College Counseling

A Question of Balance

Guest post by College Counseling Co-Director Mr. David Brunk
The morning fog had finally relinquished its clammy grasp on Hanover, New Hampshire, and another beautiful early autumn day was in full bloom at Dartmouth College. After visiting that venerable school for several hours, it was finally time to cross the Connecticut River and continue my tour of New England colleges. My last few minutes at Dartmouth were spent at their Office of Undergraduate Admissions, where I was particularly struck by a sculpture of balanced rocks directly in front of the building. Strategically placed at the front door of the admissions office or not, the sculpture inspired a line of thought regarding balance, the college search, and the senior year.
Balance suggests a state of calm equilibrium, yet even the most balanced high school senior surely finds that peaceful moments are in short supply. Balance is also a loaded word to any college applicant, for it lurks around almost every corner. Is my senior schedule balanced? Can I balance all of my academic and extracurricular obligations? Do colleges want balanced students? Do they want balanced classes? (Keep reading for the answer to the last two questions!)

Must we be perpetually balanced?

Consider that objects in perfect balance are often at rest. The act of human locomotion requires mastering control over one’s imbalance, and it is the degree of mastery which separates toddlers from Olympic sprinters. Seniors - you cannot master your college search, let alone your final year of high school, without managing the inevitable imbalances in your lives. While this necessarily includes precious moments of rest, remember that you are moving towards a series of finish lines. Researching that college your parent or counselor suggested. Creating an appropriate list of schools to which to apply. Finishing the next draft of your essay. That quiz on Friday. The key to mastering this imbalance is to measure your strides. Overextension or too many baby steps will leave you flailing in an attempt to stay upright. You must be ready to walk when conditions warrant walking, and you must be ready to run when the finish line beckons.

Prioritize to Prepare

Let's return to the sculpture. The campus surrounding it swirls with unceasing activity, yet there it stands in silent testimony to the importance of proportion and foundation. How will you find your equilibrium? Here is a helpful tip - do some of the easy things first. Asking a teacher for that second letter of recommendation? Just do it. Adding that affordable school that you actually sort of like save for the fact that your parents keep inquiring if you have added it to your list? Just add it. These are the little foundational pieces which will keep you on your feet as you lengthen your stride down the home stretch towards the finish line.

The college application process demands you question much about yourself and the world around you. Before you can ponder these weighty questions about how is it we are here, you must find the balance. It's up to you.

(Bonus: Colleges want well-lopsided students with their unique blend of talents and foibles. Cantilever your strengths to the forefront of your application. As a human, you stand upon your foundation. As an applicant, your candidacy rests upon your salient strengths.)

Need Help? Ask Us!

Check out the resources on our college counseling page and reach out to Mr. Brunk or Ms. Coughlin in the college counseling office. We will answer questions about admission testing and application procedures. As an advocate on your behalf, we will root for your success, help you highlight special strengths, and support your college application with a letter of recommendation. We are here to help Severn students and families navigate the college decision-making process to find the right match for the person you are, and the person you hope to be.

Coming Soon for Parents: Paying for College Program

Severn invites parents to a special program this upcoming September where information designed to help understand the financial aid process and paying for college will be shared. Because the costs associated with higher education often require a long term plan, this event is open to all Upper School parents and we encourage any interested parties to attend. Stay tuned for the confirmed 2019-2020 school year date and time!

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    • Cairn sculpture in front of Dartmouth's Office of Undergraduate Admissions

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