Perfect Timing

I hold my first college seminars with juniors before winter break to kick off what will be intense work together, and subsequent seminars and individual meetings in January to build an initial college list. The December seminar is spirited with encouragement as well as a promise that each student will be admitted to college. In fact, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, “more than three-quarters of students are accepted by their first-choice college.”

Having just shared this statistic with students and assured them that they can and will succeed in the college search process, a senior with whom I’ve been working, made an unexpected announcement at the door to the college counseling office: “I was admitted at —–.” I gleefully offered my congratulations, and then turned to the group of wide-eyed juniors at the table. In unison they said, “Ms. Ferrara, did you stage that?”  The senior’s visit and announcement couldn’t have been better if planned – and really, it wasn’t planned.  And, it wasn’t my words, but rather, it was this serendipitous occurrence that convinced them that they too shall experience a good ending to their college story.

In the meantime, a lot of work will ensue in the coming months, as the college search is not a dash.  The parting assignment – the first of many – was to answer the questions listed on A Place To Begin: A Questionnaire of College Preferences and Thoughts. Of course no answer is set in stone, preferences and opinions may change throughout the search process. This merely provides a starting place in creating an initial list of colleges. A few of the questions they answered are below.

  • What type of learning suits you best? Perhaps classroom discussions, hands-on experiential learning, writing intensive, memorization, etc.?
  • Do you think you’d earn better grades in small or large classes?
  • Do you desire a close-knit, family like environment, or a place where you will blend in with a large crowd?
  • What part of the country (or world) do you see yourself making your home for the next four years?  Any particular states or countries?
  • Is there a particular place or environment that wouldn’t be ideal for you?  Why?
  • What are some characteristics that are important to you as you search for ideal colleges?
  • Do you have any idea what you’d like to major or minor in while in college?  If so, what?  If not, what classes do you enjoy at VMS?
  • Do you think a liberal arts and sciences college is best, or are you seeking a college that will prepare you for a specific career after four years of college?
  • Do you have any career aspirations? If yes, what are they? Why?
  • Do you think a college that emphasizes intellectual prowess is best or do you prefer an environment that is balanced with both studies and a social component?  Or, perhaps you are most concerned with the social climate on campus?

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