“Taking ownership of it is really the key thing. Kyle and I tell them, ‘This is yours. We’re going to facilitate the process, but this is on you.’ We point them in the right direction, but we have to step back and remember not to do it for them,” says Dubreuil. “It’s a complicated process, but it’s a good lesson to learn.”
It’s also helpful to educate parents on how the process unfolds. At Moravian Academy, parents join the process during junior year. Each family schedules a meeting with their child and the college counselors review what colleges are looking for in an application, the student’s academic record, a standardized testing plan, and how they can continue to build on accomplishments.
Part of the discussion also deals with what is driving that student’s search in terms of location, size of the school, and what kind of learning environment they picture themselves in. Their counselors create a tiered preliminary college list and walk them through why they chose particular schools and what the tiers mean regarding selectivity. Then parents and students have the opportunity to ask questions.
“We talk them through a timeline in terms of what’s going to happen next, and we always promise support through the process,” says Dubreuil.
There is also family programming throughout the decision-making process that includes guest speakers and panel discussions.
“Earlier in the fall, we invited representatives from the University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins University Lafayette College, Purdue University, Bucknell University, and Dickinson College. We asked them a variety of questions about hot topics in college admissions, and then families had the opportunity to ask questions,” says Shaughnessy. That event was followed by a college financial aid information night in early October.
“These events have been very well attended and are a great opportunity for families to learn about the landscape of college admissions. In January, we also have young alums who are college juniors come back to Moravian and answer questions about what life is like for them at college.”
The process of college counseling at Moravian is designed to keep students organized and to continue developmentally relevant conversations about what they should be thinking about as their Upper School years progress. But more than anything, it’s about assisting students as they navigate a critical time in their lives and start to learn how to tell their own story.
“Our key is making sure we help students figure out who they are so they can be genuine in the process,” says Dubreuil. “Sometimes it’s difficult for a student to tell their story because they haven’t fully realized who they are as a person, and part of what makes our jobs fun is helping students figure that out.”