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A Better Way to Apply to College

The college application process can be long and difficult for students, but there are ways Holliston High School can help.

Holliston High School is all about preparing kids for college, and it shows. Of the 95% of students who graduate, the overwhelming majority move on to some sort of higher education.

Even the lowest level classes have “college preparatory” in their names, and a wide variety of extracurricular clubs and sports give Holliston kids a leg up in the application process. But as any senior will tell you, that process can be long and difficult.

Kids need to narrow down hundreds of possibilities into a small group of final choices, fill out several forms and transcripts, write an essay, get teacher recommendations, complete the actual applications, apply for financial aid, and more.

This is challenging both because it’s a major life decision and because kids often don’t know some of the basic things about the application process. That challenge is further compounded when there are no older siblings or college educated parents to fall back on.

Currently, students are offered support from the guidance office. The student body is divided amongst four counselors, who meet with students about college in scheduled appointments.

Although this system does work, it has its downsides. The workload for each counselor is enormous, and students often have to wait days for an appointment that doesn’t last long enough to address all of their concerns. All those appointments take place during the school day, with the typical student racking up hours of missing class time because of them.

It would make sense to divert all this activity into a College Application class, where busy students can do all of the needed work in a classroom with an instructor instead of struggling through it at home in their free time.

Counselors already meet with class-sized groups of seniors in the computer labs to fill out college forms online. College Application class would replace this, guidance appointments, and time spent outside of school with one forum where students can get all their work done.

The precedent for this idea exists in SAT Prep classes. These are exactly what they sound like – courses on how to take the SAT exam that is universally used by colleges to asses the aptitude of students.

This shares an important similarity with the proposed College Apps class in that it’s not academic, but exists only to help students with college-related work.

And like SAT Prep, College Apps should be a one term elective, meaning that it is as short as a class can be and is completely optional. It would most likely run during terms one and two of the year, months during which many schools place their deadlines.

Over the course of 9 weeks, students could get all of their college work done and make sure that it’s done right. This will alleviate a lot of the stress and end the confusion that so many students feel during the application process.

Holliston High already does a lot to make sure that its students become good candidates for colleges. It only makes sense to set aside some class time to make sure they get there.

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Danielle Horn March 01, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Great idea, Eric. Along with this, I think that students could benefit in high school from some sort of "life skills," class - maybe you have something like that under the phys-ed program - where students learn to manage money, and are educated on the dangers/rules of credit cards. Etiquette would be a helpful lesson, too. So many kids, once they get out of high school, get into financial trouble. And in addition, many don't know appropriate behavior for job interviews/college interviews, etc. Is there anything like that in Holliston?
Marshall Cohen March 01, 2012 at 06:53 PM
There are two courses that offer insight into the financial world. From the HHS Course Selection Guide: "describes the principles and methods that individuals use to manage income and financial obligations. Personal finance reflects the growing need for 21st-century citizens to be financially knowledgeable, particularly in light of the increasing number of financial choices they face. It includes the application of knowledge, skills, and ethical values when making consumer and financial decisions that impact the self, family, and community. This is a project based course that will focus on daily financial choices, taxes and money management." "Financial Literacy is the ability to use knowledge and skills to manage one's financial resources effectively for lifetime financial security. This course will prepare students for the choices and challenges of today's financial markets. A better understanding of financial literacy will help students advance by making more informed monetary decisions and realizing a greater potential for personal wealth. This is a project based class that will focus on money management, credit, investing, real estate, consumer protection, and risk management.
Eric Niermeyer March 02, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Yeah Marshall is right; I took Fin Lit and found it very helpful. That and other classes like Euntrepeneurship and Intro to Business could be considered "life skills".
Danielle Horn March 02, 2012 at 03:22 AM
Marshall, those sound great. Every school district should have courses such as these.

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