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PCACAC's 2024 Conference - Should You Attend It?

College counselors play an integral role in bridging the gap between students’ high school and college lives, ensuring a smooth transition process. They take a significant amount of stress and the burden of finding a good college off of students’ shoulders and help them build a strong college profile, assist with test preparation, create college lists that align with their interests, provide financial aid resources, career counseling, and much more.


If you are an independent education consultant (IEC or counselor henceforth), you need to make sure you’re constantly learning, up-to-date on the evolving education sector, and aware of the latest news and developments. A great way to do this is by joining a professional organization for counselors: these organizations hold events that help you expand your network, meet with college admission representatives, attend workshops and seminars that teach you new skills, and help you gain new insights into your chosen profession. 


An organization worth considering is the Potomac & Chesapeake Association for College Admission Counseling (PCACAC). Here, we will explore what the organization is, what it offers, deep-dive into its annual conference, who can join, and whether it’s worth it!


What is the PCACAC?

The Potomac & Chesapeake Association for College Admission Counseling (PCACAC) is a professional association dedicated to college counselors who help high school students transition to higher education. Founded in 1964, PCACAC is a chartered affiliate of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and serves Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. PCACAC, like other organizations for counselors, offers services and activities that include webinars, workshops, seminars, mentorship opportunities, and annual conferences that bring together counselors, admission officers, financial aid representatives, and others.


What will the PCACAC conference include?

The PCACAC conference is a multi-day event that sees college counselors, financial aid officers, college admission representatives, K-12 school principals, and other education stakeholders converge to network and learn from each other. The conference includes an exhibition area for schools and colleges to advertise their courses and offerings, breakout sessions, workshops, lectures, local college tours, awards ceremonies, and informal networking opportunities (scheduled breakfasts, brunch meetings, etc).


Where will PCACAC’s 2024 conference be held?

The 2024 conference will take place in Norfolk, Virginia, from April 14-16.

Who can attend the conference?


The conference is open to PCACAC members, non-members, students, and counseling graduate students. 


How much does it cost to attend?

Based on past conferences, PCACAC members pay $300-$325 to attend all days while non-members pay $350. Retired counselors and students pay $275 to attend. 


PCACAC also offers exceptional counselors scholarships to attend the conference free of cost. The Marion Flagg Scholarship, worth $600, is offered to counselors who work with at-risk students and those from underrepresented communities. The burse includes one year of PCACAC membership, conference registration, and hotel lodging for the duration of the event. PCACAC members, colleges, vendors, and others can also opt to sponsor a counselor for $175, covering a single day’s access to the conference.


How do I become a PCACAC member?

Individual memberships for a calendar year cost $55, while institutional memberships (for 4+ people) cost between $220 and $715, depending on the number of members within an institution. IECs, retired counselors, college and school administrators, corporate organizations, non-profits, and post-secondary institutions can avail of PCACAC membership. 


As a member, you can avail professional development opportunities, post and search for job opportunities, earn continuing education credits (CEUs), network, and more.


What are the benefits of becoming a PCACAC member?

In addition to the annual conference, you can avail of numerous professional development opportunities as a PCACAC member:


  • Drive-in workshops: These range from 75 minutes to up to one day, covering topics like admission ethics, communication skills, mock admission committees, and offering networking opportunities. Recent drive-in workshops include drafting good recommendation letters and discussions on the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision. 

  • PCACAC Summer Institute: This is an annual, two-day program for new and mid-level counselors that includes training, networking, and leadership development opportunities. The program’s faculty includes professionals from colleges and schools in PCACAC areas, including Georgetown University, the University of Maryland, and more. PCACAC members pay $330 and non-members $375. 

  • Webinar certificate programs: PCACAC offers members the Leadership Education Webinar Certificate Program to aid professional development. Through seven online sessions, you learn about pathways to leadership in community colleges and secondary institutions, understand how admission offices work, the different skills needed to work there, and how to find a specialization in admissions. You can also learn about how to open an independent practice and dive deep into different professional organizations that support counselors.   

  • Online workshops: PCACAC’s Lunch & Learn Virtual Workshops series offers hour-long sessions that cover topics like helping high school seniors choose a college, using data to find college programs, helping students create college lists, understanding how high school students think, and many more.

  • Mentorship: The Ann Powell Mentor Program connects PCACAC members with 5+ years of counseling experience with less experienced counselors, Mentors share insights into the day-to-day demands of a college counselor, provide networking opportunities and share strategies, help build professional confidence, and aid in any other areas of need.  


What are the pros and cons of joining the PCACAC?

Pros: 

  1. You can attend the annual conference The PCACAC conference is a great place to network with other counselors, school principals, admission and financial aid representatives, and other education stakeholders. You can also attend skill-building workshops, talks, and breakout sessions that touch upon issues relevant to the profession.

  2. You can avail of multiple professional development opportunities PCACAC offers its members learning opportunities that range from hour-long virtual sessions to multi-day training sessions. You can opt for an online certificate program, attend their summer institute, and even register for a workshop during your lunch break. PCACAC offers something for everyone, depending on your availability.

  3. You can learn from more experienced counselors Through the membership program, you can connect with senior counselors and count on them to guide you through the early years of your counseling career. You can use your mentor for professional development, to network, and to help with any difficulties you may have. 

  4. You don’t have to pay too much to become a member Compared to other professional organizations for counselors, PCACAC membership is reasonably priced. It costs $55 for an individual membership. In comparison, membership in organizations like the American School Counselor’s Association costs $129 and has more barriers to entry.


Cons:

  1. It may not give you the same networking opportunities as national conferences While the conference is an excellent way to gain region-specific knowledge, you may not be able to engage with a national network of IECs at this conference alone. 


Our review — is PCACAC worth joining?

If you live in one of the states where PCACAC is active, becoming a member is a sound opportunity to expand your network and learn new skills. PCACAC offers its members access to an annual conference that brings together the different stakeholders in the education sector, you can make use of the many professional development opportunities on offer, and join the mentorship program if you’re a young counselor. What’s more, PCACAC membership is significantly cheaper than other professional organizations!



Bonus — the Lumiere Research Scholar Program!

If you’d like to recommend a rigorous research program open to high schoolers, you may want to consider the Lumiere Research Scholar Program, a selective online high school program for students founded by researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here. You can also reach out to us at contact@lumiere.education to know more, or to have a chat about possible collaborations!


Also check out the Lumiere Research Inclusion Foundation, a non-profit research program for talented, low-income students. Last year, we had 150 students on full need-based financial aid!


Kieran Lobo is a freelance writer from India, who currently teaches English in Spain. 


Image Source: PCACAC logo


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