If you follow the news, you can’t help but get swept up in the hype surrounding the college admissions world. At Stuart, we believe that reducing the college admission process to a few headlines misses one very important point: the college admission process is meant to be an extension of the growth and self-discovery our young women experience each day. A fundamental goal of a Stuart education is to open one’s mind… the college admission process should be no different.
To support and educate students and parents alike, college counseling at Stuart provides individual guidance, workshops, programs, and our Naviance Family Connection computer system. Starting as early as Middle School, we work to provide sound guidance about course selection, extra-curricular activities, and standardized testing. In the Upper School, and especially in grades 11 and 12, we offer individualized guidance and counseling through every step of the college application process.
Our mission in college counseling, like the mission of Stuart itself, is to guide our young women to lead lives of exceptional leadership, service, and intellect. In the end (or really, the beginning), the right college awaits.
- Class of 2021 Profile
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- Grade 9
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- The Campus Visit
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You are fortunate. The level of preparation you receive at Stuart is remarkable, both in the classroom and out. Though you understand this, how do the colleges? Among the most essential tools that Stuart provides colleges is our “College Profile”. This document is sent with every application, describing and outlining our philosophy, our commitment to community service and the Goals and Criteria, our grade distributions, AP, ACT, SAT, SAT subject test, and AP scores, as well as the colleges where Stuart students have enrolled. The colleges depend on these profiles in order to gain a more comprehensive and holistic understanding of each high school and to place each student in a context of that high school.
Because course choices and grades play such an important role, planning your high school program could be considered the single most important step in the college admissions process. The annual January course selection is a vital opportunity for you to consider your academic and extracurricular plans for the next year. Each year’s plan should build upon what you did in the previous year. The plan should reflect graduation requirements and a projection of the entire four-year Upper School experience. The Upper School Head, Director of College Counseling, and your advisors are available for consultation.
“Is it better to make an A in a regular course or a B- in an AP course?”
Ahh, now that is a question in search of an answer. And the answer is, it depends. You should stretch yourself in your course choices. Colleges want to see a student challenged academically, but the appropriate degree of stretch is unique to each student. Your teachers and college counselor will play a key role in helping you determine when an advanced section is appropriate.
For questions about course offerings in the Upper School, talk to your advisor, college counselor, or see the course guidebook.
Obviously, there is more to Stuart than simply your academic experience. Extracurricular experiences often provide the way you can express your individuality and special talents. In a broader sense, it is the way in which you prepare to be a contributing citizen to your community.
- Depth of commitment is what matters.
- Do you use your time wisely, productively?
- Are you gaining skills, experience, and knowledge from your involvement?
- Habits of independence, self-discipline, personal initiative, leadership are associated with dedicated, sustained commitment to a given activity such as music, athletics, drama, academic competitions, student government, tutoring, or community service projects.
Grades from 8th grade are not recorded on the transcript, sent to colleges or used in computing a student’s GPA; however, grades may determine your placement in ninth grade classes, particularly math and foreign language.
- Your transcript is blank. You determine what will appear on it. It is essential to approach course selection seriously and accept the appropriate level of rigor. Students should be willing to stretch themselves and heed the recommendations of their academic advisers.
- Look ahead to all four years of high school and project course selection through grade 12.
- Begin to be deliberate about learning of colleges beyond the familiar. There are more than 3,000 colleges and universities in the United States. This is the time to broaden rather than narrow your focus. Check out college web sites, talk to friends, family, and teachers.
- Colleges like to see committed, active students. Students who are involved in activities seem to enjoy the Upper School experience more and generally achieve greater academic success. Enter ninth grade ready to “sign up” for activities that you will enjoy.
- Upper School students are expected to seek the help they need. You should not discover yourself in academic difficulty suddenly. Be alert to signs or messages and respond appropriately.
- Attend the “Roadmap to College for 9th and 10th Graders” evening program.
- Find meaningful activities for the summer. Seek working, educational travel, volunteering or taking enrichment courses.
By Grade 10, students should be well acclimated to life in the Upper School. Sophomore year should be a time of personal growth. In addition to working diligently in school and being involved in activities, sophomores should be identifying personal abilities, aptitudes and interests. This should be a strong academic year, especially as you prepare for AP and Honors classes in junior and senior years.
- Take the Preliminary SAT (PSAT) in October. The school registers all sophomores and juniors for this test. Review test results in December and set appropriate goals.
- Request a conference to discuss test performance if you wish.
- Attend a local or regional college fair.
- Start looking at colleges. Route a family summer trip through some colleges, for a relaxed first look at a few campuses.
