Preparing for the Search
The college counseling philosophy at Burroughs is straightforward: We strive to counsel students in their search for colleges and universities that meet their academic, social, emotional, financial, and geographic needs. This all begins in the early years with building a strong foundation from which students can develop their own trajectories.
- 7th & 8th Grade: Starting Out
- 9th & 10th Grade: A Time to Focus
- 11th Grade: Turning Toward the Future
- 12th Grade: The Closing of One Chapter—The Opening of Another
We recommend schools that fit each student’s individual needs as they have developed and matured at Burroughs. This philosophy is consistent with our approach to education at Burroughs: We do not attempt to twist students into a prescribed mold as they consider their next destination. Students are asked to discover who they are and what they think. Together we explore the options for post-secondary education, and students discover the vast number of choices available to them. The journey belongs to the students. College counselors are here to work with them and their families.
In a sense, the college counseling program at Burroughs is an extension of the advisory program. Students are assigned advisors in the 7th through 9th grades and then choose an advisor for the 10th and 11th grades. Advisors help students with course selection and encourage them to get involved in activities outside of school so they can discover where their interests and abilities lie. The college counseling team meets with 9th and 10th graders as a group to discuss college preparation.
In the fall of the junior year, the college counseling teams meet with families to outline a standardized testing schedule, describe trends in the college admissions world, and provide an overview of the application experience that families will undertake over the next 18 months. Eleventh graders meet with the college counseling team as a class once a month throughout the fall.
The formal partnership with College Counseling kicks off in November of that year with a parent meeting in which we introduce our team and give a primer that includes a planning calendar for students, parents/guardians, and counselors; a detailed explanation of terms and criteria to help students develop their own college lists; information on required standardized testing, college essays and financial aid; and a discussion of various college admission plans that provides insight into how colleges make their admission decisions.
Because our counselors actively participate in the life of the school outside of their duties as college counselors, they may know their advisees before the formal search begins. This partnership is enhanced by the attention paid to each student by the full team of counselors, who meet weekly to pool their expertise about colleges and to strategize about every student.
Once assigned to individual counselors, students and their parents/guardians meet with their counselor for a general discussion about academic, social, geographic, and financial needs. During this meeting, the counselor makes a preliminary assessment of the student’s chances for admission to a list of colleges based on academic achievement and standardized test scores. Of course, many other factors affect a student’s prospects at any college.
From this point until all students have selected their next educational home, the students and their counselors are in close and regular contact. As mentioned before, the process belongs to the student. Although counselors initiate the critical first planning meeting and others as necessary, no student (or parent/ guardian) should fail to seek additional input or guidance from a college counselor.
At the 7th- and 8th-grade levels, our challenge is to make approximately 95 new students who come to us from more than two dozen schools feel comfortable and connected — with each other and with the rest of the JBS community. We seek a delicate balance, nurturing and guiding them while working to increase their confidence and independence. Their course requirements expose them to a core curriculum and expansive extracurricular activities, allowing them to begin exploring and developing their interests and talents. They are given responsibilities as members of the larger community that will prepare them to be future leaders of our school. They are introduced to community service by example and by immersion. Throughout middle school, students are given substantial support in developing the good study and organizational skills necessary to succeed at Burroughs and beyond.
Students in 7th grade are placed in untracked classes in all subjects except mathematics. Math placement is based on the results of a test given the previous spring, after admissions decisions have been made. Our experience is that elementary and middle schools’ math curricula — more than any other subject—vary significantly. Placement can be a function of what a student has been exposed to every bit as much as their ability. By the end of 7th grade, mathematics teachers can make recommendations about each student’s course sequence in 8th grade and subsequent mathematics classes.
The 8th-grade Algebra I course, which is demanding and appropriate for many of our students, is not as fast-paced as the 8th-grade Algebra I Accelerated course, as it has more time built in for practice. Still, it will lead students to proceed through most of the same material through high school.
At the end of 8th grade, students are prepared for high school and thus are given the opportunity to begin to make their own course selections, though in some cases, departments will still make placement recommendations.
In science, 9th graders who want to apply to the most highly selective colleges and universities tend to take the biology accelerated class and should be able to do well in that class. The science department will make recommendations about this choice for each student. In science and math, each year, there is an option to take either the regular or accelerated course. For example, a student who does not take biology accelerated might take chemistry accelerated or AP physics in future years.
It has been our experience that students are more engaged and more stimulated when they are challenged. We therefore recommend that students take the most demanding course load they can comfortably carry throughout high school. Although building a college profile should not be the primary focus when making course decisions, the most highly selective colleges and universities will favor students who take the most demanding courses appropriate for them and achieve highly in those courses.
Most students will continue to take five academic courses. Four academic courses are recommended for students who have difficulty in one academic subject, who want to concentrate their work in four academic classes, or who want to focus their work on the arts, athletics, activities, or other pursuits. This group of students will be significantly less competitive if they apply to the most highly selective colleges and universities.
During the 9th and 10th grades, students work to develop strong study skills, a sense of independence, and a sense of identity. As they progress through the core academic classes, they work at higher and higher cognitive levels and expand their capacities as thinking and questioning individuals. As students sample electives, they begin to expand their sense of who they are and where their interests lie. College is not an immediate vision, but as they become stronger students, they are laying the foundations for their future academic paths.
- Beginning in 9th grade, letter grades and activities are recorded and appear on student transcripts. Students have independent free periods, during which they can study on their own while seeking help from their teachers when they need it. Students continue taking courses in the arts and are encouraged to participate in community service activities and competitive athletics.
