The college process encompasses standardized testing and individualized college counseling. The college counseling office oversees and administers all standardized testing related to the college admissions process. The practice of taking the PSAT in the sophomore year gives students their first taste of the college process. The director of college counseling meets with the sophomore class early in the fall term to guide students in their preparation for the PSAT in October. He meets with the sophomores again in December and January to explain PSAT results and advise them on strategies for improvement. He also writes to parents at this time explaining PSAT results. In the fall of the junior year, students receive access information to Naviance, Emma Willard’s Web-based college counseling resource and the college counseling team meets with the class in early October to review strategies for re-taking the PSAT. When results come in, the director of college counseling meets with the juniors to review their scores.
In January of the junior year, the process begins in earnest as students receive their college counselor assignment and College Handbook. Juniors are required to complete a college counseling questionnaire and a 500-750 word autobiographical essay in Naviance, our Web-based college counseling resource. At the same time, parents are notified of their daughter’s college counselor assignment, receive access information for Naviance, asked to complete a parent questionnaire in Naviance, and informed about future testing and the college counseling timetable. They are also encouraged to read the college handbook, which is available on Emma Willard’s college counseling Web page. Once juniors submit their college questionnaire they (and their parents, if possible) are invited to begin meeting with their college advisor.
At the initial meeting, we review courses, grades, extracurricular activities, standardized test scores, summer plans, and most importantly, their academic and personal interests and goals. Together, we develop an initial list of colleges that fit the student’s profile and preferences. In addition, we will review the next steps in the college process, including researching colleges, visiting campuses, interviewing, and preparing to write the college essay. Students are expected to schedule follow-up visits and stay in communication with their college advisor during the remainder of the spring semester and over the summer. Students are also encouraged to visit colleges over spring break and summer vacation.
In February of the junior year, students participate in a two-day college admissions retreat at Skidmore College that provides information about college life and the college process. Juniors are advised to take the SAT in January and again in May or June. They are also be advised to take at least two subject tests, usually in June of their junior year. In the senior year, students are advised to take the SAT in October and, if necessary, one more time in November. They may be further advised to take additional subject tests in November or December. Approximately forty percent will also take the ACT examination, usually in June of the junior year and/or in late October of the senior year. All standardized testing should be completed by December of the senior year.
Seniors participate in an admissions “boot camp” early in the fall semester to begin the process of completing their college applications. They continue to meet regularly with their college counselor to refine their college lists, finalize plans for standardized testing and submitting applications, and request teacher references. They are also expected to continue to visit college campuses and participate in some of the approximately 100 information sessions given annually by college representatives who visit Emma Willard. In support of their applications, college counselors write a letter of recommendation for each student based on her interviews, essays, parent observations, teacher evaluations, grades, and comments from teachers, houseparents, advisors, coaches, and other adults in the school community. Following the submission of applications, the director of college counseling carefully monitors the progress of each student’s applications and works closely with college admission offices to ensure that the unique qualities and accomplishments of each candidate are noted. As decisions arrive in during late March, the college counseling team assists students and their parents in understanding and processing admission and financial aid decisions and in selecting the option best suited to the student.
Throughout the college process, experts are invited to campus to give presentations in support of the goals and objectives of the college counseling program. For example, a former admissions dean is invited to speak to the faculty about the current landscape of college admissions and to assist them in preparing to write teacher recommendations. An admissions dean is also invited to give a presentation on the college process to juniors, and a director of financial aid speaks with junior parents about financing a college education. As part of the junior program, college admissions representatives are invited to speak to the junior class on how selective colleges make decisions, and as part of the senior retreat in May, seniors hear panels and presentations that prepare them for the impending transition to college.