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Smart College Search Support for Sophomores

Sophomore year is a sweet spot for upper schoolers. They’ve moved past the nerves of freshman life. They have yet to reach the peak of academic rigor typically associated with junior year and college application deadlines haven’t quite come into view. That makes it a great time to think more purposefully about college. To help our students and their families make the most of this time, our college counseling department introduced a new seminar program for all 10th graders this year. The goal is to empower our students with the information they need to make the best choice when the time is right.

Don’t Worry, We’ve Got You

In the fall, Ms. Laurie Duguay, Ms. Kim Coughlin, and Mr. David Brunk met with the sophomore class to introduce the program and dispel any worries about the college application process overall. These seminars are one more step in our comprehensive plan to ensure every Severn student has a successful college search. By learning useful tools and strategies early, students can figure out what they want during a relatively pressure-free time in their lives.
“Colleges want well-rounded students who demonstrate passion and interest. The most important thing our students can do as new sophomores is concentrate on doing well academically and stay involved in extracurriculars or get involved if they aren’t already.” — Ms. Duguay

Know Yourself

Taking the lead on the program, College Counseling Associate Ms. Duguay held smaller, seminar-style sessions throughout the year to dive into Naviance Student, a college and career readiness platform with tools to plan and track each student’s search. In previous years, students weren’t able to access Naviance until 11th grade. Opening it up early gives our sophomores more time to use the self-discovery and career-matching features including “Do What You Are,” a personality type assessment that recommends career paths and college majors based on a student’s strengths. If students understand who they are and what’s important to them, they can use that information to evaluate schools rather than going off of blind preference.
Screenshot of test results page.
Sample “Do What You Are” results page.
“The kids were so enthusiastic about sharing how accurate their ‘Do What You Are’ results were and the possible related careers. They were also very interested to see that not all colleges offer majors that would work for those careers.” — Ms. Duguay

Strengthen Your Portfolio

Our sophomores then started resumes to revisit each year. Many colleges either request or allow students to submit a resume as part of the application process. Preparing a resume teaches students how to track and communicate their accomplishments, valuable skills they will use throughout their professional lives. An unexpected benefit to the group sessions, our 10th graders eagerly encouraged each other to add highlights as they remembered shared club activities, volunteer hours, and more. The community aspect of the seminar program helps students feel excited about the process rather than nervous or overwhelmed.

Ms. Duguay talked about how best to spend the summer, keeping resumes and college plans in mind. Summer is a great time to work, travel, volunteer, take classes, and more. Those genuine interests and activities are what colleges want to see on applications. By encouraging students to think ahead, it helps them make better decisions, reaching toward their goals while avoiding the pitfall of a lazy summer spent on the couch.
Screenshot of summer planning worksheet
Sample summer planning worksheet.

Conduct Remote Research

Just weeks after Severn transitioned to remote learning due to the COVID-19 school closures, Ms. Duguay held the last round of seminars with a focus on conducting remote research. After exploring their interests, planning their summers, and starting their resumes, it was time for our sophomores to dig into some nitty-gritty information about schools.
Severn School students on a Zoom session with our college counseling associate.
Ms. Duguay met with both large and small groups for the final round of seminars on Zoom.
Ms. Duguay assigned each student a college to research and later share with their advisory groups, making sure to include schools of all shapes and sizes. The goal is for our sophomores to think critically and consider how each factor might affect them as a student. This research can be conducted entirely online through Naviance and college websites.

Location:
  • How many miles is this school from your home?
  • How long would it take you to get to this school from your home?
  • Would you drive or fly to get there?
Size:
  • How many undergraduate students are enrolled at this school?
  • Are there graduate students?
Environment:
  • Is it private or public?
  • Is it in a city or rural area?
  • What are the demographics?
  • What percent of students live on campus?
  • Is housing guaranteed?
  • What is the student to faculty ratio?
Admissions Requirements:
  • When is the application due date?
  • Does this school accept the Common Application, Coalition Application or have its own application?
  • How much does it cost to apply?
  • What are the average SAT and ACT scores?
  • Is this school test optional?
  • What is the percentage of students accepted to this school?
  • What other factors besides GPA and test scores are important to the admissions office? 
College Expenses:
  • How much does it cost to attend this school for one year (two semesters)?
  • What percent of students receive financial aid?
Other:
  • What is the six year graduation rate?
  • What are the top 3 majors that the college offers?
  • Name 3 clubs or activities you would be interested in at this school.
  • Would you recommend this school to a friend? yes Why or why not?


The More You Know

Every seminar session is designed to help our students increase their self-awareness and become better-informed consumers. With a year of self-reflection, practice with Naviance, and intentional research under their belts, our sophomores will be well prepared to hit the ground running when junior year begins.

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Lower School

Preschool-Grade 5
Chesapeake Campus
1185 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd
Arnold, MD 21012

Middle/Upper School

Grade 6-12
Teel Campus
Severna Park, MD 21146