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Listen to That Inner Voice

Listen to That Inner Voice
Ellen Evans, Associate Director of College Counseling

With the opening of the newly renovated Upper School Building, I can’t help but consider my own progression at Dana Hall. I set foot in the “old” building only once, when I interviewed for my job two years ago. I’m not certain what prompted me to pursue a change, but the role at Dana Hall was intriguing and I followed my inner voice. I am so glad I took the leap. 

Similarly, over the last few months, the Dana Hall campus has been bustling with students on the brink of change — new students who will be joining the Dana Hall community in the fall, first year students and sophomores considering course selections that will help shape their interests and skills, juniors who are just beginning to contemplate life after Dana and seniors who are finalizing their next steps after graduation. 

As college counselors, we encourage students to listen to that inner voice as they consider future pathways. Earlier this spring, we met individually with sophomores, talking through immediate and long term academic goals alongside conversations about extracurricular engagement. By asking follow up questions and nudging them to dig deeper beyond the “what,” we challenge students to look inward and consider how the two work in tandem, at once trusting their instincts in finding balance and also conjuring up the confidence to push themselves further in areas of interest. While building a strong academic foundation is pivotal, it is equally important that they explore life beyond academia, learning who they are beyond the role of student. In essence, we help them to cultivate the “why.”

Throughout junior year — in Forum, during events such as Junior College Day, Testing and Financial Aid Nights, and in individual meetings — we lend our own expertise, as well as fold in the voices of our colleagues in college admissions. We not only spend time on the nuts and bolts of the college process, but also encourage discussion and introspection. While we want to ensure our students are maximizing their resources in the classroom — talking with their teachers and learning from their peers — we also want to be sure they are also taking time to learn valuable skills such as collaboration, creativity and leadership. We embolden them to tap into their curiosity as the driving force behind these initiatives. We remind them that it’s the individual choices, whether selecting senior year courses or pursuing extracurricular activities, that make them human. 

As seniors apply to college and make decisions about life beyond Dana, we empower them to lean into that inner voice, trusting the groundwork they have laid to get them to this point, in order to make intentional choices and carve out a unique and meaningful pathway. 

While following a prescribed track may feel easier at times, we remind our students to trust their instincts and create their own distinct story. To find inspiration, all they need to do is look around at the humans exhibiting bravery and pushing their boundaries everyday at Dana Hall. Dana students are continuously reaching further — developing customer service skills working at a local ice cream shop, discovering the magic of theater, either on stage or behind the scenes, trying out for softball for the first time, delving into the new data science class, or moving halfway around the world to engage in the Dana Hall community. Similarly, we are surrounded by faculty and staff who carve time out of their robust school lives to engage in new experiences — from sailing, to filmmaking, to teaching fitness, to running marathons.  

In many ways, I see all of us in the new iteration of the Upper School Building. The unknown can conjure up uncertainty, but ultimately growth is essential and exciting. It’s our foundation, that inner voice, that supports us in transition and keeps us centered as we progress and move forward. 


College Counselors lead Forum classes in the second half of Junior year.