizabeth Antony (14:31):

Well, I mean, you know with, with regard to myself, I survived a massive pulmonary embolism about six years ago I think. And so that, you know, severely restricted function in one of my lungs. So I'm kind of dependent on the one. And when you hear about any sort of respiratory on this even flu season it's scary. It's, it's scary. And and but with flu we've had very clear protocols and there's vaccinations, there's things we can do that we know and we know how the flu operates. It's the uncertainty and the unknowns about this new virus that have been unsettling. And so, you know, as a result of that, we have been extraordinarily conservative and had stayed in since early March ever. We brought our son home from, from college and have not ventured out at all. We do grocery delivery and such both of my sons with very significant asthma and my older son has some other lung issues going on as well as multiple life threatening food allergies. So it's been a time of challenge even, you know, trying to locate safe brands of food that we can bring into our home for him. You know, we've managed to pivot, which is great, but but again, that adds another layer of uncertainty which can lead to stress and anxiety and has,

Sally Hendrick (16:06):

Yeah, I can imagine, and I didn't even think about the aspect of not being able to get the same types of food we've had to adjust. I mean, granted we've adjust from saltines to water crackers, but you know, water, what are you call those water table crackers or whatever they're called. Yeah. So we've adjusted there because they'd had no more saltines or premium, whatever that you call them. But and we've also adjusted other types of, you know, foods and brands and so forth. But I didn't even think about the fact that you've got food allergies, you've got gluten free, this or that. And those types of supply chains may be interrupted in all of this.

Elizabeth Antony (16:50):

Yes. And that's what we're finding cause a lot of these specialty food companies, you know, are kind of mom and pop up operations. And so they, they operate pretty close to the margin and a lot of them have closed down. And the other thing is these clubs, you know, thank goodness that we've been able to get what we've needed and able to afford it. But there's a lot of you know, families where, you know, reliant on food banks and there just is no allergy friendly, friendly food in, in food banks is of course, you know, my son lives with a a peanut tree nut. One of his allergies or peanut, two of his outages are peanuts and tree nuts. A staple of food banks, as we all know, are peanut butter. Right. So yeah, these families are are struggling, are definitely struggling. Yeah. Yeah. And it's kind of a grassroots network of, you know, what we call allergy moms who have, are, are just getting our hands on things and just personally sending things to other people so they can have what they need. So it's, it's been incredibly edifying to see that, how we've come together in some ways and also incredibly stressful.

Sally Hendrick (17:55):

Yeah, I can imagine. So, I mean, you think about it, there's always the laughing about toilet paper and the lack of toilet paper everywhere. It's probably sitting inside all of these schools and buildings that have been shut down and in these major, large roles that you know, that fit into this big apparatus that are in these big buildings and and the supply chain has not been able to react to that quickly enough to be able to be more so in grocery stores and convenience stores rather than, rather than in the supply chain going into people's works workplaces and to, into their home. I mean, not their homes, their schools. So it's definitely a huge shift for so many businesses to be able to handle that. So, yeah, the food supply and all kinds of other things. We were actually looking at trying to order a case of toilet paper from Uline.

Sally Hendrick (18:58):

I don't know if you've ever heard of Uline, but Uline is something where my husband orders boxes and other types of materials, packing materials. They also have large, like super duper Costco size of, you know, of other things that you would supply your building with. You know, your, he has a furniture studio and so he's got a workshop in the back and so it's a very commercial type operation. And so he, because he orders from that company they're not allowing anyone to who's not already a customer to order certain things. But he went in to try to order a case of the toilet paper and he couldn't do it.

Elizabeth Antony (19:43):

Wow. Really?

Sally Hendrick (19:45):

Yeah, he couldn't. And I'm like, you know, we could order like some of those big, big rolls and just be like, look, I got my toilet paper and this really massive roll that you see at the airport. But, but he couldn't, he couldn't even order that. And, anyway, I thought that was interesting.

Elizabeth Antony (20:06):

It is interesting. Yeah.

Sally Hendrick (20:08):

So as far as, we've talked through, you know, a lot of the college concerns and then we've talked through some of the medical and food supply concerns. And then what about the fact that if somebody got sick right now in the family, wouldn't that be a scary thing to have to go to the hospital or to an urgent care center?

Elizabeth Antony (20:32):

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. The exposure at this point for myself or, or other one of my my kids would be a significant significant risk and above, you know, above average. We're, we're all considered high risk people. And the other concern I've had is, you know telling my son, you know, be careful, let's just be super, super careful about what you're eating because if when somebody lives with a life threatening food allergy if you eat something and have a reaction, you of course react with epinephrin. But the next step after that is being transported by ambulance to the hospital for monitoring. And and so that's another concern. This is not a place that we want to end up at this point due to you know, an honest mistake when you're eating something. So there's a couple layers to it and and we just have to be, you know, very, very vigilant and and so far so good.

Sally Hendrick (21:36):

Good. And let's keep it that way. Absolutely. We're the same way. We've, we've been on some walks as a family a couple times and I twisted my foot one day and I was like, okay, I'm not going to do that again, so I'm not going to be stepping in the mud anymore, you know, on this trail. So we decided that, you know, sidewalks and other places where really no one's around are a little bit safer. Pretty careful. I'm not running, that's for sure cause I've no running, no running, just walking, trying not to trip on nothing. No. Yup. That's to top of rules. So before we wrap up, what about the hopes that you have of what could come out of this?

