One of the many benefits of a St. Andrew’s education is the individual attention each student receives from not only their advisors, teachers, and dorm parents, but also from their college counselors.
Jason Honsel, who has been helping St. Andrew’s students apply and be accepted to colleges for the past seven years, says his team, which includes Anna Hastings, Martha Pitts, and Sheryl Rojas, starts meeting with junior students each fall. Meetings continue with students through their senior year.
“We are a very collaborative group, so while each student is assigned to one of us, we often work together to find the best options for each student,” Honsel says. “We are a tight-knit group and our focus is building a relationship with the students, understanding their goals, their strengths, and helping them get into the right school for them.”
During the course of the year, St. Andrew’s hosts representatives from 50 to 60 colleges and universities. “Each year we receive requests from upwards of 80 schools who want to visit and then we narrow the list down to about 50 to schedule visits,” Honsel says. “There just isn’t enough time to have every single school visit with our students. And, we know from past data where most of our students end up going.”
Speaking of data, Honsel and his team also keep track of student data—grades, extracurricular activities, and where that student ultimately was accepted and then went to college. “Having the past data and knowing each student helps us build a better list of potential colleges for current students because we know what worked for similar students in the past,” he says.
Writing the Essay
For many students, the essay portion of the college application is the most daunting part.
“Essays can be hard, but that is why our team is here,” Honsel says. “We have our entire team that can help read essays and we also partner with other faculty members for help reviewing them.”
His biggest tips for a college essay:
- Be honest and authentic: Each student should write his or her own essay so that it truly represents who they are today.
- Write multiple drafts and continue to ask for feedback so when the essay goes to college admissions, it is the best it can be.
- Do some self-discovery: Think about specific characteristics, goals, likes and dislikes, etc.
Is it all Ivy-League schools for St. Andrew’s students? Honsel says no.
“Our students are incredibly smart and coming to St. Andrew’s is a great benefit for them when it comes to college applications, however, I do often help students see outside the normal ‘brand-name’ colleges,” Honsel says.
The college counseling team helps students build a list of potential colleges. Then students should spend some time researching the schools, attending college rep visits at St. Andrew’s, and then make plans to visit the college campus in person.
“There is so much that goes into the college application process, but we are here for each student every step of the way,” Honsel says.
A Note About Admission Rates
When students sit down with their college counselor and discuss their ideas for where they want to attend college, it can often feel daunting. Just looking at the admission rates can make some feel overwhelmed. For others, it becomes a challenge they focus on overcoming.
In the past several years, admission cycles have seen more admit rates below 10% than ever before. In 1987, for example, Harvard had the lowest admit rate among colleges—16%. Today, schools such as Berkeley and Colgate have a 16% admit rate.
Overall, the most important point to think about is that having a lower admission rate does not mean the school is the highest quality nor does it mean it is the right fit for every student, even the highest achievers.
“Ultimately it’s not where you go, it’s what you do when you are there. Our students are smart enough to thrive anywhere, but it has to be the right fit and culture,” Honsel says. “There are a lot of great schools out there—from large universities to smaller liberal arts colleges. Our students have access to really everything because they have gone to a great high school.”
His best advice for students: “Approach the process with excitement. There are so many options and so many resources and opportunities out there. Just be open to learning about new places and work hard to find the right college fit.”
The College Board website
Fastweb - scholarship resources
Peterson’s College Search Tool
Collegevine College Admissions Calculator
The Fiske Guide to Colleges, Edward B. Fiske
The Best 388 Colleges, Princeton Review
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