Susan McCarter, Director of College Guidance, helps GPS girls take their next surefooted steps
When a girl enters her freshman year at GPS, she’s not the only one considering her future as she selects classes, signs up for clubs and service work, and/or joins a varsity sports team. Susan McCarter, Director of College Guidance, ensures that a girl’s vision extends beyond the walls of the school and into college and career paths.
Whereas college guidance and planning for life after GPS once began in a student’s junior year, now McCarter and her team, in cooperation with faculty and staff, begin working with students during the freshman year, giving them early exposure to the process and how they’ll be regarded as prospective candidates.
The world of college admissions has become complex, as the focus in higher education ebbs and flows. Admission is increasingly competitive, with many factors influencing which students are accepted into each incoming class.
Since her start as the GPS/McCallie Coordinator and soon after to Director of College Guidance, McCarter continues to evolve and help students adapt to the steadily changing college admissions landscape.
A former English teacher and voracious reader, McCarter says a past colleague introduced her to the world of college admissions. She started in the fall of 1998, two years after her daughter, now GPS teacher Jordan McCarter ’96, graduated.
“I enjoy both the travel and the writing, and I like the idea of helping students figure out what they want the next four years of their lives to look like,” McCarter says. She and her team write letters of recommendation for each girl, many of whom get additional recommendations from teachers.
Head of Upper School Jenise Gordon appreciates the time, detail, and personal attention McCarter provides students. In addition to meeting with students individually, McCarter and her department also lead a summer essay workshop and application boot camp for rising seniors. Through the process, students hone interviewing skills, work through the Common Application, and later rework their essays with input from their English teachers.
“She goes above and beyond with professional development and is well-known in the college counseling community,” Gordon says. McCarter served as past-president and as a board member of the Southern Association of College Admission Counselors and was a past delegate to the National Association committee.
McCarter dedicates time to visiting colleges coast to coast and planning student trips, including a regular Winterim experience for girls to visit schools in different areas of the United States.
“Susan has seen the college admissions process change in her time here,” Gordon says. “She’s remained a steady presence and has evolved to best serve our girls in the changing climate of college acceptance.”
The Best School for You
A common conversation McCarter shares with students and their parents is that there are more possibilities than they’ve considered—and schools they’ve never heard of.
“We start big, looking at the entire country, and work our way down,” McCarter says. “It’s always about the future and talking with girls about what is possible. It’s rewarding to sit down with a girl and let her dream—and each girl is different.”
McCarter takes a vested interest in the girls’ getting into the right college. She’s pained when a student doesn’t get in to her first choice. Similarly, she’s excited when girls come back from college and affirm that they’re meant to be at the school they ultimately chose.
Her daughter, Jordan, echoes the same sentiment. “She encourages girls to look at schools that are different and that broaden their horizons, but she’s most concerned about each girl finding the right fit,” she says.
Which school does Susan McCarter think is best? In her words, “The best one for you.”