Category Archives: General

Important Information for Recently Graduated Seniors

Dear Graduating Senior:

Congratulations on your graduation from Northwood! I enjoyed the ceremonies during commencement weekend. Unfortunately, I had to leave for our LEAP course in Iceland as you were ringigraduateng the victory bell. My quick departure meant I didn’t get to say congratulations and goodbye to most of you. I hope you have a wonderful summer and keep in touch with me and your alma mater.

Here are some answers to questions you might have: Continue reading

The Class of 2017 is Headed to College!


Congratulations to the Northwood School class of 2017, and good luck in college. Please keep in touch with your alma mater. We’ll miss you!

Continue reading

Webinar Follow-up: What Parents Should Expect About the Senior Year

the-road-to-collegeTHANK YOU!!

We want to thank all of the parents who attended the webinar, What Parents Should Expect About the Senior Year. We had some excellent questions, and I hope that you found it informative and worthwhile.

Here are the presentation slides, for those who would like to review what we shared during the webinar. We are also providing a link to a recording of the webinar, in case you missed it or want to watch part of it again.

Thanks again, and we hope to see you on future webinars!

John Spear, Annie Edwards, Tim Weaver and Kathie Moore

Northwood’s College Guidance Team

College Guidance Update for Rising Seniors

College SignDear Senior:

“Senior…” I like the sound of that, and I hope you do, too. I trust you are having a relaxing, yet productive, summer vacation. I am contacting you in hopes of an early start on some matters related to your college applications. Time passes quickly in the fall; you will find this especially true since you will probably be busier and more industrious regarding your academic work than ever before. You should write for information from the schools that you are currently interested in attending. Hopefully you are also visiting colleges and have an interview at some of your possible college choices. Frequent contact with admissions offices demonstrates interest in the school and improves your prospect for admission.

Returning students, log in to your Family Connection account often because once there you’ll find a list of tasks assigned to you, your updated GPA and test scores, a résumé-writing tool and dozens of tools to research colleges on your list. To log in, go to; your username is your email address and you chose your password during the spring. Please keep your list of “Colleges I’m Thinking About” up-to-date. Add schools you’re considering and delete schools no longer under consideration. If you’re new to Northwood, you’ll soon receive instructions for logging into Family Connection. Email me ( if you have trouble logging in.

I have enclosed three recommendation forms, which are to be given to adults who know you well through academics, sports, employment or community work. Give them the forms plus a stamped envelope addressed to me at Northwood. It is important to give the forms to people who have had a chance to closely evaluate you as a student, athlete or employee. These letters are important to your college counselor as aids in writing your official school recommendation. Letters from family friends or local hotshots are usually worthless. All people who respond will receive a thank you note from me, and they should receive one from you as well.

Family discussion of your college choices over the summer is vital and might well be aided by a book like the Fiske Guide to Colleges, which also has an iPad app. You should write or email to any school whose program looks attractive to you. The New Rules of College Admissions edited by Stephen Kramer and Michael London is an excellent overview of the college search and application process. Last year’s Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, by Frank Bruni is an outstanding read for students and parents. If you enjoy listening to podcasts, I recommend the “Getting In” podcast from Slate. It’s outstanding.

You may have heard about the new “The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success,” also called the “Coalition Application.” More than 50 colleges will begin accepting this new application platform in addition to the Common Application. Because it is brand new and untested, we strongly encourage students to mot used the Coalition App, and instead use the Common Application. Because this platform will not link with Naviance, many college counseling offices, including Northwood’s, will send transcripts and recommendations for Coalition Applications via postal mail. By applying on the Common App, students ensure faster delivery of their materials.

You may hear about ZeeMe (, a free web-based service designed to help students market themselves to colleges and universities. Some colleges and universities are using ZeeMe, but none require it. Feel free to check it out and use it if you’d like.

All returning seniors (and many new seniors and PGs) already have Common Application accounts. Be sure to “Roll Over” your Common App account. The Common App has a video with simple instructions: Do not create a second Common Application account.

If you are a postgraduate and were accepted at any colleges/universities or were in contact with any college coaches last year, you should write them and tell them you will be at Northwood and are still interested in their program.

Visit the College Guidance section of the web site; find it under “Academics.” There you will have links to the college guidance blog, Family Connection and the College Guidance at Northwood Facebook page. Please follow us on Facebook.

Do not submit any applications this summer. All applications must be reviewed by your college counselor before being submitted. No essay is to be submitted unless a Northwood college counselor reads it first. See the enclosed “What Students and Parents Need to Know about Senior Year and the College Application Process” for more important information.

Please note that there will be an administrative charge of $10.00 for each transcript package mailed or faxed to a college after the student’s year of graduation.

If you have any questions regarding these matters, email me ( I look forward to working with you in September toward acceptance at your first choice college.

Best Wishes,

John Spear
Director of College Guidance



What Students and Parents Need to Know about Senior Year and the College Application Process

the-road-to-collegeCollege counseling offices do things differently, depending on the school. Here is some important information about how Northwood School does college guidance.

  • The student is responsible for submitting SAT/ACT/TOEFL and other test scores to colleges. The college counselor can help!
  • Once admitted, the student must commit to only one college by May 1st and may not submit multiple deposits. Northwood School will only send out one Final Transcript. (Students taking a year off may defer admission to more than one school. Student may also continue to remain on waitlists after May 1).
  • It is Northwood School policy to answer the disciplinary questions asked of us by colleges and report any suspensions, expulsions, or probations. Northwood School is expected to report on any major disciplinary incidents until graduation.
  • Students must keep the college counseling office up-to-date on their college lists, so that the college guidance office is sending out application materials to the correct colleges. Students also need to update the college counseling office when they receive admission decisions from colleges.
  • Students are required to ask teachers to write recommendations by the third week in October. They will ask for two (2) Common Application recommendations and three (3) Northwood recommendations.
  • The student must give (in a timely fashion) teachers and the counselor all forms that need to accompany the application.
  • Any predictions that college counselors make about admissions decisions are their best guesses; this is a very human and unpredictable process.
  • Students must let the college counseling office know which colleges they are applying to with Early Decision or Early Action deadlines as soon as they know, but no later than Oct 24th. They must let the college counseling office know which colleges they are applying to with Regular Decision deadlines before Thanksgiving break. Any delay in this notification might delay Northwood School’s materials being sent to the colleges.

Remember this: despite the challenges of the college process, your senior year is about learning, being involved in the Northwood School community, and having balance in your life.

“Unfiltered” Advice for Parents and Students

adviceA 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. Continue reading

How to Get Ready for Your Final or Midterm Exams

Keep Calm and Ace Your Finals1. Know Everything About the Actual Final

Some teachers will give students a practice exam that is exactly like the real final, except with different questions. Whether or not you are given a practice exam, be sure to know the answer to these questions:

  • What content is covered and what is not? If there will be no questions on a short story, textbook chapter or lab, then you don’t need to put in time studying. Know what you are responsible for knowing and spend time on that, and don’t waste a minute on anything that won’t be on the final.
  • How is the test structured? Are there essay questions? Identifications? Short answer? Term definitions? Matching? Know every detail about the test: how many sections, the question types in each section and the number of questions per section. On the day of the final, the structure and format of the test should be utterly familiar to you.
  • How much is each question type weighted? If key term definitions are worth 10% of the final, then you probably don’t want to spend 75% of your study time reviewing term flash cards. You probably want to spend most of your study time on the most valuable sections. Finally, have a pacing strategy for test day. You have a maximum of three and a half hours to take the exam (more if you have an extended time accommodation). Have a plan for how much you should spend on each section, and follow your plan.

Continue reading