Good morning and welcome! Thank you all for joining us this morning for what I hope will be an informative introduction to the next important phase of your daughter’s Emma Willard career.
By now, you should all have a copy of the school profile that accompanies every transcript to every college and university, as well as a copy of our college handbook. I encourage you to refer to them as we talk this morning and return to them often as questions come up. These resources, by the way, are on our web site, which we will look at later.
Our program this morning is a simple one: it will consist of an overview of the college process from me, an introduction to a few resources that will be helpful to you in the next year and a half, and then an open-ended forum for your questions, so I hope you will mentally gather the thoughts that have been on your minds and feel encouraged to talk about them.
At its worst, the journey ahead we call the college admissions process – and it is a process – can be stressful and at times daunting, but at its best, it is a fun, exciting, surprising, and important journey of self-discovery. The mission of Emma Willard’s college counseling program is to help each student gain admission to colleges and universities that fit her intellectual and personal abilities, her interests, and her aspirations. In our efforts to educate, counsel, guide, support, and advocate for your daughter throughout the college process, we are guided by the philosophy that “college is a match to be made, not a prize to be won” (Frank Sachs).
The scope of Emma Willard’s college counseling program is broad. Last year, 85 seniors submitted 712 applications to 249 colleges and universities, and received 348 acceptances. In other words, 49 percent of the applications our seniors submitted last year received favorable consideration and 100 percent of our non-Early Decision seniors were admitted to at least two of their choices.
The list of colleges attended by the class of 2012 can be found on the back of the school profile that is included in your materials. You will see on that list institutions such as Amherst, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Stanford, Vassar, Wellesley, and Williams. But you will also see the University of Hong Kong, Northwest Mississippi Community College, SUNY Albany, Rose Hulman Institute of Technology, Parsons School of Design, SUNY Potsdam, Savannah College of Art and Design, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Trinity College in Dublin, and Florida Gulf Coast University. In every case, these were matches that were made for a varied, but in every case, appropriate set of reasons.
Our college counseling team is comprised of John Ball, Assistant Head of School for Academic Programs; Emily Snyder, history teacher and Director of the Ninth Grade Program; Nina Fleishman, Director of International Student Programs, Kitt George, English Teacher, Lauren Reed, History Teacher, Cheryl Ackner, Administrative Assistant, and me. John, Emily, Nina, and I each have professional experience in college admissions and/or college counseling. My background in college admissions and financial aid includes work at St. Lawrence and Colgate Universities as well as seventeen years as dean of admissions and financial aid at Skidmore College. I came to Emma Willard from Skidmore in 2000 to be director of admissions and switched to college counseling seven years ago. I should add that I have parented a son and an Emma Willard daughter through the college process, and I am here to tell you that I survived, and so will you!
The support we provide to your daughters in the college admissions process is integral to the educational mission of the school. In the highly competitive and rapidly changing landscape of college admission, we take seriously our role as educators and consider it our responsibility to guide students knowledgeably, professionally, and ethically. It goes without saying that our work is grounded in a deep respect for the worth, individuality, dignity, and dreams of each your daughters.
Our highest priority is to help your daughter clarify her values, assess her strengths, and identify her goals for college and then provide her (and you) with accurate information and realistic guidance about colleges and the college admissions process. In addition, we provide colleges with information about Emma Willard’s academic policies, profile, and the students applying to their institutions. We also provide input on discussions and decisions related to academic policy and curriculum development. And finally, we are responsible for dispensing information about colleges, college admissions, and the students involved in the process to a wide range of constituencies, including trustees, faculty, administrators, alumnae, parents, and prospective students.
Emma Willard’s college process encompasses standardized testing, Junior Retreat, the Senior Admissions Boot Camp, and individualized college counseling. A useful timetable for the college counseling process is provided in the first pages of your handbook and also on our college counseling Web page. I encourage you to take some time later to look this over.
For better or worse, standardized testing will be an important part of your daughter’s journey through the college process. Your daughter took the PSAT last fall and will do so again next Saturday, October 20. The purpose of the PSAT is familiarize our students with the format and testing conditions of the SAT. When we receive the PSAT reports in December, we will meet with the juniors and advise them on how best to prepare for the SAT. Your daughter will take the SAT for the first time on January 26 and again on May 4. Most juniors will also take two or three subject tests in early June. If your daughter is taking an AP course this year, we may advise her to instead take the Subject Tests in May and the SAT in June so that her subject tests may be better aligned with her AP exam preparation. In the senior year, standardized testing continues with students taking the SAT in early October. If necessary, they will take additional subject tests in November or December. Approximately one-third of the senior class will also take the ACT examination, most likely in June of this year and or in late October of the senior year. For international students whose first language is not English, we ask that they take the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or “TOEFL,” either in the summer before their senior year or in the early to mid-fall of the senior year. All standardized testing will be completed by December of the senior year.
