A fortunate choice of seats helped bring Regan Buchanan to Polk County to serve as a college advisor.
Last Februry Buchanan was undergoing the four-hour process of meeting with personnel from various school districts across North Carolina. The face-to-face encounters are designed to help members of the Carolina College Advising Corps and school districts learn more about each other, the goal being to find the best match possible for the following school year.
Buchanan met with some 30 schools during the day. At one point she happened to sit down next to Polk County’s college advisor at the time, Matt Renn. Though Polk County wasn’t on Buchanan’s interview list, Renn suggested she talk with Polk County High principal Dr. Brandon Schweitzer.
After chatting with Renn and Schweitzer, Buchanan had a new destination in mind.
“I knew the people in Polk County were invested in the college advising process,” she said. “It was really nice to sit down with people who actually cared.
“After that, Polk County was my first choice.”
Polk County administrators felt the same about Buchanan, and she arrived in August as the successor to Renn. She’s spent the first few months of the school year getting integrated with the student bodies at both Polk County High School and Polk County Early College.
The Carolina College Advising Corps states its mission as helping “low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students find their way to colleges that will serve them well.” Advisors help students – all students, Buchanan notes – try to find their best post-high school option.
“I think there’s a misconception that the college advising program is only for four-year college-bound students,” Buchanan said. “My job is primarily for the kids who may have a two-year plan, if they have one at all, and have no idea what they’re going to do after they graduate.
“Mostly I’m just having conversations with them about what they want to do in life and what they want to be when they grow up. Depending on what they tell me determines what happens next.”
A 2018 graduate of the University of North Carolina with a double major in geography and global studies, Buchanan admits there’s been a lot of on-the-job learning in her new role.
“It’s definitely something no amount of training can prepare you for,” she said. “When I got here, I felt like I had to learn so much more. It’s one of those positions where you have to come in ready to adapt.
“Each day I try to think about how I experienced the college application process. That has helped me pass some best practices on to the students.”
Polk County is the westernmost district involved with the Carolina College Advising Corps , and that and the small-town feel of the district appealed to Buchanan as she learned more about the area.
“I was looking for something different. I’ve always loved Western North Carolina, but I never got to spend time here othe than vacations and breaks,” Buchanan said.
“I’m really enjoying it here. I love the Polk County High School and Polk County Early College communities a lot. Everyone has gone out of their way, gone above and beyond to make sure I have the space to do what I need to do.”