Stephanie Nicolard assumes temporary position as college guidance counselor


Photo credit: Tavi Memoli

Stephanie Nicolard works with junior Danika Jhawar and her family on Zoom to discuss their college process. Nicolard was chosen to temporarily fill the position of college guidance counselor in December.

By Tavi Memoli, Senior Reporter

The college guidance department underwent a major shift December 2022 during the height of the college process for the class of 2023. College counselor Shanell Leggins left Archer for personal reasons. As a result, English teacher and senior class dean Stephanie Nicolard temporarily assumed her position while Archer conducts a search for a full-time counselor.

Nicolard has been at Archer for five years, and she teaches eighth and ninth grade English to students. She now works alongside Director of College Guidance Ivan Hauck, who said when the two began working together, he was overjoyed by her abundant knowledge of the college process.

“The couple meetings that I have sat in on she’s actually surprised me with how much college knowledge she has in terms of different schools and summer programs,” Hauck said. “Her background working at a private school and working at residential college schools allows her to have a breadth and depth of knowledge that I think most college counselors, interestingly, don’t have.”

Hauck said the importance of a counselor’s role on campus is being a support system for students and a resource for connection and knowledge. He said he has appreciated his experience collaborating with Nicolard.

“A dream, truly. The fact that she’s an English teacher — the fact that she’s the senior dean — the fact that she knows Archer so well and has such amazing connections with students and families has made this process and this transition, which can sometimes be really hard for schools, feel fairly seamless,” Hauck said.

Although Nicolard had a college guidance counselor in high school, she said her school’s support system for college-bound students was weak. She said her process was not one-on-one in the way it is at Archer. She described it as impersonal and more of a formality, rather than an actual relationship. She said what influenced her to hold the position as college counselor was the impact of this shortage of support as a first-generation college student. 

The college experience is very stressful. I don’t think she can magically take all that away, but she’s done a really good job of making all of her students feel very comfortable and excited for the process.

— Sylvie Olmstead ('24)

“The biggest thing that influenced me to be interested in this type of work is that I was a first-generation college student, and when I went to college, I felt like there was a lot that I didn’t know. I wish that I had had someone to guide me through the process and give me more information about what to expect,” Nicolard said. “I was attracted to working in the college guidance office because I could help students who are also first-generation students or students who need to find their footing.”

Nicolard said she believes it’s important to be kind, knowledgable, empathetic and a good communicator as a counselor working with students preparing for college.

“I think that it’s important to be warm. It’s important to be friendly. It’s important to be able to see someone for who they really are,” Nicolard said. “It’s important to be organized to have knowledge of the different colleges and universities, not just in the United States, but around the world. And like for any position in the 21st century, it’s important to be a good communicator.”

Nicolard is junior Sylvie Olmstead’s college counselor, and they had their first meeting together in January. After her meeting with Nicolard, Olmstead said she helped ease her into the college process and made it less overwhelming.

“I was really stressed beforehand. I have a lot of siblings, and I have a few in college and some expectations to live up to. After going in depth with Mr. Hauck and Ms. Nicolard, I’m still stressed about getting into colleges, but I feel more confident about choices in colleges and the selection that I have,” Olmstead said. “The college experience is very stressful. I don’t think she can magically take all that away, but she’s done a really good job of making all of her students feel very comfortable and excited for the process.”

Olmstead said Nicolard’s insight has opened her eyes to abounding opportunities for her future. She said she became aware of Nicolard’s expertise following a gradewide meeting about the college process led by Nicolard herself.

“What makes her a good fit for her position is she’s really knowledgeable, and I really like that. I was a bit hesitant when I first heard that she was the college counselor because she’d been my English teacher. I saw her as an English teacher,” Olmstead said. “Right after the presentation she did not with just me but with the whole grade, I was really confident in her abilities. She’s really smart, and she’s very articulate. She’s my teacher so she knows a bit about my writing style, which helped me with my essay. She’s very well read, knowledgeable, and I’m really happy that I have her.”