The 2015-16 school year is coming to a close, the class of 2016 has graduated, and Northwood School class of 2017 is now ready to lead. Here’s a final (longer than usual) update from Northwood School’s college counseling office.

Best wishes on your upcoming final exams

1831247139_1362455100It’s final exam time! Work hard during this last week to prepare for your exams. Check out these suggestions for preparing for final exams.

As the end of your junior year draws near, make sure to reserve some relaxation for your summer.  While the college counselors have a lot of opportunities to keep you busy, it is vital to have some down time – some time to get away from the stress of your school obligations and have some fun.

Juniors have made great progress on the college search

I am impressed with the good work that our junior class has done so far in 2016. Every junior has completed most of the following tasks, and will start the summer before their senior year better prepared than ever before. The class of 2017 has…

  • Created a Common Application account
  • Started the Common App (many juniors are almost done)
  • Drafted a college essay
  • Completed career interest and personality surveys to help explore possible majors and careers
  • Created a list of “Colleges I’m Thinking About”
  • Participated in SAT prep
  • Took the SAT
  • Sat for full-length practice SAT and/or ACT
  • Asked teachers for recommendations
  • Visited colleges

There is still more to do this summer, but feel good about all the good work done so far.

Suggested reading and listening

If parents and students do these two things together, the college search just might not be full of stress and anxiety:

gettinginFirst, listen to the “Getting In” Podcast. The podcast follows a diverse group of high school seniors through the exhilarating and harrowing process of applying to college. Over the course of a school year, the show chronicles all the important steps along the way, from applications to acceptances. Be sure to start with episode 1 and listen to them in order. Why not listen in the car while you visit colleges this summer?

Second, read Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania, by Frank Bruni. Parents and students can read it at the same time, pausing every chapter or two to discuss what Bruni has to say. The college search and application process can be terrifying, wrought with anxiety and stress. It doesn’t have to be. Bruni, a columnist for the New York Times, gives students and their parents a new perspective on this brutal, deeply flawed system and a path out of the anxiety that it provokes.

College research resources

FiskeMost juniors have an extensive list of “Colleges I’m Thinking About,” and your most important assignment is to research the schools, delete choices that aren’t right for you and add others you learn about along the way. By the time you head back to school in the fall, your list should be narrowed to a reasonable number you can apply to. For most students, that’s 6-8 schools. More than 10 is seldom wise.

Visiting a college/university is the best way to get to know a school. Here are some other great resources to research schools before you visit:

Also: be sure to follow College Counseling at Northwood on Facebook.

As you develop your “short list” of college where you think you will apply…

Talk to your parents about when to schedule a visit to a college or two to see how reality matches your expectations. Call the office of admission to participate in an information session and take a campus tour. If you want to talk to the person who advises students about what courses are needed to obtain that degree in history, ask the person in admissions when you make your appointment if you can meet with an academic advisor in history. See if the water polo coach is open to a meeting, too, and always swing by the office for students with disabilities if you will be using any educational accommodations for an IEP or 504 plan.

financial-aid-office2Another step with your short list is to give the names of these colleges to your parents so that they can get on these college websites and plug numbers into each college’s Net Price Calculator to obtain a better estimate as to how much your freshman year of college will cost. More on financial aid here.

testFinal opportunity to take full-length practice SAT or ACT

If you missed the opportunities to take a full-length practice SAT or ACT this spring, you may choose to take a self-proctored exam during the summer when you have a four-hour block of time available. See Mr. Spear for details.

Parents, recommend your students to your child’s college counselor!

While your student is working to keep up with his or her obligations and trying to get a good night’s sleep, he or she doesn’t recognize what is remarkable about him or her; you, as a parent, do appreciate the wonderful qualities your student has developed as a young adult, and this information is vital to share so your post-high school counselor can write a meaningful letter on your student’s behalf.  We’d like to have your comment before school starts. Log in to your Family Connection/Naviance account and then complete this survey, which parents will find after they log in, under the “About Me” tab.

Common Application rollover

logoThe main application form that over 600 colleges use is called the Common Application and can be accessed at All juniors have created Common App accounts and started the application. Over the summer you should continue to fill out the application. Hold off on posting the essay until the fall, and DO NOT submit any applications until your college counselor has had a chance to review them and make suggestions.

Summer workshops

Mr. Spear will host many college application workshops on campus for day students and anyone else who is in town. Be on the lookout for the schedule of workshops, which will be emailed to students and parents in June. If you can’t make it to campus, Mr. Spear will also be available for appointments via Skype or phone to answer questions about your college search. Schedule an appointment with him here. If none of the posted times with for you, then email him with a suggested date and time.

Check out My “Unfiltered” Advice for students and parents

A writer with the Washington Post asked me and other college admission pros what we wish we “could say to parents and students about education, parenting, life and college but cannot, either because [we] want to keep [our] jobs or [we] think parents/kids are not ready to hear it.” We were assured our responses would be anonymous. Here is my advice, no anonymity needed.

College counselors visit colleges, too!

The summer is Mr. Spear’s favorite time to visit college campuses, because he can take his time getting to know a school without feeling guilty about being away from school when classes are in session. Here are the school’s Mr. Spear will visit in June (he’ll visit even more in July and August):

  • Wagner College
  • Fordham University
  • New York University
  • New York Institute of Technology
  • George Washington University
  • American University
  • Georgetown University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • Bucknell University


Have a great summer!

From Northwood School’s College Counseling Team:

  • John Spear
  • Annie Edwards
  • Steve Reed
  • Andrea Kilbourne
  • Kathie Moore.

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