Letter to the editors

In response to “Post high school planning should begin earlier,” published Jan. 16, 2015

Dear Campanile editors,

Only 3 slides in the entire orientation presentation focus on the CA public college system (community college, CSU, and UC); discussion of these slides and related handouts referenced to direct students to more information comprised at most a half hour of the 90 minute period.  Given that the vast majority of each class applies to at least one (and often at least two) of these two college systems in our state, it is important students understand the educational emphasis of each system and the minimum eligibility criteria to apply.  The handouts detail eligibility requirements but, in my experience, many students still have questions about GPA calculation, so our presentation addressed an explanation.  In addition, the handouts do not describe the difference in teaching philosophy among the systems.  But, I also explained how students can learn information about other colleges’ educational philosophies on their websites and showed students how to find eligibility information and admission statistics for other colleges by using the College Board’s Big Future website.

Before the discussion of the CA public colleges, I discussed different kinds of colleges for students to consider; in addition to a description, examples were given.  With the exception of research universities, the other types of colleges were all private–like those found on the Common Application.  Furthermore, Ms. Erber’s discussion about how colleges evaluate applicants included a discussion of letters of recommendation which are not required by the CA publics.  As described, the information about demonstrating interest does not apply to the CA publics nor did the exercise with volunteers at the end of the presentation which demonstrated how factors in the admission process are considered by private colleges–academic dishonesty, legacy, early decision, etc.

I referenced the Common Application deadlines and requirements grid handout as a research tool to identify which participating colleges require what kind of testing, number of recommendations, and application supplements.  A review of important parts of the Common App (activities section [resume], letters of recommendation vs Teacher Advisor [counselor] letter, and essays) will be presented in Advisory to juniors this semester.  The Common Application won’t open for the class of 2016 until August; it is far too early to discuss how to make each application unique — but that is something College Advisors discuss during individual appointments with students.  A Common Application workshop will be offered in the Fall.  Preparing for college by taking an SAT/ACT comes first, followed by thinking about/researching which colleges meet students needs and goals (Ms. Erber discussed this and there was an exercise performed to help students initiate this task), and also planning for obtaining letters of recommendation.

With regard to testing timelines, as I explained to [the author], the standard practice across the country is for juniors to take the PSAT in October, receive their scores in January (both dates determined by the College Board), and then take the SAT in March, May or June.  Our juniors were lucky enough to take the PLAN in sophomore year and consider the scores from that pre-test to determine if the ACT would be a better test for them and take it in April or June.  The orientation had one slide about SAT/ACT testing that was intentionally discussed for no more than 2 minutes since detailed information was being discussed in Advisory that week.

The orientation presentation is online for you to view [on paly.net].

Our presentation is intended to build on Advisory lessons the past several years.  Some juniors might have more familiarity with this information or post high school options than others.  Perhaps this is true of the students quoted in [the author’s] article who felt our presentation was lacking–but even they mention learning new things.  Please remember that the College Center is part of the Guidance team and works in concert with the TAs and Guidance Counselors to develop the Advisory curriculum.  So, the College Advisors have a sense of how our work complements the work of Teacher Advisors and have a better overview of scope and sequence than most students do.   

We encourage all juniors to meet with their College Advisor to discuss individual post high school planning.  I especially hope those students who wanted more from the orientation will do so; I think they will find that we will go into more depth regarding aspects of the college exploration and application process as relevant for each specific student’s plan.  That said, I appreciate the student feedback; as educators, we consistently reflect and refine our work on a regular basis.


Ms. Cernobori