- Students and parents should attend “Roadmap to College for 9thand 10thGraders” for updated college admissions information.
- Make a commitment to at least two activities that you wish to pursue through high school.
The junior year is the most important year for college preparation. Most admissions decisions are based on achievement in this year. Juniors should maximize their efforts in and out of class. They should make plans for serious college explorations. This is the year when you should look closely at themselves to help determine which colleges would be good matches. Take advantage of some sort of standardized test (SAT/ACT) prep if you think it appropriate.
- All year: During the Junior year the college counselor will assist in your college search, help develop a college list and serve as an advocate throughout the application process.
- September–November: Attend meetings with college representatives visiting the Stuart campus. Read and study college information through Naviance Family Connection, Internet sites, brochures, catalogs, viewbooks, and guides.
- October: Take the PSAT in October for another practice experience. Plan to take an SAT or ACT in the spring.
- November: Attend the fall Junior College Night (in November) to determine your college plan and to better understand the latest trends in college admissions.
- November: Develop a system for organizing/filing college information.
- Attend College Counseling course.
- January: Review course sign-up for the senior year to be sure that it will satisfy Stuart graduation requirements, meet requirements for special curriculum at particular colleges and reflect an appropriate level of rigor.
- January: Attend College night for Juniors (mandatory)
- January: Attend Financial Aid Night.
- January: Complete all student and parent questionnaires promptly. These are important tools for the college adviser especially when writing recommendations.
- January/February: Family meetings to discuss questions and to assess progress, one in the winter/spring of the Junior year and another in the fall of the Senior year.
- February: Plan to take the ACT in February. You should also be thinking about taking the SAT in late spring or summer.
- February: Attend Mock Application Workshop
- March: Consider using school holidays (especially spring break) for college visits. Make careful plans for these visits. Do web research before traveling and go with specific questions in mind.
- April: If you have not yet taken the ACT, do so this month.
- April: Consider carefully how you will use this summer productively (travel, job, internship, mentorship, academic course work on college campus, sports camp, community service).
- April: Attend Spring Fair in April at Stuart
- May/June: Some colleges require or recommend SAT Subject Tests in addition to the SAT Reasoning Test. June is a good time to take one or two of these tests. This is especially wise for early decision candidates and those applying to highly selective institutions. Talk with the Director of College Counseling about the wisdom of taking these tests. It is your responsibility to consult individual college requirements regarding specific tests. Typically the more competitive colleges will require two tests: often mathematics and one other.
- April: Attend “Inside the College Admission Office” evening program.
- May: Attend “Junior College Essay Writing Workshop” program.
- May: Ask your teachers for recommendations.
- June: By the end of the school year, you should have a list of sure, likely, and reach schools. You should be making decisions about how many applications they may want to submit. (Nine is recommended as a maximum.)
- June: You might choose to take the SAT this month. If not in June, plan to take it over the summer or early in the Senior year.
Everything comes together in the senior year. Students will begin to see the rewards of their hard work. Final planning must now be clarified. Academic performance and school leadership remain important throughout this final year.
- All year: Keep track of your “college calendar”, noting all application deadlines, visit appointments, receptions, open houses, standardized test dates, financial aid and or scholarship deadlines, interviews, etc.
- September: You should review and update your record for student activities/extra-curriculars.
- September: Make final arrangements for teacher recommendations. Plan for any additional recommendations.
- September: Return all required student and parent questionnaires. Both are used extensively in writing recommendations to colleges.
- September: Schedule a fall conference with the college counselor to develop a final game plan for submitting applications. How many? What deadlines? Early decision? Early action? Response to deferrals, back-up plans?
- September: Consider the need for taking the SAT or ACT again in the fall. Remember to register for any necessary SAT subject tests or an ACT which some colleges accept instead of the subject tests.
- September: Attend fall “Senior College Night” programs for a review of final tips and suggestions. Get last minute questions answered.
- September-October: Continue to work on college essays in a timely manner. Have your college counselor review and proof the essay.
- September-November: Attend on-campus meetings with college representatives from schools to which you plan to apply.
- September-November: Interview with college representatives, if needed.
- September- November: In college counseling class we will cover relevant topics.
- September-November: Attend fall local and regional college fairs, plus open houses at colleges and regional receptions.
- October: Application Deadlines start (see Naviance/ Application Directions)
- October-February: Make plans to file financial aid forms. CSS Profile can be submitted as early as October for ED and FAFSA is available in January) and be alert to deadlines.
