Frequently Asked Questions
We encourage parents and students to wait until junior year to immerse themselves in the college search process. The best college admission strategy takes full advantage of the first four years at Burroughs to focus on the strong development of knowledge and skills — in the classroom, the studio, the athletic field, and the greater community.
That said, there are some general topics and terms that come up before the formal college search and application process begins. This section addresses some of these topics and terms.
- Course Selection
- Getting Started
- Standardized Testing
- Applications and College Admission Plans
- Financial Aid
- Visiting Schools
- Filling Out Applications
- Gap Year
- Miscellaneous But Important Policies
Course selection is driven by graduation requirements, student interest, and ability. We discourage students from making decisions driven strictly by college expectations, and it is very important to remember that colleges evaluate many factors in addition to course selection and performance. No single course choice will be the deciding factor in any college’s admission decision. That said:
A student’s effort to take the most rigorous course work available—and achieve a grade of “B” or better—can positively influence decisions by the most highly selective colleges.
Math classes track students beginning in 7th grade. Course placement/selection in math in earlier grades at Burroughs affects course opportunities in upper grades, including honors pre-calculus and AP calculus.
Science classes are untracked in the 7th and 8th grades. Accelerated, honors, and AP courses are available to eligible students in high school. However, students are not committed to or excluded from upper-level courses in science based on the classes they took in earlier years.
Foreign language classes are untracked until 11th grade, when honors and AP courses are available to eligible students.
English classes are untracked all six years; however, an honors course, which supplements 12th-grade English, is available to eligible students.
History classes are untracked all six years.
The most complete source of information on courses and course sequence at Burroughs is the curriculum guide, which is updated annually and distributed after spring break to 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th graders in advance of the course selection process for the coming year. Students consult with advisors before submitting a final selection, which is also approved by the principal and parents/guardians.
As first steps, students/parents/guardians may get acquainted with the process in the following ways:
Students and parents are welcome to become familiar with the many resources in the JBS College Counseling office.
Every April, Burroughs cosponsors the Four School College Fair with MICDS, Ladue High School, and Clayton High School. While there isn’t a great deal of opportunity to visit seriously with college reps, students can learn some basics and pick up some literature at the fair.
Many colleges sponsor evening meetings throughout the school year. They are geared to seniors (and juniors) but are open to the public. Students might receive individual invitations if they have made contact with a college.
Juniors may attend college rep visits on campus during their free periods or during “mini fairs” many fall days before the start of the school day.
Most families do not make college visits before spring break of junior year. However, you can get a good feel by visiting “typical” campuses — urban versus suburban versus rural; small private college versus large public university; Southeast versus Northwest, etc. — when traveling prior to the formal college search.
PSAT/NMSQT: All students take the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test) in the fall of their sophomore and junior years. The sophomore year is for practice; the junior year is the qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship Competition. The PSAT also provides an idea of what SAT Reasoning Test scores might look like. The PSAT is administered at Burroughs during the school day.
The SAT test is a three-hour and 45-minute objective test measuring verbal and mathematical skills. Juniors are encouraged to take the SAT in December or March in consultation with their college counselor. Some seniors retake the test in the fall since scores often increase on the second testing. The SAT is offered across the St. Louis area throughout the year. Students must register on their own.
The ACT is a battery of tests in English, math, social sciences, and natural sciences that assesses general educational development in these areas. The ACT is offered across the St. Louis area throughout the year. Students must register on their own. NOTE: Students may use either the SAT or the ACT in their college applications. NOTE: A very small number of colleges require the optional Writing Test (e.g., the military academies).
Advanced Placement tests are subject tests and are given at Burroughs in May to those students who register with the appropriate academic department. A strong score on these tests can earn a high school student college credit (but each college defines the nature of that credit). While AP scores are not officially considered part of the college admission process, we find that admission officers take notice of students who have earned a 4 or a 5 (out of 5) on an AP test taken in the junior year.
NOTE: As an institution, we believe that the faculty’s everyday instruction at Burroughs amply prepares students for standardized tests and that the faculty provide substantial support for the SAT, ACT, and AP tests. That said, many students/families opt to enroll in commercial prep classes. The decision is entirely a personal one. If your family believes such a prep course is advisable, we would only recommend that the course be taken the summer before the junior year to maximize its potential assistance. Khan Academy is a free online test prep program for the SAT, and ACT Academy is a free online test prep program for the ACT.
Applications and College Admission Plans
Each college or university sets its own rules and requirements for applications. Some provide their own applications; others offer the option of the Common Application.
A detailed calendar of the application process, which is primarily accomplished in the first half of senior year, is also provided on pages 20 and 21.
Those applying to schools with rolling admissions (most state universities) generally hear within three to four weeks. The College Counseling office submits applications via Cialfo, our platform supporting the application process.
Those applying Regular Decision must submit applications by specific dates (January 1-February 1). Decisions are usually rendered by April.
Those applying Early Decision I — which requires an unequivocal commitment from the student — must generally submit their applications between November 1 and November 15. They will receive decisions from colleges by mid-December. A relatively new offering – Early Decision II — is offered by some schools, with applications due in January and notification by mid-February. EDII may be a good option for students for whom a particular school has emerged as a first-choice option at this point of the application process or who want to strengthen their records with first-semester senior grades.
A final category is Early Action, which follows a comparable application/notification timetable as Early Decision but does not require the student’s decision until May.
