For many seniors, figuring out the college process is like aiming at a moving target. Students have to navigate a challenging dynamic that is both created by their own emotions and expectations and impacted by the results of their last three years of high school and the wishes of their families. As college counselors, we consider it our job to educate, guide, and gently remind our seniors (and their parents) about the various steps along the path to college, but ultimately we know our students will be well-prepared and successful no matter where they go.
When selecting high schools, multiple factors weigh into a family’s decision: size, location, the strength of the program, and programmatic choice, to name a few. The presence of an Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum within a high school signals a respected level of educational excellence. AP courses offer rigorous college-level content within a secondary school setting.
A school with an AP program may provide many benefits to students and families:
- Students develop the habits of mind and skills required to be successful in college courses while still in high school.
- In-depth study of a particular field often leads to students discovering a passion and pursuing that field as a major in college.
- College admissions officers often view students who score well on AP exams as being more prepared than those who have not experienced AP to handle college-level academics thus predicting a higher rate of success in college.
- Students within the AP program are viewed by college admissions officers as hard-working, and self-motivated.
- AP provides a standard measure by which students applying to college can be compared. Students can distinguish themselves within an elite group of students.
- Students who score well on AP exams may receive college credit for their high school coursework.
- With enough credits accumulated through AP, some students are able to graduate a semester or a year early, decreasing college expenses for families.
- Earning introductory college credit through AP credits may open room in a student’s schedule that would allow the pursuit of elective courses in an area of interest or room for a minor study.
The AP designation offers a benchmark for academic excellence and teacher professional development. For a school to offer the AP designation, the teachers of the course must complete the audit process and be approved by the College Board. Schools must provide adequate resources to AP students and professional development to AP teachers. In addition, the teacher’s content must be approved by the College Board in order to be authorized to use the AP designation.
Writing is the foundation of much of what students will do in school and in their post-academic lives. As such, it is important to find a school that has a good writing program. A strong writing curriculum allows for flexibility so students can learn in multiple ways and encourages them to stretch and reach. We see the following as the key components of a successful writing program.
Q: Word on the street is that it's harder to get into college now than it used to be. Truth or myth?
A: The most selective schools are receiving more applications than ever, so their acceptance rates continue to decline; however, every college is seeking students. If we look past name-branding, there are plenty of great schools out there! The key to finding schools that will be a great fit is for each student to have the self-awareness to determine what factors and practical considerations, including affordability, matter most. Communicate these things to the school guidance or college counselor, who has the current knowledge and experience to help steer students toward some great options and resources. No matter where students attend college, what matters most for their future success is what they do once they're there.
Topics: College Guidance
The term “liberal arts" is used a lot but often misunderstood. STEM, an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, is the latest buzz word in education. To hear people talk about these two concepts, they seem at odds with one another. But are they really?
Liberal arts is a shortened version of liberal arts and sciences. It refers to a philosophy of education embraced by many American colleges and universities. A key point here is that the sciences are an important part of a liberal arts education. For example, a biology major in a liberal arts program will devote about one-third of his or her overall college curriculum to biology. The other two-thirds, spread over a wide range of disciplines, offers educational breadth and is the hallmark of a liberal arts education.