Seniors jumpstart college process

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This article was written by Amber Bhutta, class of 2019.

Rising seniors returned to school early as they gathered in the Upper School Media Center for Senior Jumpstart to prepare for the college application process. From 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Aug. 7-9, students listened to presentations by their college advisors, as well as a guest speaker about various aspects of the application process, and had opportunities to ask questions.

As students filed in, the college advisors, led by Mrs. Sharon Bikoundou, distributed raffle tickets for the chance to win Starbucks and Chik-fil-A gift cards to reward students who took the time out of their summer to attend.

After the raffle, Mrs. Bikoudou discussed the importance of organization and gave tips such as creating a master calendar, starting a filing system and making lists.

“Organization only may not get you into college,” Bikoundou said,  “but it certainly helps when you stay on top of things.”

High school principal Mrs. Elise Blum briefly spoke to students about the value of compassion during what many consider a stressful process.

“Be kind to each other,” Mrs. Blum said. “Things you say about each other can bring each other down, even if unintentionally. Please, be kind to each other.”

After the introduction , students learned about applying to the state university system as college advisors went through the requirements and deadlines for individual state universities.

On the second day, college advisor Mr. Erik McLeod broke down the personal statement essay that college applications require all students to write. Students went through provided sample essays and identified strengths and weaknesses as well as brainstormed ideas for their own.

After the essay session, Mr. Peter Ratzan of Your College Concierge delivered a presentation about college finances and financial aid, advising students to consider finances while creating a balanced list of colleges to apply to instead of waiting for acceptances to take into account monetary considerations. Ratzan also spoke about the importance of involving parents in the financial part of the process, especially when going through tax returns for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile.

“Everything about your application should be driven by you,” Ratzan said. ,“but, especially when it comes to filling out things like the FAFSA, allow your parents to take the reins.” The school will also host a FAFSA workshop Sept. 19 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. and a CSS Profile workshop Sept. 28 p.m. to 8 p.m.  

On the third day, students learned about the college interview, including how to act and what types of questions to expect. Students have the opportunity to conduct a mock interview with Spanish teacher and Brown University alumnus Dr. Gabriela Zaviezo and can reach her at The college advisors also went through the Common Application to address frequently asked questions and show students important aspects.

“I overall thought the experience was super helpful, especially with how stressed I was coming in,” senior Thea Mckenna said.

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