College Counselor Maureen Ferrell came to The Summit with 35 years of experience, but sees herself as a “work in progress” since starting anew. She was the chair of the counseling department at Walnut Hills High School — recognized by U.S. News and World Reports as one of the top 100 public high schools in the country. Business cards of college contacts across the country are neatly alphabetized in the top drawer of her desk in her new fourth-floor office with a view overlooking the Ohio River. A testament to her standing in college-counseling ranks, she was one of only 100 high school counselors and college representatives invited to attend the 2010 Fitzwilliam's Conference in Ringe, N.H. CareerQuest gave her their “Excellent School Counselor” award in 2009.
Trained as a personal counselor, she gets along well with teen-agers. College counseling seems the right fit to her. “I’m trying to find the best colleges for the personalities, interests, goals and what students want to do.” Harvard may be the right choice for some students but Mrs. Ferrell says her goal is not to put students in the best-known college that will accept them. “That’s where I do things differently than at other schools,” she says. She determines what teens want to do, in addition to academics, to give the balance in their lives. Students may be interested in guest speakers, the concert schedule, recreational opportunities or weekend travel spots. Many colleges have outstanding academic specialties that families do not learn about until they broaden their view from the “brand-name” schools, she says.
The most-used books on Ms. Ferrell’s shelf are the Fiske and Rugg’s college guides, but she doesn’t need them as she talks about campus towns. She has traveled extensively to colleges across the country and she sets aside extra time to explore the communities. “I know if it’s a safe community. I can say it is only a 15 minute ride here and you can do this. If you’re in Nashville and you’re going to Vanderbilt, I know that you can walk downtown because I walked downtown just to see how far it was for the kids.”
Ms. Ferrell said a little-known secret to success for Summit students is the teacher advisement program which pairs small groups of students with an individual teacher for their entire high school careers. Colleges representatives like to know prospective students are willing to seek help when they need it because their success may depend on it. The advisement program teaches Summit students to do just that. “Now if you can feel that secure in a high school, being an adolescent, being able to do that, can you imagine the advantage they have at the colleges when they need to ask the professor for extra help? From the college point of view, it’s great.”
“I firmly believe – this is nothing new and I really do believe this with all my heart -- it’s not necessarily where you go to school. It’s what you do when you get on that campus.”
College counselor. Began Summit in 2009-10. 35 years at Cincinnati Public Schools. B.S. in two fields and M.S., University of Cincinnati.
Lives in East Walnut Hills. Grew up in Blue Ash; graduated from Mount Notre Dame High School. Two adult children, Brian and Jamie. A Buckeyes fan, her license plate holder pays tribute to her son who is in the Navy Seabees.