Suffield students are assigned to a college counselor in January of their junior year. Our office collaborates on dividing up the junior class among four counselors and experience has taught us that this serves our students well. If students/families have a request for a specific counselor, we will take that under consideration and will try to honor, but cannot guarantee, the request.
Meetings are scheduled with families twice a year—spring parents weekend (for juniors), and fall parents weekend (for seniors). Meetings with counselors are generally available at other mutually agreeable times and preferably after the counselor has had a chance to meet individually with the student. Counselors also communicate directly with students and families through emails and phone calls throughout the process.
Counselors begin preparing a preliminary list of colleges after initial meetings with individual students and are generally available in Naviance near the end of February. These lists are merely a starting point and will change over time as counselors receive feedback from students and parents after college visits and further research as to what a “good fit” will be. In June, after junior year grades and test scores have been received, counselors will take into account admissibility to individual schools and revise the college lists.
There is no substitute for visiting a college campus to get a feel for the school as a potential match for a student. Images and programs in promotional materials and online are carefully chosen, but the essence can only truly be experienced by visiting the college and it’s surroundings. Any of the colleges designated by the counselor on the student’s college list are a good consideration, and choosing schools that are in an approximate geographical local helps maximize time during school breaks. Students are encouraged to visit as many colleges as possible and to make notes about likes/dislikes that can be discussed with the counselor to help determine a “good fit.”
Many colleges offer admissions interviews by various means. If available and the student feels comfortable talking one-on-one, an interview can be good way for students to personalize the application, especially if there are any special or extenuating circumstances which might be best explained in person. Be prepared to answer and to ask questions about the school and its programs, answer questions honestly, and always take the interview seriously.
Students at Suffield begin standardized testing in the fall of their sophomore year with the PSAT and a full-length practice ACT in the spring. Testing continues into junior year again with the PSAT in the fall and the SAT and ACT in the winter. A repeat of the SAT and ACT is encouraged in the spring of the junior year. Seniors will generally take at least one more SAT and/or ACT in the fall/winter. International students should take the TOEFL at least twice—in both the junior and senior years.
The reality is that most students would benefit from extended time on standardized tests, but only certain students qualify to receive it. There are stringent guidelines to which all families must adhere when applying for extended time accommodations. The application process is detailed and requires several weeks for the testing services to review. If a student wishes to apply for extended time, contact with Suffield’s academic support office must be made PRIOR to the start of the junior year.
As set forth by a task force assembled by the school, completion of some form of standardized test preparation is a requirement of Suffield’s college counseling office. Design of such preparation is a student/family decision and the requirement can be met by enrollment in a formal test prep program such as Kaplan or Princeton Review, work with a private tutor, enrollment in an online course (both SAT and ACT offer them), or self-study using test prep study guides/books. For the convenience of our students, Suffield has contracted with Summit Educational Group over the past several years to offer fee-based on campus courses. These courses target juniors in preparation for the January and May SAT, and the February and April ACT.
There is no “secret formula” as to what colleges look for in an application, but there are several components. First, and foremost, is always the transcript. Admissions representatives will review not only the grades received, but also the level of courses that a student took. A strong academic record alone will not guarantee admission so representatives also look for students with a variety of talents—athletic, musical, and artistic—and/or participation in extracurricular activities or work experience. Colleges are also interested in what others have to say about the candidate through their recommendations. The application itself will provide personal information and the reader will learn more about the student in the personal statement and essays. Most, although not all, colleges will require standardized test scores, and some colleges require supplementary materials such as a graded paper. Interviews are also taken into consideration, although admissions will be much more interested in your academics. Finally, colleges will be reviewing the rigor of the curriculum at Suffield Academy by looking closely at our School Profile. This document includes general information about Suffield, our grading scale, graduation requirements, and course offerings that help admissions representatives access a student’s achievement in relation to the rest of the class.
It is critical that students familiarize themselves with the specific testing requirements and policies for each individual college. Students can talk to their college counselor to determine which scores should be submitted, but it is the student’s responsibility to submit the scores to colleges directly from the testing agencies. Suffield does not report test scores on our transcript.
All colleges accept some form of online application, and most accept the Common Application. Once the application is complete, students should review it and their essays with their college counselor before submitting it electronically. The counselor will follow up by submitting the student’s supporting materials (transcript and recommendations) separately.
March break and over the summer present the best opportunity for students to visit colleges without interfering with our academic schedule, especially for those schools a distance away. Many colleges will not be as busy in the summer and options may be limited in terms of interacting with students or attending a class, so if it turns out that interest in the college becomes extremely high, a return visit to the college while in-session might be of consideration. Counselors can provide resources should families need help planning specific visits.
The tenth grade curriculum builds on work done the year before, while adding a significant amount of new information. A crucial component of the program is the introduction of standardized tests for college admission including taking both the PSAT and PLAN.
Through small sessions with college counselors, sophomores will also explore:
• the differences between the SAT and ACT
• basic college vocabulary
• summer opportunities and developing a student résumé
• how to use the online database, Naviance, for test prep and college research
The eleventh grade curriculum, ‘College 101,’ is taught in regular weekly Leadership classes during the winter and spring terms. Making use of the text, College Match, the ‘College 101’ course covers topics such as:
• self-reflection and discovery on what will be the right college “fit”
• the importance of self-advocacy throughout the college search
• instruction on researching colleges and building a balanced college list
• tips on how to get the most out of a college fair and campus visit
Juniors begin individual work in January with their assigned college counselor and all will have a working college list by March break. Juniors are encouraged to visit colleges during the spring and summer vacations. Juniors typically take their first SAT in January and ACT in February or April, and all juniors are advised to take both tests at least once. At the end of ‘College 101’ juniors have the opportunity to visit as a class either a large or small college campus. They will also attend an annual college fair hosted by a Hartford area independent school. By the end of junior year, using cumulative GPA and test scores college counselors are able to help families get a sense of expected admission outcomes.
Before classes begin, seniors participate in a special “Senior Day” program that focuses on college counseling and leadership for the upcoming year. In preparation for the day, seniors are encouraged to have two essays written and the Common Application completed. A portion of the program is scheduled for English department faculty and college counselors to review essays with seniors to help proof, edit and revise as they work toward a final draft.
Seniors work closely with their college counselors in the fall to narrow their college list and complete college applications. Seniors also have an opportunity to meet with college representatives that visit Suffield from September through December—Suffield welcomes over 100 colleges each year. Standardized testing continues in the fall and the majority of college applications will be submitted before December break. Admissions decisions follow depending on the type of application and the college’s response time. Counselors help seniors sort through their admission and financial aid offers to make a decision about their final college destination.
Our college counseling office offers several programs for parents to learn more about the college admission landscape and process. Programs are scheduled for Parents’ Weekend in the fall and spring and as part of the Parent Discussion Series. Additionally, a Junior Parent College Program is held every January for parents to learn the nuts and bolts of the college application process, gather information on financing a college education, and discover how to best support their child throughout this exciting and yet stressful time in their life. Guest speakers are a regular part of our parent programs.