- Increasingly, they consider and are advised on course selection as it may impact their college prospects.
- In August, there is an “Introduction to College Counseling” presentation for parents/ guardians of 9th graders and a “Planning for College Counseling” presentation for parents/guardians of 10th graders.
- In 10th grade, students begin to take specific steps toward the college application process.
- In October, sophomores take a PSAT test as practice for the one they take in October of the junior year.
- A financial aid seminar is held in early October for interested parents.
- In the winter, the principal and college counseling team discuss summer activities.
- In March, 10th graders participate in Career Day.
- In the spring, the director of College Counseling meets with sophomores at a class meeting to discuss course selection for the junior year. Interested students are welcome to attend the annual Four School College Fair (Burroughs, MICDS, Clayton, and Ladue) in April, and some attend the St. Louis Metro Fair.
- Throughout 10th grade, students are encouraged to visit colleges when they travel with their families or visit friends and family members at other schools.
The junior year is frequently regarded as the most important year in high school for college admissions. Most students consider the junior year the most challenging academically, and, in many cases, it represents the final grades earned before applications are submitted. It is the year in which students are assigned an individual college counselor and begin constructing a college list based on their academic, social, and geographical interests. Self-examination and conversations with their counselors help students better understand their desires and goals as they begin to think about which schools would match them well.
Regularly scheduled advisories are used to communicate college search information. Students and their parents/guardians are prompted through the following steps:
- During free periods, students may attend meetings with college representatives who visit Burroughs. They may also attend virtual college “mini fairs” in the fall, held before the school day begins.
- Parents/guardians are invited to a meeting in the fall for an overview of the college search.
- In October, many students sign up for Advanced Placement (AP) exams, which are administered in the spring. In particular, many juniors choose to take the English Language and Composition and/ or the U.S. History exams.
- In October, students take the PSAT, the qualifying test for National Merit.
- In November, students take a free practice ACT to see where their testing strengths lie and discuss their strategy with their college counselor.
- Counselors encourage students to consider selecting one or two activities they enjoy and in which they might achieve leadership positions from among the many they were encouraged to try in earlier grades.
- A financial aid seminar is held in early October for interested parents/guardians of juniors and seniors.
- Parents/guardians attend College Night in November, the kickoff for the formal counseling partnership.
- Each student is assigned to a college counselor, who becomes the student’s primary advisor.
Students and their parents meet with their college counselors.
Students discuss a standardized test plan with their college counselor.
Students are encouraged to visit colleges. Two excused absences are allowed for this purpose.
Some students and their families plan college visits during spring break with guidance from the college counselors.
Interested students are welcome to attend the annual Four School College Fair (Burroughs, MICDS, Clayton, and Ladue) in April.
Counselors help plan summer visits to colleges. Families make appointments for campus tours and interviews.
Parents/guardians write “recommendations” about their children to help the college counselors better know their advisees.
Students conduct independent college research throughout the school year and in the summer. Counselors are available to consult with students throughout the school year.
Students refine their college lists during the summer and begin to draft essays to include in their applications. College counselors host a Summer Application Workshop in June or mid-August to help students start their applications. An essay workshop for all students is held in mid-August.
Certainly, college applications and senior grades are significant. Students devote tremendous time, thought, and effort to writing college applications and then devote great emotional effort to understanding both positive and negative decisions rendered by admissions offices. However, we urge students not to overlook their roles as leaders of the community. The senior class sets the tone of the school and should seize the opportunity to make that tone as positive and healthy as it can be. We constantly remind our seniors that this is their final year at Burroughs, and they should take advantage of the opportunities afforded them. Many seniors find that they do their best work in the classroom, take more chances in the arts, and have deeper and more meaningful relationships with faculty once their applications have been submitted.
The following list highlights the college admissions process:
- Students (or students and parents/ guardians) meet with their counselors during the first three weeks of school to finalize their college lists and discuss application plans.
- Counselors speak to parents/guardians during Mini-School.
- College counselors help students polish their college essays.
- A fall meeting is held with students and families to familiarize them with the senior year, with particular attention to the preparation of college applications.
- College counselors and teachers write recommendations in support of each student’s college applications.
- Students fill out applications for schools with early action, early decision, and rolling admissions plans. Counselors review these applications before submission.
- Counselors check in with colleges to ensure all applications have been received and to advocate for our students.
- If approved by the principal, students may take off up to three days from school for college visits.
- Parents/guardians are invited to schedule conferences with their child’s college counselor as needed.
- Students meet with visiting college representatives to learn more. Students also attend virtual “mini fairs” to meet representatives before the school day begins.
- Counselors advise students to send the official SAT and/or ACT score report to all colleges to which they are applying that require official scores. (Many colleges now allow “self-reporting.)
- Because many colleges and universities are now test-optional, counselors will advise students on the colleges to which students should and should not submit testing to support their applications.
- Counselors and students discuss plans for any final standardized testing.
- If applying for financial aid, families fill out the FAFSA and CSS Profile. Forms are available annually on October 1.
- Students make sure that applications are proofed by their college counselor before submission.
- Seniors take their final SAT or ACT in October or November, if necessary.
- Students receive early decision/early action notification from colleges in mid-December and discuss results with their college counselors.
- By the end of March, the remaining decisions are received and college counselors are available to help students choose their college.
- Students send a deposit to the college of their choice by May 1.