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Navigating the College Process

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Gabriela D., Class of 2021

A Senior's Perspective on the College Counseling Process at Penn Charter

Beginning the college process was nerve-racking for me, just as it is for every student. Applications, financial aid, college visits, and paying attention to statistics were all just numbers to me, especially never being one of those students where college was talked about my entire life and upbringing. I was intimidated and felt a lot less prepared compared to some of my peers who had done everything since middle school in preparation for attending the college of their dreams. College is considered an important next step and I was really afraid of not doing it “right.” However, the college counseling team was not only able to help me set my anxiety aside, but they showed me that who I am and what I have to offer is just as valuable as everyone else. Even valuable enough to get into my own dream school. 

The College Counseling team ... showed me that who I am and what I have to offer is just as valuable as everyone else. Even valuable enough to get into my own dream school. 

Penn Charter would not be the place that it is without the College Counseling Office and the incredible support from teachers in all departments when it comes to the application process and helping students and their families navigate this stressful time. The College Counseling team hosts several events for students and their families to familiarize them with the process of applying to schools well before the process begins — with events beginning as early as ninth grade. This allows families to feel prepared for the process and comfortable with reaching out to their own college counselor to ask questions and get things done.

One helpful, interactive event that took place during Junior year was the mock admissions decision case studies event. Students and their families spent the evening pretending to be admissions committees and had to explore the way that colleges choose students by evaluating sample essays, GPAs, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities etc. This gave us insight into what happens behind-the-scenes in the college admissions process and a chance to hear directly from deans and directors of admissions who are engaged in this work every day. 

Students are also given personalized attention as they are assigned to one of the four college counselors at the end of their sophomore year, who serves as their college advisor. At this point, they begin meeting with them throughout the remainder of their Penn Charter experience. In junior and senior year, students take a college counseling course where they are exposed to the application process, how admissions make their decisions, what makes a good application, and what to look for when it comes to choosing schools that are right for you. They also provide assistance in the course selection process throughout high school in order to ensure that the course load is right for each student. The college counselors did a wonderful job of breaking things down in these courses and meetings by making the numbers and facts regarding college comprehensible, which immediately took away the stereotypes regarding what applying to college was like. Even after leaving my first ever college counseling meeting, I felt completely at ease and secure after they answered all of my questions and discussed my concerns. They made me realize that the process would not be as difficult as it once seemed. 

In a normal year, Penn Charter welcomes more than 170 college representatives to campus who provide overviews of their specific school and answer any questions that students had. Even during covid-19 when visits needed to take place virtually, the College Counseling team made sure to communicate with families about virtual events occurring at the school, as well as out-of-school opportunities. At the beginning of this year, I attended a college essay workshop provided by our Writing Center faculty where I brainstormed with my peers, and then continued the editing process with my own college counselor in the weeks that followed. This collaboration really pushed me to create the best essay possible. I also received tremendous support from my art teachers and mentors who assisted me and provided advice for my Drama-specific application, where I needed to not only apply to schools, but also needed to film monologues, submit resumes, and attend virtual auditions. With such a different process than most, many of them reached out offering help my junior year, so I would be prepared for what was in store for my senior year application process. I had multiple meetings with each of them to help me figure out what I wanted, what made a good audition, and how I should spend my summer in preparation. 

What I appreciated most from the counseling that I received was how real and honest counselors and teachers were, as well as how much easier the application process was than I had initially anticipated.

Even when overwhelmed during the application process, my teachers and counselor provided me with perspective and kept me on track. What I appreciated most from the counseling that I received was how real and honest counselors and teachers were, as well as how much easier the application process was than I had initially anticipated. This left me incredibly surprised and with a great sense of relief once all my applications were submitted and admissions decisions were made. Without them, I can confidently say that I would have been a lot less prepared and a lot more lost in this process.

By Gabriela D., who is excited to begin NYU | Tisch Drama in the fall. 

Meet the College Counseling team

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