On the Road to College

Kayla Lichtman, Co-editor, Writer

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In Connecticut, and especially the areas from which King students originate (Stamford, Greenwich, Westport, Darien and others), the broad assumption is that after high school students will set off for another four years of higher education. Of course, it bears mentioning that college is not for everyone, but the benefits of a college education have spoken for themselves: in one study (one amongst many) that stretched from 1965 to 2013, the Pew Research Center found that one of the many advantages of a college degree is the increased rate of annual earnings. Other benefits abound: lesser rates of unemployment, higher incomes in the first year of a job, more fortitude in economic crisis, the list goes on.

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Given that King is a college preparatory school that affirms the benefits of a higher education, it follows that starting in freshman year, students and their parents begin the admittedly slightly scary journey of thinking about college. So how does King prepare its students?

The King School process

At King, preparing for college begins in freshman year. In Grades 9 and 10, Faculty and College Counseling help students to choose courses they feel best fit their level of preparedness and ability to confront academic rigor. As Richard Jove ‘17 described, “Ms. Landis has worked closely with me since late sophomore year to ensure that I am making the right academic choices, reaching out to college admissions officers, and keeping current with requirements for all college applications.” In these early years, students also come to understand, as the college counseling office describes, the relationship between “each individual’s ‘in school’ achievement versus what is required to gain admission at a wide variety of schools throughout the United States and abroad.” Underclassmen are also encouraged to try new clubs, take new classes, and immerse themselves in the opportunities of a high school experience. Being an underclassman is about trial and error: try out one club, pivot and try an entirely different one, try playing squash, footballer, soccer for the first time because, why not?

The Grade 11 college process shifts to a more serious gear, focusing on college admissions related issues: do students have a feel of what type of campus they would be interested in? Are they drawn to any school in particular as of yet? Do they know what they want to focus on? Along with the fresh title of upperclassmen, Grade 11 students are asked to think of their future in more tangible terms. It is in this year that students begin attending learning how to write a resume, how to approach an interview, or how to write the daunting college essay. Further, they are able to sit in on the (typically senior-attended) meetings in which college representatives come to visit King, which, as Matt Roer ’18 explained, “is very helpful,” as it works to give eleventh graders perspective on the process ahead. Admittedly, some juniors have reported that they haven’t had communication with their counselors as of this year. However, as the year goes on, the college counseling office makes an effort to prepare the grade for their big senior year.

In Grade 12, the college counseling office becomes a senior’s best resource. Counselors are there to make sure seniors get all their applications in on time, get the necessary recommendations, and help them fill out the common app. They push seniors to visit the campuses and listen to excited reports of sprawling grass lawns or busting city environments. They are, it seems, the “Yodas” of the process: Get in to college you will! Their calm attitude almost makes the process look easy.

The Senior Dilemma  

Ask any Grade 12 student, and they’ll tell you that the pressure is on senior year. They are, most definitely, not so relaxed.  Not only do they themselves know how significant the time is (how to juggle applying to college with playing sports, getting good grades, and, most importantly going to the candy bar and doing parent-sponsored yoga stress busters!) but also it seems that everyone in the outside world, from strangers to well-intentioned relatives, enjoys asking if you know where you’re going yet? For seniors, the checklist before deadlines seems endless: make a prospective list, visit the campus, write the essay, write the supplements, get the grades, apply on time, do the interview (it literally never seems to end). Assuredly, only some parts of the process are fun. As Megan Glinka ‘17 admitted, “I really enjoyed the process of visiting lots of different campuses and meeting different students. However, when it came time to submit applications I was incredibly nervous. Now I’m just waiting for responses which is even more nerve wracking.”

Hitting send on the application is perhaps one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the process. To think an application is now out of one’s hands is both relieving and nerve wracking. Leaving a college counselors office, seniors know that they have just handed over an incredibly personal part of themselves on which they’ll be judged. However, seniors also know that the most they can do after applying is relax, wait it out, and be glad for that part of the process is over.

Advice for the Road

However hard the process may be, anyone from an eager freshman (slow down, you’ve got time!) to a senior, should know that you will get through it, and not alone. The Internet is chock full of helpful tips on how to make the college admissions process a more relaxed, expedient journey. Below are some tips for seniors from Jessica Landis, King’s Senior Associate Director of College Counseling:

  1. Every school on your college list should be one that you would be happy to attend, not just the reaches. There is no point in applying to schools that you have no interest in just because you will get in. Make sure that you are choosing “likely’ schools that would be a good fit for you and where you could see yourself being happy.  Visit these schools, do interviews, and put in the same effort that you put into all of your applications. Every year, students end up attending college that were not necessarily their top choices at the time, but they report back that they can’t imagine having gone anywhere else!
  2. Don’t talk about the college process with your friends.  No one ever follows this advice, but I will never stop saying it.  Every year, ridiculous rumors pop up and all it does is create more anxiety for everyone. None of your friends have secret insight into this process so don’t worry about their opinions.  At the very least, come to your college counselor when you hear things that concern you so we can set the record straight for you.
  1. Become best friends with your college counselor.  Not literally, of course, but it’s so important that we see you frequently during the senior year and ideally before then.  When you are proactive about coming to see us, we can make sure your list is strong, your applications are on track, and that all of your questions are answered.  We also are responsible for writing letters of recommendation for every single one of you and the more we know you, the easier it is to advocate on your behalf.  If we don’t hear from you, we’ll come find you but it’s so much more beneficial if you take the initiative to find us.
  2. College decisions are not a referendum on you as a person.  They are not accepting or denying you, they are accepting or denying your application.  That may seem like a subtle distinction, but it’s crucial to remember this. The admissions officers will never know you as well as your family and friends and their decision is not a personal one, so do your best to not take it that way.
  1. Enjoy your senior year of high school.  You only get one and you shouldn’t waste it worrying about whether or not you will get into college. Spoiler alert: you will.
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