Elizabeth Antony (22:29):

You know, it's interesting. So, you know, I mentioned before, I think this is the time of incredible societal revolution or potential societal revolution. And I, you know, I, I mean that kind of a a peaceful, I not hope, you know, hopefully complete, complete change. Maybe rebirth is a better word. I, I, I guess I see two sides of the coin, particularly when I think about higher ed. I worry about widening the Gulf of disparity between, you know, the students who are considered haves and have nots with this certainly. But I also think that if people are able and willing to be creative thinkers, we could create new models. We could keep the traditional model of traditional college in place whenever that is safe to resume. But at this point, could we take advantage of a hybrid model or you know, as we talked about before, the online model there's going to be such

Elizabeth Antony (23:34):

A new set of needs born from this. And even among students who are currently enrolled in certain, in certain colleges where they were freshman year, if they're a junior, the landscape is different probably for not only them but their family. And I, I hope that the goal of continuity of education is going to be a priority for for schools. I think some schools it certainly will be as much as possible, but I would love to see new models introduced, kind of, you know, throw anything against the wall to keep these kids engaged, enrolled and continuing to learn because that's the goal. Well, however that happens, however that model can proceed. But I do worry about that the separation becoming even even wider because there will be a handful of people who will be able to continue on in their original charted course. And and the goal for, you know, higher education is to kind of broaden your horizons, right? And to engage with a multitude and to experience adulthood on an in a diverse and exciting way. I worry that that's going to be more difficult unless we engage these new models.

Sally Hendrick (24:52):

Yeah. Well, I think that that's gonna have to happen. And it would also extend that opportunity to people who cannot afford to go to college now because if they can, if they can log in online, look how many more scholarships could be given. Look how many more. You know, things can be done to mitigate the costs of living in the Northeast for example. It's much more expensive to live there than it is in the South. Or in some, you know, in the Midwest as well. So we're looking at so many potential things to reach other students that otherwise, and I think it will happen even in our traditional, you know, education growing up, you know, in our elementary schools and middle schools and high schools and all of that can really steer towards a new direction, which would be very interesting and challenging in the upcoming years.

Elizabeth Antony (25:52):

It would be great to see the playing field leveled in terms of education across the board, starting from early childhood all the way on up. I mean, that's obviously something that we all know or most of us know that needs to needs to happen. And I think the schools, especially the private institutions you know, they're in the business of selling, right? These intangibles, the experience, the, you know, X, Y, Z university or college experience. And I think they're gonna really need to reevaluate that and figure out how that experience can be translated into different models because if they don't and they don't have a huge endowment that they're sitting on that could spell ruin for these schools. And so the creative thinkers are going to be the ones who come out of this, I think least.

Sally Hendrick (26:41):

Do you think also a lot of the moving into, back to the food part, do you think also there's hope in having better access to these types of foods that are needed for people with allergies because, you know, the online grocery thing is going to become more prevalent?

Elizabeth Antony (27:07):

It depends. It depends. The specialty foods are expensive and, and somewhat difficult to make. They need separate lines to be certified. As you know, whatever, allergen free. So at this point, unless these large, you know, conglomerates like Mondelez or, you know, one of them is willing to kind of put the money into that. I worry about these little brands disappearing. The ones that I use most frequently are these, you know, kind of mom and pop sort of organizations and where they're, you know, and generally these people have started these companies born out of personal experience. So unless they get absorbed into a larger conglomerate or there's a company called Enjoy Life, which has been absorbed into Mondelez and they're great, but they only make, you know, cookies and things like that. And there's so many, there's so many more needs you know, for food. Yeah. So I mean it's an opportunity, but is it, you know, are we, you know, food allergy people, are we a significant enough part of the population to have that be worth their, their while financially right now? I don't know.

Sally Hendrick (28:19):

Well, I can definitely go online and tell you how many people on Facebook are involved. Yeah, when it comes to food allergies, I could give you an audience size in the US alone or anywhere in the world. Really. Yeah.

Elizabeth Antony (28:34):

You know, it's a significant group. But food allergy you know, food allergy food is expensive. It's really expensive and twice the cost of you know a bag of Oreos versus an Enjoy Life cookie box and it's about half the amount. And so you know, they're, they're marketed to people who you know, just have more money and a lot of people just kind of roll the dice when it comes to food allergies because it's so significant. It's just so expensive. So I'm hopeful. I'm absolutely hopeful, always. I've been in the food allergy world for 20 years and I've seen tremendous improvements in those 20 years. But there's still a lot, a long way to go.

Sally Hendrick (29:21):

Maybe you could advise on that one day, so I don't know.

Elizabeth Antony (29:26):

Who knows? Maybe. So

Sally Hendrick (29:28):

Your nose. Yeah. Well, you know that the entrepreneurial world has also become a completely different thing because of the online digital world that I live in every day. So you never know. You may be able that we may be able to see something like that come to fruition sooner rather than later. All right. Well, anything else that you want to add to the discussion before we go?

Elizabeth Antony (29:52):

No, I think, I think we covered a lot of ground.

Sally Hendrick (29:54):

Yeah, I think so too. All right, well thank you Elizabeth, and that's all for today and I look forward to hearing from you if any updates come about. Okay.

Elizabeth Antony (30:06):

Absolutely. Thanks for your time, Sally. I appreciate it.

Sally Hendrick (30:08):

Thank you.

Sally Hendrick (30:17):

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