For high school juniors, it’s time to start seriously thinking about college

  • ConVal Director of School Counseling Kim Chandler works with juniors Zoe Werth, near, and Delaney Thompson as they begin the college planning process. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

  • ConVal Director of School Counseling Kim Chandler works with juniors Zoe Werth, near, and Delaney Thompson as they begin the college planning process. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/11/2019 6:02:57 PM

ConVal senior Ian Aldrich started with a list of five schools.

When it came time to start applying to colleges, he had narrowed down his choice to just two. One was a safety school that had a 98 percent acceptance rate and the other was the school he really wanted to attend. Both use a hands on learning style, which is a better fit for Aldrich than the prototypical classroom learning environment. He got into both and will be attending Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, Vermont – his top choice – in the fall.

Aldrich was one of the students who knew what he wanted out of his next phase of schooling, started the process on time and had a fairly stress-free experience – once he got the letter of acceptance from Sterling.

ConVal senior Daisy Young said she learned a lot about the process as time went on. Because she wants to write, she figured she could pursue an English degree or equivalent just about anywhere. 

“For me it went from location to being more realistic and looking at what would be best for my major,” she said.

But when it comes to the college application process, no two students will have the same experience. That’s why schools have counseling departments to answer questions, provide timelines and help with any detail that might go unnoticed for those who have never been through it before.

“More and more students are undecided,” said ConVal School Counselor Rebecca Dunn. “So we are here to support them, but it’s their future.”

Kim Chandler, director of school counseling at ConVal, said that students who have older siblings have seen the process before and understand it a little better, so they and parents know what is needed and when. But for those embarking on the process for the first time it can be an overwhelming task. Many schools host college planning nights for juniors in conjunction with the NHHEAF Network, with ConVal’s happening tonight in the Lucy Hurlin Theatre from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., which is open to any high school junior – regardless of what school they attend – and parents.

Right around now is when Chandler and the school counseling staff start working with juniors to get things going. About 70 percent of ConVal graduates plan to go to college right away, while Chandler said they also work with those who might not want to go into higher education to find out what other interests they’d like to pursue.

“There are a lot of different options for students,” Chandler said.

There’s also a career profile test that students take and an internship program to help pursue interests before getting to college.

“It’s important to focus on what career path students want to take,” Chandler said.

“You get an idea of who you are and what you’re interested in,” said Young, who did her internship at the Ledger-Transcript.

ConVal junior Delaney Thompson just started making her list of schools and setting up tours. She plans to pursue a business or pre-law degree.

“I’m basing it off what school has the best programs for me,” Thompson said. “It’s a big step. I’m nervous, but I’m excited to start.”

During junior year, students will take their SATs and create a list of schools they’re interested in. It’s a good time to start visiting schools, which is recommended to do when school is in session. That way you can check out the dining accommodations, the student center and get a real feel for the campus.

“My recommendation is to talk to students at the school you’re looking at,” Aldrich said.

And what Young would pass along to younger students who are just starting the application process is that “it’s OK not to apply to 10 schools, it’s OK to not know your degree and its OK to ask for help.”

Applications can be costly and more and more schools are looking for students to apply for early acceptance, which can make things tricky as the timeline gets condensed.

“The costs of college have really changed the path a lot of students take,” Dunn said.

For ConVal junior Zoe Werth, cost of higher education is definitely a factor when choosing schools. She’s hopes to have a list of six to eight schools around New England by the time the application process begins in the fall.

When it comes to senior year, that’s the time to narrow down the list of colleges, start setting up letter of recommendations and creating a master list of dates to remember. Chandler said the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens in early October and its also good idea to take Writing the Essay to help work on what colleges are looking for in applicants.

So much of the process is online, so ConVal uses Naviance, which helps students match schools by major, geography, test scores and interests.

Chandler said its vital for parents to be part of the process, especially by having a conversation with their children about what the family can afford.

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