Life at Collegewise: snippets

LifeAtCollegewiseOne of the ideas that came from our company meet-up in Austin was to have our version of an employee handbook that clarified things like our policies. We’ve never been a place that wanted or needed rules to legislate our every move, but as our company has grown, it’s become more important for us to be clear about things like expense reporting, benefits, vacation time, etc.

Led by Arun, a team of our counselors put a list of ideas together. Then it went to the partners, where each of us worked on verbiage for the sections we felt most strongly about. We discussed. We debated. We reminded ourselves that we should consciously create the company that we would want to work for even if we weren’t running the place.

And after going through those steps, we ended up with “Life at Collegewise,” our version of an employee handbook. It explains our policies, what we believe, and how we want to run our offices—and it does it all in a way that stays true to who we are. We’re really proud of it.

Here are a few snippets:

From the introduction
You’ve joined a company full of smart people who want to work hard and who exercise good judgment. Our experience has been that these kinds of people don’t need a forty-page manual of rules and regulations to dictate what they can and can’t do at work. Still, it’s nice to know how things work and what’s expected of you. So, rather than your typical employee handbook, we put “Life at Collegewise” together.

Dress code
While we don’t have a specific dress code—most of us dress casually without being too casual—we do want to look respectable, especially when meeting with families. Any time you’re going to meet with a parent, especially in an introductory meeting, it’s usually a good time to err on the side of professional (not in suits, necessarily, but certainly not in ripped jeans, flip-flops, and a college t-shirt). The same applies during any type of public speaking engagement. Good judgment will prevent egregious errors of style, but if you’d like more advice on appropriate garb for Collegewise, we do, in fact, have a guide. This should not come as a shock to you as we have lots of different guides, including one on how to make the perfect pot of coffee.

Vacation days, sick days, and personal days
Our policy for time off has always been a bit of a fuzzy one. But this fuzzy policy has good intentions. We hire overachievers and expect them to work hard (including on evenings and Saturdays when necessary). And we think people who do that without complaining should be able to take a day off when Mom comes to visit without having to cash in one of a specific number of allotted “personal days.” When you need a day, take a day. If you get the stomach flu, you should be able to stay home and throw up in peace without worrying about how many sick days you have. And people who work hard certainly deserve to take a vacation every now and then. Just keep your supervisor updated… For people who’ve previously worked in places where you knew exactly how many sick, personal, and vacation days you received each year, this can be a bit of an adjustment. But we think you’ll find that you actually end up with more scheduling freedom and more time off in exchange for working very hard and taking good care of your Collegewise families.

Collegewise Outreach
One of our core values is that we will make every reasonable effort to share college admissions information with kids, parents, and schools who need it, regardless of their ability to pay. We’re active in programs like College Summit and AVID, and we almost always accept speaking invitations from high schools in low-income areas, free of charge. We encourage you to participate in our outreach to kids, parents, and schools. If you’ve got ideas about ways we can better share our information with deserving families and schools who can’t pay for it, speak up! We want to hear from you. Of course, we need to remember that to stay in business, we also have to work with organizations and families who can afford to pay us. But we’ve always found that there’s room to do both—and also room to do even more of both.

Timeliness is next to…well, you know
In a company that relies on good judgment over rules, here’s one big, fat, hard-and-fast rule. You can’t ever be late to a meeting with a family. Ever. You need to be prepared and ready to meet before the kid and parent show up. If you go out to run an errand before your 3 p.m. appointment and come running back into the office at 3:05 to find the kid and parent waiting for you in your office, leaving you frantically pulling out the kid’s file and telling the family, “Sorry—there was just so much traffic coming back from the bank,” you have just had a very bad day at Collegewise.

Personal, Medical, Bereavement Leave
We understand that life happens, and by speaking to your supervisor, we can figure out a plan that works for everyone.

Maternity/Paternity Leave
We’re a company that embraces family and children. (If we didn’t, most of us probably wouldn’t be working here!) By discussing your plans with your supervisor, we can work towards a schedule that keeps your family and the families you’re working with happy and well-supported.