Restrictive Early Action or Single Choice Early Action allows applicants to apply early and receive admissions decisions earlier than Regular Decision but is NOT a binding agreement. However, there are additional restrictions--namely, applicants applying REA are often not allowed to apply ED or EA to other colleges, except for public colleges, etc. Students should carefully review the rules of each college’s specific REA policy. Students still have until May 1 to make their enrollment choice.
NOTE: Burroughs complies with college restrictions on early applications, i.e., if a college’s early admission policy requires that a student not apply anywhere else early, Burroughs enforces that restriction.
Need-based aid is allocated solely on the ability of the student’s family to pay for tuition and fees. A college will determine the need-based financial aid package for the students it accepts and divide that money into three types of support: grants (which do not have to be repaid), loans (which must be repaid but usually at reasonable interest rates), and work-study.
Merit/talent-based aid is given for significant talent and achievement (academic, athletic, leadership, artistic, etc.) and usually has no need-based component.
NOTE: Every college has a Net Price Calculator to help families get a general ballpark of the amount of financial aid a school may provide. The College Counseling office has considerable financial aid resources for students to explore. Every October, Burroughs invites a college financial aid officer to campus to speak to interested junior and senior parents. However, it is up to the student/family to research financial aid resources and complete all forms on time.
While students can learn a great deal about colleges and universities by visiting their websites and reading their admissions materials, there is no substitute for visiting, taking the general tours, and attending the information sessions. Students should take advantage of the varied campuses in the St. Louis area and those near family vacations to get a feel for urban versus suburban, large versus small, public versus private, etc.
As students begin to narrow their sights, they can visit colleges during the summer before junior year, during spring break of junior year, and during the summer before senior year. Other good times to visit include long weekends in October and November and three long weekends in the winter. Seniors may also miss up to three class days (assuming they are not in academic trouble) to visit colleges.
Students should not be overly concerned if they cannot get to colleges when they are in session. While a visit is more helpful if the student body is available to see and talk to, even a relatively empty campus can give a feel for whether or not the school is a fit. Furthermore, students can always revisit when the school is in session if they feel like they need to sharpen their impressions before making a final decision. Robust virtual options exist for those who cannot visit.
Some families decide not to visit colleges early, waiting until they know whether a student has been admitted before they take the time to visit.
Filling Out Applications
Once students have a list narrowed down to six or seven schools (with at least one “unpredictable” school, two “target” schools, and two “likely” schools), they are ready to begin filling out an application. College admission officers read all application forms very carefully, and students should regard each of their application forms as a vital component of their candidacy.
Many colleges use the Common Application. More than 900 hundred schools have agreed on a common application that students may simply fill out once and send to as many as 20 schools.
Sometimes, a student may question whether they are ready to go to college immediately after graduating from high school. A gap year can allow students to mature socially and intellectually and prepare them to go into college with more enthusiasm and vigor. It also can allow students to take a trip or do a project they have been thinking about for a long time. The College Counseling office has resources to help students as they research gap year opportunities.
Almost all colleges are impressed with the maturity it takes for applicants to recognize that they would benefit from a gap year. Most schools will allow students to defer their enrollment for a year if they request it in the spring. The key here is to make sure they apply and get accepted to colleges during senior year. Students should not decide that they will take a gap year and then wait to apply to colleges the year after graduation. Students should have their college decisions in hand before they decide to take a year off. They will not be able to have the kind of experience they are hoping for if they spend their year off investigating and applying to schools.
Another alternative is a post-graduate year. There are a number of very strong post-graduate programs, especially at the northeastern prep schools. This option is especially effective for students who feel that they need more maturity before they go on to college. They should see their college counselor.
Miscellaneous But Important Policies
Letters of Recommendation: Students must waive their right of access on recommendation forms and counselor forms. Admission offices will weigh more seriously what writers say when students have waived their right to see these. Parents, guardians, or other interested parties cannot access confidential counselor or teacher recommendations.
Official Transcripts and Recommendations: All official transcripts and recommendations will be sent directly from the school. Current students, please contact the College Counseling assistant to have a transcript or recommendation sent on your behalf. Alumni, please contact the JBS Registrar. Unfortunately, no official transcript or recommendation can be given directly to a student or parent.
College Visiting Days: It’s recommended that juniors take no more than two and seniors no more than three days off to visit colleges. They must have the permission of their teachers, principal, and college counselor. College counselors reserve the right to refuse permission for a student to skip class to visit a school if they do not think the student has a genuine interest in the school.
Test Scores: Burroughs includes AP scores of 4 or 5 on the transcript. Students are responsible for sending all SAT, ACT, or AP score reports directly to each college. Some colleges allow “self-reporting” of these scores. Students also are responsible for sending official score reports to scholarship funds and/or to the NCAA Eligibility Center.
Reporting Senior Grades: Burroughs will send first semester grades as soon as they are available. Following graduation, Burroughs will send an official transcript to the one college where a student has made a deposit.
Disciplinary Procedures: Many college applications now ask the student and the counselor whether the applicant has ever been suspended or taken a leave from the school. The school will respond truthfully, and students who intentionally deceive colleges in their applications are in violation of the Burroughs academic integrity statement and will be subject to further disciplinary action by the school. All suspensions from school appear on a student’s transcript. We require students to include an explanation of the suspension in their applications.
Early Applications: We will send JBS materials to only one Early Decision or Restrictive Early Action college. If a student attempts to apply ED to two or more schools, we will advise them to reconsider and will report the multiple applications to the schools where they have applied. Some schools offer Single Choice or Restrictive Early Action programs and ask that students who choose to use their EA programs apply to only one school. Other schools do not object to students sending in more than one EA application.