In the cases of many students, attending a college or university serves as the logical successor to completing high school. As such, college permeates senior year from its inception. Notifications of visiting college representatives fill the morning announcements, posters advertising different schools fill the halls, and collegiate sweatshirts, acquired at college visits, fill students’ wardrobes.
For students with aspirations of going off to schools across the country, excitement is mixed with stress and an increased workload. The first semester of senior year is when most students begin the application process. Much of what colleges look for is already in place by this time in the applicant’s career – GPA is laden with grades from previous years, opportunities to take entrance exams are dwindling and little can be done to augment a résumé three years in the making. For the most part, applications are rather rudimentary. Difficulty is derived not from their nature, but from their scope. Each school requires students to compile test scores, transcripts, recommendations and a varied amount of essays (by far the most time-consuming part). Furthermore, students are expected to continue earning good grades in the rigorous course load that most colleges list among their top priorities.
This is the first time in the lives of a large portion of students where an apathetic failure to comply can have long-lasting implications. Fortunately, the senior herd is kept on course by the tutelage of counselors and College and Career Advisor Joseph Hock. College visits to Sherwood, which let students make informed decisions about where to apply and matriculate, are facilitated and publicized by Hock. The Guidance Department has little responsibility beyond completing required evaluation forms and sending out transcripts, yet they have gone above and beyond in terms of informing students of what they need to do. In the middle of September, each counselor met with their senior students and gave an overview of Sherwood’s role in the application process and handed out a concise folder with all the necessary materials and handouts encapsulating the procedures.
Counseling’s beneficial practices, however, are somewhat marred by the issuing of false promises. As juniors, members of the Class of 2011 were told that they would each be assigned a mentor, a teacher tasked with aiding them in the application process, and that they would have the aforementioned counselor meeting in June. Neither of these actions came to fruition. While the mentoring endeavor would have been largely superfluous, students could have really benefited from meeting with counselors before summer.
The school admits that the process of sending out transcripts takes three weeks, so, with schools like the University of Maryland having November 1 priority deadlines, a mid-September meeting leaves students with mere weeks to complete their applications. Sure, many students needn’t such a meeting to begin applications which their parents have undoubtedly been nagging them about, but the fact of the matter is that it came far too late for those who needed it most.
In modern education, much is made of the achievement gap, the disparity in academic performance between students of differing races and socioeconomic standings. This is only one facet, and a rather short-sighted one, of what it means to achieve. Achievement should be looked at in the long term, and for many that includes going to college. Imagine a student whose parents aren’t helping him with the applications because they themselves never went to college and are largely ignorant of the process. This student knew not to start essays during the summer and he or she can’t cram to do them now because he has a job (to earn tuition money) which eats up a lot of their time. Hopefully, the Guidance Department can tweak its timetable so that this student’s younger sibling can have the advantage of an earlier start to the college application process.