Your daughters will also experience Junior Retreat on Friday, February 1 at Skidmore College and her on campus on Saturday, February 2. This is day and a half seminar for the entire junior class provides a common platform of information about college and the college admission process and it challenges each student to consider who she is and what she hopes to make of her education and her life by exploring and charting the pathways to her future. Topics will include:
• Making the Match – Understanding Your Values, Strengths, and Goals
• Researching and Evaluating Colleges
• The Dynamics of Selective College Admissions (Presented by Skidmore’s dean of admissions)
• Applying to College: The Common Application
• Writing College Application Essays
• Presenting Yourself to the World: The College Interview
• A Panel of College Students Reflecting on their College Process
• The College Selection Process - Mock Admissions
• A review and discussion of the provocative film, “In 500 Words or Less”
The most important facet of Emma Willard’s college counseling program is, of course, individualized advising about colleges. Your daughter will receive the same college handbook you received this morning and it will serve as her guide to the college process. This informative handbook provides a detailed overview of the college process and timeline.
In September, your daughter receive a copy of our college planning calendar and her password and access code to her account in Naviance, Emma Willard’s Web-based college counseling program. Next week, you, too, will receive your access information to Naviance so that you may have access to your daughter’s account and to the resources available there. This powerful tool provides students and parents with information about every college in the country, a detailed, six-year overview of our admissions experience with each college, a Myers Briggs personality assessment tool for adolescents, an excellent online SAT prep course called Method Test Prep, resume templates, an online journal, and much more.
In mid-January, your daughter will receive her college counselor assignment. In general, I counsel about 65 percent of the class and John, Emily, Nina, and Kitt each work with five to fifteen students. At that time, we will ask our advisees to complete an extensive college counseling questionnaire and a 750 word autobiographical essay in their Naviance accounts. We will also invite you to go into your Naviance accounts and complete a parent questionnaire designed to gain your input about your daughter. Once these documents are submitted, your daughter will be invited to meet with her college advisor. These meetings begin in February and continue throughout the spring semester. You are, of course, always welcome to join us at these meetings if you are able.
In these meetings, we will discuss courses, grades, extracurricular activities, standardized test scores and strategies, summer plans, plans for the senior year, and most importantly, academic and personal interests and goals. We will also talk about the student’s preferences regarding factors such as cost, location, size, and college culture. Together, we will develop an initial list of colleges that fits your daughter’s profile and interests. This list can initially be as large as 30 colleges, and will include options ranging from “reaches” to “possibles” and from “likelies” to “safeties.” In addition, we will review the next steps in the college process, including researching colleges, visiting campuses, interviewing, preparing to write the college essay, completing the Common Application, and how best to use the upcoming summer. Each student is encouraged to schedule follow-up visits with her college advisor over the course of the spring semester.
We know that financing your daughter’s college education is an important consideration for you, and with this in mind, we will have short, hour-long video presentation by Skidmore College’s director of financial aid available to you on your Naviance web page. This presentation will introduce you to the financial aid process and various financing options. Similar presentations may also be offered at your local high school and we encourage you to attend one of these, as well.
Next fall, we will kick off the year with our Senior Admissions Boot Camp in which we roll up our sleeves and address the nuts and bolts of applying to college. This program includes key information about submitting test scores to colleges, requesting teacher recommendations, and how to decide on application strategies. This program features a presentation on applying for financial aid and a workshop in which seniors actually complete their common applications.
After the Boot Camp, your daughter will resume meeting with her college counselor to narrow and refine her college list, finalize her plans for standardized testing and submitting applications, and selecting teachers to write recommendations. She will also continue to visit college campuses and participate in some of the more than 100 information sessions given by college representatives who visit Emma Willard in September, October, and November. We will write a letter of recommendation in support of our advisee’s applications based on interviews, student essays, parent observations, teacher evaluations at the end of the junior year, grades, and comments from teachers, houseparents, advisors, coaches, and other adults in the school community. Following the submission of applications, I carefully monitor your daughter’s progress in the selection process and work closely with college admission offices to ensure that her unique qualities are noted.
As decisions come in March and April of the senior year, we will assist you and your daughter in understanding and processing those decisions and in selecting the best option. Your daughter will enroll at her “best fit” school on or before May 1, and she will be on her way to the next important phase in her life.