Hutchison takes a unique approach to preparing our girls for college, starting with each girl in ninth grade to chart their paths through the Upper School and through the end of their senior year and the completion of the college selection process.
As a culmination of all the years of hard work at Hutchison, choosing a college may be one of the most challenging and important decisions a girl makes. It’s also one of the most exciting. In order to make sure girls are on the right track, Hutchison starts the process in the second semester of ninth grade with course advising and continues it through to senior year with girls working side-by-side with a college counselor.
And with 100 percent of Hutchison seniors admitted to college, the college counseling office stays busy. One of the things that differentiates the Hutchison college counseling department is that there are three full-time counselors, and they all have had experience working at universities and colleges in admissions.
“There are not many schools that have the ratio that we are so lucky to have,” said Lauren Colpitts, college counseling director. “We get to know the girls academically, but also outside of the classroom. We know what they’re involved in because we have the time to build meaningful relationships with them.”
Patsy Detroit ’16, a freshman at Hunter College in New York, said the personal relationship was invaluable. “Ms. Colpitts knew me so well, and she definitely helped tailor my needs. Seeing your college counselor in the hallway, she would remember what you were working on and ask, ‘how is that going?’ She was always checking up on me by text or email to see how I was doing.”
For Colpitts, Caroline Willson, and Michele Davis, the newest college counselor, getting to know the girls is why they enjoy their jobs. “We love helping the girls think about college,” Colpitts said, “but also seeing them develop over four years; that’s really amazing.” The department is supported by Victoria Busse, who serves as the college counseling coordinator.
PARTNERING WITH FAMILIES
One of the most important parts of college counseling is including families in the process. “We recognize that there’s anxiety in the college decision,” Colpitts said. “For many families, this is the biggest decision that their girls have had to make up to this point. We want to be their first resource and also a sounding board.”
With this in mind, the department strives to create an environment that welcomes questions. It’s no coincidence that the college counseling office is located right across the hall from the senior commons. Additionally, because there is a lot of information on the internet—some of it unhelpful or even incorrect—the counselors want parents to be comfortable picking up the phone to call and ask questions.
“We want all families to feel like they have the information, and if we don’t know it, we’re going to help them find it,” Colpitts said. “We have the tools to know where to look for it and to point them in the right direction.”
The goal, Colpitts emphasized, is to manage the stress level and keep the process moving forward. The counselors and students use a search tool called Naviance that helps them look at data from previous years’ applications for comparison and decision making. It also offers a streamlined system for sending transcripts and applications.
In addition to individual meetings with girls, college counseling also offers resume workshops, co-hosts college fairs for all upper school girls, and leads college tour trips throughout the U.S. The college counselors keep in conversation with the teachers, the upper school counselor, and the upper school head so that they are not just focused on the college counseling process. “We want our families to know that they have an entire team supporting their daughters, whether it’s related to the Hutchison academic experience or to the college application experience,” Colpitts said.
Applications and essays may be one of the most challenging aspects of applying to college, so the counseling team holds a summer session with seniors before school starts to begin familiarizing them with the process. They also have dedicated application sessions during the school day so that they can help answer questions and work on essays.
DISCOVERING GIRLS’ INTERESTS
Starting with upper school girls in their ninth- and tenth-grade years provides a great advantage because the counselors can help them develop their interests and chart paths toward prospective colleges. “Even if they don’t know what they want to study in college or where they want to go to school, we start to help them define it by asking questions and conducting career exploration surveys,” Colpitts said.
“Identifying what the girls are interested in is key,” she added. “Oftentimes it is a surprise to them. Maybe they’re on a particular path and then they do a summer program and their whole world is changed. Or, they work with Hutchison Leads or Hutchison Serves to open up possibilities.”
Saneela Tameez ’16, who is studying at Rhodes College, says she benefited from the college counselors’ encouragement. “They encouraged me to go out and try organizations, try clubs, and be more involved with school life in general. It helped me discover my interests.”
The counselors can also open up possibilities in terms of schools that girls are looking at. Ali Bush ’15 knew she wanted to be in California and happened to find information about Scripps College, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to go to a women’s college. “Mrs. Willson said don’t rule it out, it’s a great school, I know people who go there who love it, and it’s part of a co-ed consortium of colleges.” Bush said once she met a Scripps student, she knew it was the right place. “I would not be at this college if it wasn’t for Caroline Willson.”
The ultimate goal is for girls to feel secure in their decisions. “At the end of the day, we want them to look back and feel like they considered everything,” Colpitts said.
“We get to know the girls academically, but also outside of the classroom. We have the time to build meaningful relationships with them.”