Full disclosure: I’m a Philadelphia Eagles fan.
No, not that kind.
I’m the respectful, stoic kind that wears my green gear with pride, only cursing division rivals under my breath when occasion demands. I cheer or cringe with every down, every week, even from two time zones away. For although Denver is my home, my hometown lies just outside Philly. The Eagles are my home team.
After witnessing an Eagles season filled with inspiring moments, generous athletes, and spirited end zone celebrations, we find ourselves here. Days away from what has eluded us for over half a century. Again.
It was during this most recent season that I recognized the parallels between my life as an Eagles fan and my career. Those same qualities intrinsic to Eagles fandom have, in fact, equipped me for college counseling.
Consider that as football season commences, so does the college application season. Yet all the hope of August begins to burn out by daylight savings time. It’s colder. Darker. Just like my fellow Eagles fans, seniors start to get antsy. By December, whether in college admissions or the NFL, the front-runners know they’re in. Fortunately for the rest of us, I am well versed in the art of:
My seniors haven’t experienced the years of patience-conditioning I have as an Eagles fan. The same words of solace and support I offer my seniors mirror what I tell myself throughout the Eagles season: You just have to wait and see. It is a process. No matter what happens, everything will be OK.
As the end of high school approaches, with all its trappings and traditions, the stakes feel very high. Knowing that some colleges are as stingy with acceptances as the NFL with Super Bowl rings doesn’t adequately prepare seniors for deferral or denial. Especially when, like it or not, their college acceptances are closely tied to their sense of self. Which is why we all need:
As a college counselor, things change from week to week. It comes with the territory of working with teens. Or colleges. Or teens applying to colleges.
Everyone loves an underdog, but it is challenging to actually be one. As a lifelong Eagles fan, that is all I have ever been. I have withstood disappointment and defeat. Year after year. Season after season.
I can speak from experience when counseling students that we are not defined by our wins and losses, our acceptances and denials. It is a journey. Improvement and success are measured by the distance we travel away from the place where we began.
Every year when August rolls around, optimism runs high. Everyone still has a shot. Although diluted with a healthy dose of caution, one emotion permeates the senior class with the same voracity as my fellow Eagles fans:
Hope that anything is possible. Hope that everyone will make it through safely. Hope that everything will all work out alright.
As a college counselor, I analyze the data and am conservative in my predictions. To do otherwise would be a disservice to my students. But as an Eagles fan, I still believe in the long shot. Something unexpected and exciting may lie ahead. (Cue “Miracle at the Meadowlands.”)
I grew up in a cultural fandom that wears our suspicion and superstition like a shield, yet where hope in the unexpected miracle — the unanticipated, improbable win — is felt in equal measure.
When I see that same spirit — that same hope — shining in my seniors’ eyes, I get it.
And I embrace it.
And I think,
Fly, Eagles Fly.
NACAC member Stephanie Santillo serves as the director of college counseling at Mullen High School (CO).