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 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
- College Essays
- 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 seventh grade, and 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 seventh and eighth grades. Accelerated, honors and AP courses are available to eligible students, beginning in ninth grade. However, students are not committed to or excluded from upper level courses in science based on what courses they take in earlier years.
- Foreign language classes are untracked until eleventh grade when honors and AP courses are available to eligible students.
- English classes are untracked all six years; however, an honors course, as a supplement to twelfth 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 eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh 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.
As first steps, students and/or parents 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 a 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 making general travels prior to the formal college search.
The SAT Test is a three-hour and forty-five minute objective test measuring verbal and mathematical skills. The test includes a writing sample. Juniors are encouraged to take the SAT I in January or March in consultation with their college counselor. Some seniors retake the test in the fall, since the scores often increase on the second or third testing. The SAT is offered across the St. Louis area throughout the year. Students must register on their own and include the optional writing portion.
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. We encourage all students to take the writing test.
NOTE: Students may use either the SAT I or the ACT in their college applications.
The SAT Subject Tests are in specific areas. They are all multiple choice. One to three tests may be taken on a given testing date (but SAT Subject Tests cannot be taken on the same day as the SAT Test). As a general rule, juniors are encouraged to take math and one or two other tests in subjects they have completed (e.g., American history, physics, etc.) in June. Some juniors will have already taken biology (after ninth grade) and chemistry (after tenth). Other tests may be taken in senior year (e.g., foreign languages). The most highly selective colleges will recommend (and some will require) two or SAT Subject Tests. SAT Subject Tests are offered at the same locations and times as the SAT Test. Students must register on their own.
Advanced Placement Tests are subject tests (like the SAT 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 officially AP scores are not considered in the college admission process, we find that admission officers take notice of a student who earned a 4 or a 5 (out of 5) on an AP test taken in the sophomore or junior year.
NOTE: As an institution, we believe that the course work at Burroughs amply prepares students for standardized tests and that faculty provide substantial support for SAT Test, SAT Subject Tests, 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 junior year to maximize its potential assistance. Khan Academy is a free, on-line test prep program for the SAT and ACT Academy is a free, online test prep program for the ACT.
Each college or university sets its own rules and requirements for applications. Some provide their own applications; over 800 offer the option of the Common Application. A very few use the Coalition Application.
Those applying to schools with rolling admissions (including the University of Missouri-Columbia) generally hear within three to four weeks. Applications may be submitted as early as September.
Those applying regular decision must submit applications by specific dates (January 1-February 1). Decisions are usually rendered by April.
Those applying early decision (ED)—which requires an unequivocal binding commitment from the student—must generally submit their applications between November 1 and December 1, and they will receive decisions from colleges by mid-December. Early decision II is offered by some schools with applications due in January and notification by mid-February. This option is geared to students who may not have been accepted at their first choices (early decision I) or who want to strengthen their records with first semester senior grades.
A final category is early action (EA) which follows a comparable application/notification timetable as early decision but does not require the student's decision until May.
Single-choice restrictive early action (REA) is program where the student agrees that they will apply to only one school early. (Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Yale are REA schools.)
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 will divide that money into three different 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 component.
NOTE: The Burroughs college counseling office has considerable financial aid resources for students to explore, and 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.
While you can learn a great deal about colleges and universities by visiting their web sites and reading their admissions materials, there is no substitute for actually visiting, taking the general tours and attending the information sessions. Take advantage of the varied campuses in the St. Louis area as well as those near family vacations to get a feel for urban versus suburban, large versus small, public versus private, etc.
As you begin to narrow your sights, you can visit colleges during the summer before your junior year, during spring break of your junior year, and during the summer before your 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.
Do not be overly concerned if you cannot get to colleges when they are in session. While a visit is more helpful if the student body is available to see and to talk to, even a relatively empty campus can give you a feel for whether or not the school appeals to you. Furthermore, you can always revisit when the school is in session if you feel like you need to sharpen your impression before making a final decision.
Some families decide not to visit colleges early, choosing to wait until they know whether or not a student has been admitted before they take the time to visit.
Once you have your list narrowed down to six or seven schools (with at least one "unpredictable" school, two "reasonable" schools and two "likely" schools), you are ready to begin filling out your application. College admission officers read all application forms very carefully, and you should regard each of your application forms as a vital component of your candidacy.
Many colleges use the Common Application. More than 700 hundred schools have agreed on a common application that students may simply fill out once, and send to as many schools as they like. You may complete the Common Application, where you can also obtain any supplementary information that a college may require.
At the time that you are sending in your application, the essay is the best way for you to exercise control of your personal presentation. Once you've received a grade in a course, you can't change it, but if you're on the edge of being admitted, or receiving a merit scholarship, the essay can have an impact on the college's decision. Moreover, the essay, along with your teacher recommendations, is the place where you will come alive to the admission officers, much more than a series of letters or numbers on a page. The essay is one way for a student to demonstrate those good writing skills and reveal an honest and thoughtful self portrayal of values, accomplishments and goals.
Leave yourself plenty of time to write your essays. You will be wise to have a draft or two of your essay completed by the time that you return for your senior year. Anything that is of real interest to the student can make for a good essay, including autobiographical background and social, political and intellectual interests.
Sometimes a student may question whether they are ready to go to college immediately after they graduate from high school. A gap year can allow students a chance to mature socially and intellectually and can prepare them to go into college with more enthusiasm and vigor. It also can allow students to take a trip or do a project that they have been thinking about for a long time so they can get that out of the way before college starts. The College Counseling office has resources to help you research gap year opportunities.
Almost all colleges are impressed with the maturity that it takes for an applicant to recognize that he or she would profit from a gap year. Most schools will allow you to defer your enrollment for a year if you request it in the spring. The key here is to make sure that you apply and get accepted to colleges during your senior year. Do not decide that you are going to take a gap year and then wait to apply to colleges in the year after you graduate. You want to have your college decisions in hand before you decide to take a year off. You will not be able to have the kind of experience you are hoping for if you have to spend your 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 is especially effective for students who feel that they need more maturity before they go on to college. See your college counselor.
Letters of Recommendation: On recommendation forms and counselor forms, students will waive their right of access. Admission Offices will weigh more seriously what writers say when the student has waived his or her right to see these. Parents or other interested parties do not have access to 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: Students are granted two days in the junior year and three days in the senior year when they may miss class to visit colleges with 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 that 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 or ACT 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 you have 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 ED or REA college. If a student attempts to apply ED to two or more schools, we will advise him to reconsider and will report the multiple applications to the schools where he has applied. Some schools offer early action (EA) 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. We will abide by the request of the specific college.