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Just about everyone knows someone who has been bullied, in ways big and small. Understandably, though, many victims are reluctant to speak about their experiences. We found some who aren't.
BY ELLEN PHAM, Chamberlain High
“On behalf of the College Board, I am pleased to offer you a place on the Advisory Panel on Student Concerns.”
With that one sentence, I was rendered speechless. I felt like Harry Potter when Hagrid told him he was a wizard. Are you serious? They picked me? I couldn’t believe it, even after rereading my email over and over for a solid 10 minutes, and pinching myself on the arm just in case. Even today, in the first year of my term, I’m still in disbelief.
In June of my sophomore year, my guidance counselor nominated me to be a student representative for the College Board, the organization that manages the SAT and AP testing programs and other aspects of college admissions and becomes a household word for college bound students. I knew about the College Board, of course; it was the name on my SpringBoard college preparatory book. But once I researched the organization further, I realized what a powerhouse it is in higher education. Excited at the thought of being involved with such an influential group, I wrote an essay and filled out the application. I knew it was competitive; they only choose a handful of rising juniors in the United States.
Since 1978, the College Board has selected students to serve on its 16-member advisory panel for three-year terms. The panel members ensure the student voice is heard in all College Board deliberations, which is pretty amazing, considering what a chunk of influence the College Board has on students’ lives. If any of us miss a meeting, we’re not only hurting the College Board but also the millions of students we represent.
After the first year, panel members are assigned to one of the College Board’s national assembly councils: the Academic Assembly, the College Scholarship Service Assembly or the Guidance and Admission Assembly. These councils are made up of educators and professionals and gather in either New York or Reston, Va. One of the best parts about being a student representative is that the College Board covers travel and lodging expenses. This usually means I get to travel, stay at luxurious hotels and eat at fancy restaurants for free.
We recently changed our name from Advisory Panel on Student Concerns to Advisory Panel on Student Opportunity (APSO); it’s supposed to sound more uplifting. In addition to the assembly meetings, there are two major meetings a year that we’re required to attend: the Forum and the AP Annual Conference. They’re held in large, metropolitan cities and are great opportunities to meet new people and for the entire APSO to catch up after going to assembly meetings in pairs.
Last year I went to Miami for the Forum and Virginia for the College Scholarship Service Assembly. Both conferences were simply amazing. At one APSO session, college admissions representatives asked us questions to learn how students actually felt about different aspects of admissions such as visiting a college campus, testing and student outreach. I was nervous at first, but it was flattering to see how interested and engaged the audience was. Something good to note: The people reading your college essays and teachers’ recommendations really do care about you. They try their best to make the process as easy as possible and want to get the most relevant information to you. So when you’re browsing your email, don’t just skim over a message from a college you applied to; it probably has some important details you need to know.
I’ve tried to remember that everyone I speak to during College Board events is important, but I still can’t help but be amazed when I find out I’m talking to senior admissions officials for some of the best colleges in the country. During a meeting in Virginia, another panel member and I were having dinner with the members of an assembly council. Here I am, gabbing on and on about the best movies I’ve ever seen as the movie critic for tb-two*, sharing my opinions way honestly. I later find out I was rubbing elbows with the former dean of undergraduate admissions and current director of financial aid at Stanford, and chatting with top associates at Reed College and Notre Dame.
Being part of APSO has been such an informative and enriching experience; I’ve genuinely loved every second. Most students see the College Board as an enigma. I’ll admit, I did too. But even worse, some see the College Board as something bad. Once, I wore a College Board T-shirt to school and was met with sneers from strangers, and even some of my friends recoiled. To some extent, I understand; they blame the College Board when they purchase SAT preparation books and wait in agony for AP scores.
It’s unlikely they’ll ever get the exposure to the College Board that I’ll have. They’ll never see the faces of the teachers who go to workshops to upgrade high school curriculum. They’ll never know the numerous hours college professionals and the APSO spend at meetings to improve the educational experience.
They’ll never witness the passion and dedication the people at the College Board have for their students.
But it would be nice to walk down school halls wearing my College Board shirt and have the students around me cheer instead of wince.