The College Process

College counseling at Garden School is a four-year process that begins with guidance about course selection and extra-curricular involvement for the ninth grade. Each year the Director of College Counseling and Upper Division Head meet with 8th-grade students and their parents and guardians to help students to build their high school transcripts and prepare for the senior year’s application process. Similar meetings, in the 9th and 10th grades, help keep students focused on preparation for college as they take advantage of the opportunities within the curriculum and throughout the extra-curricular program.

All sophomores sit for the PSAT, which is administered in October during the school day; it is a practice test for the SAT. Students will take an additional PSAT, also for practice, in October of their junior year. PSAT results are never reported to colleges, but the results are sent to Garden School for use in the counseling process. Each student has private meeting with the Director of College Counseling or the Upper Division Head to discuss the results of the PSAT.

In the fall of the junior year, students and their parents and guardians are invited to a College Night program where the specifics of the college process are explained in detail for the first time. In February of the junior year, we meet again as a group to begin the formal college application process for the junior class. College admissions directors participate in the February program, giving Garden students and their families the view from “the other side of the desk.” The 2016 panel included representatives and directors of admission or from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), The City University of New York, Fordham and Iona College. Following the meeting, students answer an individual counseling questionnaire (found below) that is designed to help them explore their own strengths and goals, as well as to focus the college search. Students also prepare a draft of a college essay.

Once the student has submitted the completed questionnaire and essay, a family conference with the Director of College Counseling is arranged for the student and the adult (or adults) who will help the student navigate the college process. The conference is a time to discuss a personal plan for the student and his or her college search. At the end of the conference, each student is presented with an initial list of colleges and universities that are appropriate based on not only the student’s grades and test scores but also the information provided in the counseling questionnaire.

Juniors use the lists, as well as their own research, when they attend The College Fair at UNIS at the end of April. This private fair, sponsored by a five-school consortium (Garden School, Hunter College HS, Regis HS, Friends Seminary, and the United Nations International School), will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2016. Representatives from more than 140 colleges and universities meet the approximately 450 juniors who attend each year with their parents and guardians.

Students also interact with colleges throughout the fall of their senior year when representatives from more than 25 colleges and universities visit Garden School to meet with groups of interested seniors. Each senior’s schedule includes a weekly group “senior meeting” with the Director of College Counseling to discuss the demands of making application to college. Finally, students and families have the opportunity to meet privately with the Director of College Counseling, both formally and informally, throughout the senior year. Students, parents, and guardians have easy access to the Director of College Counseling. Ultimately, each Garden School senior will apply to an average of 6-12 colleges. Their applications will include three personal letters of recommendation, written by the Director of College Counseling and two teachers selected by the student. The letters, the scope of which go far beyond the checklists that are provided by colleges, present a portrait of the student in the classroom and as a member of the larger school community, as written by people who know the student well.

Each November, on the day before Thanksgiving, graduates from the previous class are invited back to share breakfast with the current senior class. This new tradition is a great opportunity for students who are beginning the application process to hear what college is really like from people they know and trust.

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