These are only samples of frequently asked questions, and they are certainly not meant to be comprehensive. St. Johns families should never hesitate to contact me when they have questions. I am here to help in any way I can.
Director of College Counseling
- When should we start talking with our children about colleges?
- How do I find my perfect college?
- What courses should I take to allow me to get into the best colleges?
- How many Honors and AP courses should I take?
- What kind of extracurricular activities do colleges want to see?
- How can I find scholarship money for college?
- What kind of SAT or ACT scores do I need?
It is never too early. It may sound exaggerated, but there is some truth in this statement. I am thankful for the daily opportunity at St. Johns to stand before the entire school at flag raising and announce the most recent college acceptances. Even the first graders listen carefully and applaud every acceptance. We are demonstrating for them the importance we place on academic success and college approval. They have a clear sense of destination as a result.
When parents ask me to help them motivate their children to achieve at a higher level, I often suggest that they spend a day visiting a local college or university campus. Here they may witness young adults enjoying the variety of experiences and the independence of college life. Again, this glimpse into the future defines a worthwhile and realistic destination and purpose. They are able to see themselves enjoying the reward for all of the hard work expected of them in high school.
Family discussions around the dinner table can reinforce these experiences. A student’s online research can quickly supply the details of any college’s academic and social offerings. Keeping records of these talks and research sessions builds the student’s investment in this future, and as he or she learns more, the motivation to work to one’s potential increases.
Looking for a "perfect college" is a mindset that is common, but we work together to try and change. The :perfect college" probably doesn’t exist. Instead, decide what factors (location, size, academic majors, etc.) are most important to you, and then search for colleges that offer all of those factors.
Certainly narrowing one’s college search to just one college or university is a mistake. Remember that we can’t know for certain which colleges will accept you. Therefore it is wise to find several colleges, all of which offer your most important factors, and apply to all of them.
Every St. Johns student must complete our graduation requirements, of course. However, colleges are most impressed by a student who goes beyond the minimum requirements. Some students are able to handle a schedule with many extra, academically challenging courses, while some students can handle only one or two extra courses. Everyone, however, can choose at least one academic area in which to excel. Taking honors or AP English courses reveals a special interest in reading and writing. Doubling up in foreign languages or math shows a special interest in that area and the willingness to work hard in pursuit of excellence. Part of the college search process will be to find those colleges, the “best” colleges for you, that appreciate your kind of devotion.
There is only one good reason to take an honors or advanced placement course: to accept the academic challenge that the advanced course offers. Yes, there are significant secondary benefits. Honors and AP courses look good to college admissions people. Your GPA benefits by the boost that the honors (.5) and the AP (1.0) courses offer. But if the student is not eager to study at an advanced level, he should pass on the tougher courses.
College admissions officers are not impressed by a wide variety of extracurricular activities. They are impressed by a depth of experience in one or two areas. This is especially true when the student has participated long enough and deeply enough to have become something of an expert, an especially talented participant, or a leader in the activity.
Most scholarship money comes from the colleges, and it is usually used by the college to entice high school students who have what they want. If they wish to attract students with stronger transcripts, they will offer academic scholarships, sometimes in especially hard to find majors. If they wish to attract athletes, they offer athletic scholarships in the sports that they want to improve on their campus. We have seen scholarships recently offered to students with expertise in a specific musical instrument, to outstanding leaders, athletes, community service organizers, artists, and others. These “merit” scholarships can make it possible to attend a college which a family might otherwise be unable to afford.
The SAT and the ACT are two different college entrance examinations. We want every student to achieve the highest scores possible on one or both of these exams. This success might be achieved with different strategies, depending on the student’s specific test-taking skills. Certainly, by the end of the junior year, every student should have taken each test at least once and developed his own strategy for reaching his best results. St. Johns students and their families should come to discuss this strategy with Mrs. Worthington.