Middle school parent Alicia Perla, who is shadowing director of college counseling Jane Bauman this year. (Photo courtesy of Perla)

Parent shadows director of college counseling to gain exposure to application process

The school’s college counseling program has expanded its horizons this year with director Jane Bauman taking an apprentice.

Middle school parent Alicia Perla is shadowing Bauman in the hopes of becoming a college counselor herself.

Perla, who has two daughters at Country Day (Simone DeBerry, ’23, and Cecilia DeBerry, ’25) said she has been considering becoming a college counselor for a while. When she saw a flyer for one of Country Day’s college counseling workshops, she said she thought it might be a great way to gain some exposure to the field.

Perla, formerly a lawyer, said she has always been intrigued by the possibility of working in academia.

“I thought it might be interesting to work at a university or college,” Perla said. “But as I thought more about what I enjoyed, (I realized) I wanted interactions with young people, and I was looking for something in an advisory role.”

Perla said she spent some time last year talking to her niece, then a high school junior, about the application process.

“I started helping her out, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is what I was thinking in terms of what I wanted to do next,’” Perla said.

Perla proposed the idea of gaining exposure in college counseling to head of school Lee Thomsen, who was “receptive” to the idea.

Thomsen then referred her to Bauman.

“We decided she would start shadowing me in the fall,” Bauman said. “That’s when things really gear up.

“She started right when all the seniors started, and she’ll see the class through the end of the year.”

According to Bauman, Perla’s decision to shadow “has worked out great.”

“She is interested in exploring the career of college counseling, and she wanted to test it out before pursuing training,” Bauman said. “She came to the college application workshops in August, and she has come to as many college visits as she can.”

Bauman said the experience has been mutually beneficial.

“Sometimes, when I have my hands full, she will actually manage the college visit for me,” Bauman said. “I work well with her, and it’s been helpful just to have an extra pair of hands.”

Bauman said Perla is also working on revising the college counseling department’s summer program database, as well as other small projects that Bauman has needed assistance on.

Although Bauman doesn’t have specific lessons to teach Perla, the director said her apprentice is learning a lot through the various college visits she has attended.

“We go through a range of questions about the application procedures,” Bauman said.

These include the majors offered at different schools and the financial means and merit scholarship programs available.

Bauman said once students have given Perla permission to view their applications, Perla can also help proofread them and provide feedback.

“She was there to answer our questions during the UC (University of California) and CSU (California State University) application workshop,” senior Brandy Riziki said. “She also helped me proofread my CSU application during C-day meeting.”

Along with gaining experience in college counseling, Perla said she hoped to confirm that she wanted to enter the field.

“The idea of doing something and the reality of doing it can be very different,” Perla said. “And while the idea was very appealing, and it seemed to fit what I was looking for, I wanted to make sure that I saw all aspects of it. And so far, it has met my expectations.”

Perla said she has also learned about the college application process.

“It has been a long time since (I applied) to college, and things have changed a lot,” Perla said.

In addition to gaining exposure to different applications and application processes, Perla said the college visits have been “incredibly helpful” because she has heard about colleges with which she was previously unfamiliar.

“Bauman has made a real effort to be inclusive and to keep me up to date on what’s going on,” Perla said.

Perla said keeping track of the many colleges that have visited has been one of the most difficult aspects of the experience.

“They tend to blend together,” Perla said. “Keeping the programs available at different schools and the school’s personalities separate may be challenging going forward. There are just so many of them.”

Perla said she hopes to use the skills she has gained at Country Day to work or volunteer at an organization similar to Breakthrough, which helps students at under-resourced schools.

“Working with students, trying to keep track of different information and keeping up to date on what’s available will come in handy,” Perla said.

“(There are) all of these little pieces you don’t know about (college counseling) until someone with experience explains them.”

Perla is also considering a variety of college counseling certifications and a master’s degree.

Perla said that although she has enjoyed working with Bauman, she doesn’t know if she will continue for the rest of the year. It will depend on the school’s needs and whether Perla finds a volunteer position that interests her.

—By Anna Frankel

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