Achona Advice: “It’s not about finding the best college; it’s about finding the best college for you.”

Sarah Elliott, Junior Section Editor

With the end of high school looming ahead, Academy juniors are scrambling to learn more about their college options. Chaos would ensue without the help and guidance of our reliable college counselor, Mrs. Darcy Dwyer.

Mrs. Dwyer highly recommends taking college trips whenever possible. “Visiting colleges is one of the most essential things a student and family can do. Many students have ideas in their head…and sometimes visiting schools isn’t a priority. I really encourage a student to still go through the actual process. They need to be the prospective student, they need to sit in on the admissions presentation and take the tour. Ultimately, I think the college visit is one of the most important factors in choosing a school.”

Sometimes the number of schools to choose from can be overwhelming. However, according to Mrs. Dwyer, it’s especially important for juniors to keep options open. “I really feel that oftentimes parents of juniors and juniors try to narrow down before even opening up the process. I feel like they’re so worried about getting down to that certain number of colleges that they’re narrowing before they’ve begun. I feel that parents and students should look broadly. Throughout junior year and over the summer and by early senior year is the time; by then, the students and parents should be narrowing down the schools to a good amount. Don’t narrow down too quickly. Give yourself the opportunity to see what’s out there.”

Naviance provides many helpful features when it comes to choosing colleges, particularly a list of the most common colleges applied to by AHN students. It also offers a list of suggested questions to ask of college admissions officers, whether touring a campus or attending a presentation at school. Both of these lists and further information regarding the college experience can be found at: http://connection.naviance.com/holynamestpa

Not only are juniors stressing about their college options, but also about doing their best on the required tests for admission. “Today, all four-year colleges and universities will accept either the ACT or the SAT. The only question that should be asked is which test best demonstrates students’ strengths. That’s what’s important. Parents and students need to know that there is no preference. It’s important for students to really look at both tests and see if they have a definite strength or better ability in one versus the other.”

In regard to preparation for the tests, “That question varies from student to student. It’s now almost automatic that parents and students are rushing to take a test prep course. I really believe it’s important to look solely at the student and her testing record…and then make a plan of attack. It’s all about what works for you.” Students have taken up many different strategies in the past, ranging from a test prep course, individual tutors, online courses, or strategy books.

In another word of advice, Mrs. Dwyer explains, “I find that juniors are very, very tentative about sending their test scores to colleges and universities. I encourage students by the end of junior year to not be so paranoid because when a junior is sending her test scores to a college (number one for free, so it’s saving you money down the road) but secondly, it is an indicator to the college that this student is interested in the school. Ultimately, the college only looks at the student’s best set of scores anyway.”

With the addition of iPads to our school and the overall increase in use of technology, it’s hard to know how to keep track of the ample information regarding colleges and the application process. Mrs. Dwyer recommends using a combination between an actual portfolio and a digital one. “It’s important to keep both an online record and a written record of all of your passwords.” Each college requires a username and password for submitting applications, and it can become very hard to keep track of.  Naviance is once again very helpful in keeping track of things such as this, as well as test scores and other college information.

Mrs. Dwyer’s final advice is practical and in keeping with Academy’s “Esse quam videri” philosophy.  “It’s not about finding the best college; it’s about finding the best college for you. I would like to see juniors be open to new possibilities, be willing to consider colleges they may not have heard of before, and if they are true to themselves, I believe they will find a college that fits them in all ways. There is absolutely a college out there for everybody.”