Remember that all of your senior grades are mailed to colleges. Poor second and third trimester grades may lead colleges to predicate acceptances. First trimester grades and sometimes third quarter grades become especially important for deferred students.
Notify the college counselor of all college admissions decisions: acceptances, deferrals, denials, wait lists. If you are waitlisted at a school that is a top choice, you should notify them in writing that the institution is a first choice and if admitted, you will enroll. The college counselor will also get on the phone and write additional letters of support.
Make final visits to schools where accepted. Spend the night. Go to class. Attend a game or party; eat the food. A more extended visit can sometimes aid in the decision of where to enroll.
Send an enrollment deposit to one of the schools where accepted by May 1, even students on wait lists.
Visiting a college campus allows you to associate real human faces and real places with a college.
Information sessions– You should sign up for these online, in conjunction with a campus tour. Usually about an hour-long, these presentations are almost always given by employees of the admission office. They are usually a great source for information and represent the official “face” of the college to the public. Listen actively, ask questions, and pay attention.
- Do your homework. Have your questions ready. Identify the issues that matter most to you. Try not to ask questions about things you could easily discover for yourself
- Research the college web site prior to your campus visit.
- Dress conservatively and be on time for your appointment. Be polite, engaging and interested, approaching people eagerly, shaking hands and looking them in the eye.
- Take out your earbuds and if you must talk on your phone, excuse yourself and move away from the group. Do not text!
- During the visit, students should do more talking than parents. They should be comfortable speaking about their strengths, activities and interests.
- Pay close attention to all you see and hear, not just the formal remarks of the admissions personnel. Be very intentional about gathering the specific information about the school that you need. Check out bulletin boards. Read bumper stickers.
- Be very observant of the students and their behaviors. Devise a comparison chart for recording data that distinguishes the colleges. Take a notepad to jot down impressions while they are fresh.
- Request a business card or note the name of a person to whom you can address a thank-you note. Be sure to write and mail this within a week. An e-mail note of thanks could also be sent.
- If time permits, schedule a class visit in a subject that interests you. It is wise to visit a similar class at all colleges to thoughtfully contrast and compare professors’ styles and the atmosphere in the class.
- Campus Tours– If I had a dollar for every student who said the tour-guide was a major part of her decision about the college, I’d have about fifty bucks. Sure, tour guides are important, but try your best to consider the reality that this ONE person might not represent the ENTIRE campus. With that said, her are some useful questions you might ask.
- How is the intramural athletic program organized? Do freshmen participate?
- Do fraternities/sororities play a big role on campus? What percentage pledge? Alternatives to Greek life? When is rush?
- What types of activities are available for freshmen involvement in campus life?
- What types of meal plans are available? Are freshmen required to purchase the meal plan?
- What type of transportation is necessary on campus? Do most students have bikes/ride the bus or shuttle? What students are permitted to have cars?
- What about campus security? Have there been recent safety issues? What provisions has the college made for student safety? Ask these questions to students as well as admissions officers.
- What kinds of medical facilities are available in case of emergency or illness?
- How large are all of your classes?
- Who teaches you in your courses (graduate assistants or full professors)?
- When do you have to declare your major? What are the most popular majors?
- Have you been in any faculty homes since you have been here? How available are your professors?
- What is the biggest issue in local campus politics?
- What are the biggest national or international issues? Are students politically active? Aware?
- What are weekends like here? Do most students remain on campus? Are there alternatives to the typical party scene?
- What do you not like about this school? What is its greatest shortcoming? What do students complain about?
- What kinds of students do you think are happiest here? Which ones are least happy?
- Why did you choose this school? To what other schools did you apply?
- Overnight Visits– If you have a friend at the school, spend the night and go to a class. If not, see if the admission office can help you out. And PLEASE, your very best behavior is a MUST.
- Open Houses, discovery days, etc. – Colleges expend a lot of their own resources to host families on campus for open house events. Take advantage of them if you can. They are most often scheduled from October to mid-November, and they fill up quickly. Register early if you can.
- Admitted student days– These are usually scheduled in April. You’ve been admitted and now the college wants you to enroll. These programs provide you with a chance to see a lot of the college quickly.
- Summer programs– Usually held in the summer between Junior and Senior year, these can be academic programs that give you a chance to take a short course with actual professors.
The college search can be a new and exciting experience for parents and daughters. In addition to identifying prospective schools, the admissions process can sometimes be demanding and overwhelming. The good news is that parents can lay the groundwork for a smooth college application process early with a little preparation. The e-book below was created to help parents prepare their daughters for the college admissions process.