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Kelsey Berry Named Director of College Counseling
Greg Kwasnik

After an extensive search, Holderness School is pleased to announce that Kelsey Berry, Director of Teaching and Learning, has been named Director of College Counseling, starting at the beginning of the 2023-2024 academic year.


Kelsey has been an integral member of the Holderness School community since 2012, having served as a history teacher, history department chair, varsity head coach, dorm parent, advisor, and most recently the school’s Director of Teaching and Learning. She will replace outgoing Director of College Counseling Bruce Barton, who has led the College Counseling Office for more than 20 years.


“We're thrilled that Kelsey Berry will be stepping into our college office and continuing Bruce Barton’s legacy of deep care for our students,” says Head of School John McVeigh. “Kelsey has been an integral Holderness faculty member since she arrived here twelve years ago. She knows our academic program and school inside and out, and she's a relentlessly hard worker and passionate advocate for our students. She and Bruce will work together to help this be a smooth, seamless transition, and we are so fortunate to have our entire college team supporting and guiding our community."


Those who have worked closely with Kelsey for more than a decade agree that she is an excellent choice to lead the College Counseling Office.


“Kelsey is uniquely positioned to be our next Director of College Counseling,” says Associate Head of School Tobi Pfenninger. “With more than a decade of experience in boarding schools, she has taught students at all levels, coached and supported athletes who aspired to play at the college level, advised hundreds of students – both formally and informally, and been a member of the administrative team for five years. She possesses a thorough knowledge of all aspects of the Holderness experience and a strong desire to help students succeed now and in the future.”


Kelsey will spend the spring and summer working with Bruce to learn the ins and outs of the College Counseling office, and Bruce will counsel a cohort of students during the 2023-2024 academic year to support the transition.


 “I have a lot of ideas but I think this year is about listening and figuring out how the office functions and how to support it continuing at a really high level, as Bruce has managed,” Kelsey says. “It’s such a gift to be able to work with someone who has been doing the work for so long at Holderness. He’ll just be down the hall and will continue to work with a cohort of students for this year.”


Since being named Director of College Counseling, Kelsey has wasted no time diving into the competitive world of college admissions. This spring and summer, she plans to visit more than two dozen of the colleges and universities where Holderness students have submitted the largest number of applications over the last 10 years. Kelsey will meet with Holderness alums at those schools to chat about their college experiences, how Holderness prepared them for higher education, and what kinds of Holderness students would thrive at their schools. She also plans to explore lesser-known colleges that may be good fits for Holderness students.


Finding the right college fit for each student has long been a guiding principle of the College Counseling office, and it’s a philosophy that will continue under Kelsey’s direction. A big part of the office’s role, Kelsey says, is to help students communicate their unique identities to a range of schools where they could expect to be happy and thrive.


“I think the college office’s role is to help students articulate that to schools and to build a list that has a lot of balance in accessibility – both financial and acceptance rate,” Kelsey says. “And to help them love every college on their list, or be able to see themselves at every college on their list. I think we’re at a really healthy place. Students now, when they’re asked about the college process by a peer or adult, say ‘I have a bunch of schools I’m excited about.’”


Under Kelsey’s leadership, the College Counseling Team for next year will include Sarah Barton, Pam Mulcahy, Bruce Barton, and Stephen Uhlman – experienced counselors and support staff who are already working with Holderness students. As the office’s transition begins this spring,  Kelsey and the College Counseling Team will begin meeting with members of the 11th grade class to chart their college futures.

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