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College Counselors Help Students Plan for Success
College Counselors Help Students Plan for Success

Learn about the extensive college planning process at Convent & Stuart Hall and why the counselors advocate for students to be genuine.

It is a busy time of year in the Convent & Stuart Hall college counseling offices. Most college decisions were released at the end of March and the commitment deadline is May 1. Throughout April, students and their parents meet with College Counseling Directors Cesar Guerrero and Rebecca Munda, and College Counselor Tom Esponnette, to evaluate options and determine the best fit. Meanwhile, juniors are not only watching their senior friends wrap-up the process, but they too are laying a critical foundation as they start to research schools and draft their admissions essay. Despite all of the exciting activity, Cesar and Rebecca found time to tell us about the process from start to finish, and explain why Convent & Stuart Hall students are accepted to some of the most selective colleges.

1. What does the college counseling process look like at Convent & Stuart Hall?

At Convent & Stuart Hall we offer a highly personalized college guidance resource for our students. We truly view our framework as one where students feel that they are at the center of the process while we work to prepare and support them from start to finish. We help facilitate the process by teaching our students to research colleges that will fit their undergraduate needs while we guide them towards completing the application process in a timely and effective manner. Developing a genuine rapport with every student is established during the weekly college counseling class second semester of junior year and first semester of senior year. Our individual student meetings with their parents exist to develop a personalized college plan that is appropriate. The behind the scenes work entails constantly developing and growing our relationships with admission representatives from universities and colleges all over the world. Our comprehensive approach both within our school community and within our professional community is a great benefit when we work with our students. The college counseling process is meant to be a natural extension of a student's four years at Stuart Hall High School and Convent High School. We continue to foster each student's intellectual, spiritual, physical and emotional development so that they are able to understand and be empowered throughout the process of applying to college.

2. What steps do you take with students, starting junior year, to help them discover schools that might be a good fit?

Junior year we cast a wide net when researching colleges, and over the few months we narrow down the college list to meet the needs and desires of each student. We meet individually with each student and his or her family during the junior year to help them identify strengths and weaknesses, and help them identify criteria that is most important to them in the college search. Appropriate resources are recommended for students to use during their search rather than leaning on published lists ranking schools. We stress that this process should be exciting and engaging rather than riddled with the stress and anxiety that typically comes with this process. Finding several colleges that fit their needs is and always will be the goal of our offices.

3. What type of individual plan might you develop with a student (and his or her parents) in approaching the college application process?

We work closely and personally with each student and family through the college selection, application, and admission process. During spring junior year, our family meetings are a way by which we discuss a student's college admission process. During these meetings we discuss their academic program, their standardized testing plan, and extracurricular activities, as well as the possible options they may want to consider in addition to their college list. We also get to know the students well through our College Counseling class and individual meetings that follow the family meeting.

4. What are some of the experiences that Convent & Stuart Hall students have access to that college admissions offices like to see?

A well-balanced student is what every college is looking for. While GPA and SAT scores are important factors, it is important that students bring more than just solid metrics. Convent & Stuart Hall students understand that being involved within their school community is important along with their contributions to the community that surrounds them, especially in the realm of service. This is a key component to their development as a student and is what most students utilize as a platform to leadership. Students who are admitted to their top choices are leaders who understand the value of service while maintaining academic excellence. Lastly, allowing students to pursue their interests is an invaluable step in their development. Reminding our students to pursue success in things they love whether that is being encouraged to be artist, a writer, a lab assistant, an entrepreneur, or a musician. Colleges want students that have made sincere choices of their own fruition rather than calculating choices that they have been coerced to do for the sake of being admitted. Convent & Stuart Hall students are accepted to some of the most selective colleges because they are interesting and they are genuine.

5. How important is it to have a reach school, a target school and a likely school and how do you help students identify schools that fit into these categories?

When juniors begin to narrow down their college list, it is important that they have a variety in terms selectivity to ensure they have admission options, or love letters as we like to call them, in the spring. Students need to keep in mind what is attainable for them academically and which are affordable, and refine the list into a group of schools that gives them the best chance for success. We help students identify schools that fit into these categories by looking at their transcript, test scores, academic interests and compare it to the admission profile of the colleges they are considering. We also take into account our application history at those schools.