College Counseling Introduction and Philosophy
The process of identifying, researching and applying to colleges represents one of the student’s most important aspects of their education at SABIS® International Charter School. All that students have learned about the world and about themselves, both in and out of the classroom, helps to shape their future decisions about their college education. Students (and their families) often find themselves overwhelmed with the seeming enormity of the task and anxious about the eventual outcome. The SABIS® College Counseling Office seeks to provide each student with the advice, support and information necessary to clarify the process. The College Counseling Office also serves as a link to a each college admission office, highlighting a student’s strengths, explaining their accomplishments within the context of the SABIS® college-preparatory environment, and providing as much positive support as possible to enable the colleges to reach an informed decision about each applicant. The College Counselor acts as the students’ advocate and mentor by guiding them through the process and serving as a resource about college options. The Counselor helps each student to maximize their chances of gaining admission to the college of their choice.
Our College Counselor looks at each student through a variety of lenses. Personal observations that he accumulates as he spends time with each student are supplemented by insights offered by teachers, advisors, coaches, parents and the students themselves. Each "vision" helps to shape the letters of recommendation that the College Counseling Office submits on behalf of each student. Parents, faculty, coaches are each asked to complete a brief, written survey form which helps to identify those qualities that help to make each SABIS® student a unique individual.
Since 100% of our high school graduates gain admittance to college, everything that they do from the time they enter our school can be viewed as part of the college process. While students do not officially begin working with the College Counseling Office until the end of their sophomore year, each student in grades six through twelve does attend a weekly "advising" class to begin a rudimentary process of college preparation. In this light, the College Counseling Office works closely with the "advising" faculty in helping to prepare a curriculum that is consistent with the overall school mindset.
It is incumbent on the students to play the lead role throughout the college search and application process. Just as the students learn that they must be responsible for taking the initiative to care for their academic work, to involve themselves in the greater community and to manage themselves and their behaviors, students must invest themselves in the logistical aspects of researching and applying to college. This overview is intended to clarify the procedures, explain the policies and provide relevant information that can help students and their families as they approach the process. It does not (and it cannot) take the place of the individual guidance we offer to each student. We encourage each student to avail themselves of all that the College Counseling Office has to offer.
College Admission Factors to Consider
At the most selective colleges, applications might outnumber available slots five, six or even ten to one. Therefore, as a practical consideration, students must consider the relative selectivity of colleges as they begin to make their plans.
What factors are most significant in admissions? While colleges differ considerably in how much weight they attach to various factors, the following list (in approximate order of importance) should provide a sense of the chief factors that are most important to the colleges and universities.
- Course Selection: College admission officers generally look first at the candidate’s course selection during their high school career. Individual schedules will (and should) vary. Colleges seek students who have taken advantage of the curricular opportunities offered at SABIS®. Recently, some of the more selective colleges have focused increasingly on the student’s background in what can be called the "core courses." These colleges encourage the student to go beyond the diploma requirements and take additional courses in social studies and the sciences. They also look at the course selections made in math, English and Spanish. Senior year schedules should be discussed with the guidance office and care should be given to selecting a senior course schedule that is challenging and focused, in part, on the area the student hopes to pursue at the collegiate level.
- Academic Achievement for the four High School years: Grads are important. Colleges will look closely at the entire high school transcript to assess the student’s success in the courses in which they have enrolled. Some consideration will be given to the rigor of the courses selected, but the most selective schools expect students to succeed in the most challenging curriculum. Students should not select courses simply to show an honors-level or AP level course. Rather, courses should be selected to demonstrate success. While improvement in the senior year is helpful and does demonstrate an understanding of the importance of academic excellence, it will not remove the burden of a poor record for the first three years.
- Test Scores: The SAT Reasoning Tests (or the ACT) and the SAT Subject Tests are required at many colleges. Students should plan to take at least two different Subject Tests. Students should take the SAT Reasoning Test as often as they feel that the results do not reflect their best effort. Individual testing plans should be discussed with the College Counseling Office no later than the start of the senior year.
- Recommendations: Students will ask teachers to write letters of recommendation on their behalf. The College Counselor will write the school’s "Summary Statement." Colleges are interested in how each student’s core subject teachers and the College Counselor will evaluate the student’s academic potential and as a person. A special emphasis will be placed on demonstrations of intellectual curiosity, engagement with the materials and participation in class. Students should begin to think about their letter-writers during May and June of their junior year. SABIS® is a small school and many of the same teachers will be asked repeatedly to write the letter of recommendation. Therefore, it is crucial to the process to identify and ask a faculty member early in the process.
- Athletics and Extracurricular Activities: The emphasis in this area is upon quality participation rather than on quantity. Talent and genuine contributions to a team or an activity are very important.
- Application Quality: Colleges look closely at the student’s part of the application, particularly at the quality of the student essay. Last year, we saw students gain admission to the college of their choice because, in part, of the quality of their essay. The quality of the application and the quality and creativity of the essay is the only part over which the student has complete control.
- Intangible "hooks:" Occasionally, a student will have what is known as a "hook factor" at one or a number of schools to which they apply. These include legacy standing, athletic recruitment, artistic talents, and diversity interests, even friends or relatives who may be in a position to influence the admission decisions.