Beyond the Classroom

Abigail poses at an event with a handwritten sign that says "I advise because my students deserve to make informed decisions about their futures!"

As a member of the Michigan College Advising Corps (MCAC), Abigail Barondess serves as a college advisor for 300 seniors at Ottawa High School in Grand Rapids, MI. A 2019 University of Michigan alum, she graduated with a major in neuroscience and a minor in Community Action and Social Change (CASC). Abigail’s service learning experience through the Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program was her inspiration for joining MCAC.

Now, Abigail enjoys the constantly evolving nature of college advising and being able to engage with students one-on-one. As an MCAC college adviser, one of her primary goals is to improve her school’s college-going culture. This is why she treats individual meetings with students as an opportunity to build their self-confidence and reduce pressure caused by misconceptions about the college experience, especially the idea that students’ futures should be “mapped out” and align with rigid standards or timelines.

The Michigan College Advising Corps (MCAC) is a diverse group of recent University of Michigan graduates working full-time as college advisers in under-served high schools throughout Michigan. Advisers help students navigate every aspect of the college-going process and identify their personal best fit among various post-secondary options.

She also helps students build transferable and self-advocacy skills. After the final bell rings for the day, Abigail can be found on the court, working with the school’s basketball team, or supporting her students at sporting events and other activities. Regardless of whether it is a field, court, classroom, or stage, Abigail is always trying to support students in different areas of their lives.

After the start of the pandemic, this meant finding new ways to provide holistic support, especially once in-person learning was canceled and replaced with virtual. This unexpected change left students, advisors, and teachers trying to adjust to a new landscape of learning and interaction that depended solely on digital technology.

For Abigail, this meant finding ways to move college advising activities online while still providing the same sense of presence, engagement, and support. While she found it meaningful in new ways and it led to positive advancements, the transition has been challenging, especially because it created new gaps in many students’ access to basic necessities. Despite this, Abigail is ultimately proud of the school’s efforts to prioritize essential student needs and sees an opportunity in this difficult time: a chance to have important conversations about how schools can support all aspects of students’ lives and how she can contribute towards this effort through college advising.

Abigail served as a college adviser from 2019-2021 and she filled in at Ottawa’s Early Middle College this past year. She has continued to see her MCAC experience as transformative and plans to attend graduate school so she can further study educational equity. Once she moves on to her next chapter, she hopes future MCAC advisors will remember that past advisors are always there to support them.