The process of applying to college can be overwhelming during the best of times. So, one would think doing it as a deadly pandemic rages on around us would be a Herculean task.

But thanks to GuidED Consulting LLC, based in Mahopac, it might have actually gotten a little easier.

When Dr. Deborah Hardy formed the business four years ago, she started as the “mobile school counselor,” visiting students in their homes. Then, as the business grew, she opened her brick-and-motor location on Route 6. Now, with students stuck quarantining at home and college campuses shuttered, Hardy has adapted to online virtual guidance and the results, she says, have been better than ever. 

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The idea behind GuidED, says Hardy, a veteran school counselor with 27 years’ experience, is to help students explore their skills, and plan their high school academics and activities to connect with their interests. All components that guide the college process. Her business motto is, “Counseling with a heart because it’s all about the student!”

The admissions landscape changed because of the pandemic. All students are online, obtaining pass/fail and without extracurricular activities. “Previously, the college selection process focused on building a list based on grade point average, test scores, etc.”  “We therefore established a stronger self-discovery opportunity for students aligned with the new application question: How did the pandemic impact the student?”  “An opportunity to highlight meaningful learning.”

She said with students now stuck at home, there has been an opportunity to focus on “what sparks a student’s interest” outside the normal school routine creating more well-rounded students. “We continue to build a personalized list with specific college resources matching what is important for them.”

Hardy said the students now have a different schedule with free time. She steers them toward free online courses where they can learn a topic to develop a new skill to add to their resumes. 

“It really makes them brand themselves better,” she explained. “Colleges like to use the terms ‘context’ and ‘authenticity.’ This can show the context— who this student is and what they are passionate about. I sent out ideas for the students to get engaged outside their classroom work. I posed questions that would let them reflect on their future purpose. They shared they wanted to learn about business, medicine, photography, or create a blog. A year ago, students did not have time for these enriching opportunities that enhance their application process.”

She also connected with current college students who were stuck at home and had them share their current college experiences. 

“We did 25 presentations in just the month of March using Zoom,” she said. “We had a students narrating aerial tours of the campus while explaining the campus layout, activities and personal experience transitioning to college. It was excellent.” We had presentations about Quinnipiac, High Point, University of Miami, Bucknell, Northeastern, Ohio State, USC and more.”

But through it all, GuidED still maintains its core services.

“We still keep doing the college application process,” Hardy said. “That hasn’t gone away.” 

By June, Hardy says her students will have a personalized college list, teacher recommendations, essay, resume, and supplement questions complete as well as the application. 

“We were able to offer online college essay and scholarship workshops to accommodate more students,” she said. “By getting ready earlier, students can relax this summer! We take pride in our commitment to assisting our clients.”

To help students with their professional resumes, Marnie Piazza has joined the GuidED staff. Piazza is an experienced writer and editor with a broad background in resume development, college essay support, and copywriting. She focuses on crafting results-driven, creative, and strategic content. 

One benefit of the quarantine that Hardy realized was that students could be less emotional about what college they select without having to cope with outside influences and pressure.

“The college process is emotional, she said, because of student set expectations of their college experience,” Hardy said. “Through new formats, the college experience definition has expanded. Students go on websites and do live admission information sessions or attend student panel presentations with the school. They watch videos and get more specific information on internships, research, or student activities. You have webinars from professors on different topics or you can audit classes remotely. This technology is giving a different perspective of the college selection experience.”

Hardy got her BA in sociology from Rider University. She worked as a director of school counseling and in admissions at Dominican College as well as Berkeley College in White Plains. She is a member of the National Association for College Admissions, and the Independent Educational Consultant Association.

To learn more about GuidED and how Dr. Hardy and her staff can make the college application process smoother and less stressful, call 845-628-0726, or visit guidedconsult.com.