Source: Buffalo Seminary
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Buffalo Seminary: Where girls get into their top choice colleges

Choosing a college that is just right is a big decision that many students struggle with. They often describe the process as stressful, time-consuming and aggravating. After calculating their GPAs, writing their essays, comparing unis, understanding rankings, filling in a bewildering number of applications, they — finally, at long last — submit all they need to. Anxiety sets in as they brace for admissions decisions and the likelihood they will be admitted to their dream college (or not). Then there are the big questions that loom over everything: What’s the point of college? What future are they looking at?

Aiming to ease this frenzy-filled process, Buffalo Seminary (SEM) provides a suite of support and guidance through every step of this momentous journey. Its college counselling programme was established to demystify the college application process for its students and their parents. “From the moment a student enters SEM as a freshman, she is guided and encouraged to become a lifelong scholar and leader,” says Ann Leslie, Director of College Counselling.

Located in 205 Bidwell Parkway, a setting that reflects the diversity, energy, and traditions of Western New York, SEM is one of the oldest schools for girls in the nation. With more than 170 years of excellence and innovation, it’s inspiring young women to become tomorrow’s leaders, proud to shape society rather than be controlled or defined by it.

But first, there’s college.

Doing well at college is important — and that starts by choosing the right major and college. SEM understands this well, which is why it takes an individualised approach in empowering students to make informed decisions about their post-high school education. The goal is not just for girls to make good choices but to make it a positive experience.

At SEM, this takes the form of a four-year plan. The counselling process begins as soon as you take your first step in SEM. Each new student will be assigned three mentors – a faculty advisor, peer sponsor and class dean – that will guide them throughout their years in the school. In their freshman year, students are encouraged to join various classes and extracurricular activities, allowing them to discover their interests and passion.

Source: Buffalo Seminary

At SEM, young girls are encouraged to explore their interests and passion through their diverse classes and clubs. Source: Buffalo Seminary

In their sophomore year, SEM students take the “practice” SAT. It’s their taste of college admissions testing, a low-stakes opportunity to familiarise themselves and to get individual feedback on her relative strengths and areas of focus. Later, together with advisors and/or the college counsellor, they assess their academic record and extracurricular engagement to look ahead to planning for junior and senior years.

Another round of PSAT follows in October of 11th grade. Results are then discussed during their first individual meeting with the College Counsellor. Class meetings and small group meetings provide more orientation, answers to the college process and tools to help manage their search.

Juniors take the PSAT again in October of 11th grade, and have their first individual meeting with the College Counsellor when those results are available. The College Counsellor presents at class meetings and hosts small group meetings in January during health class to help orient the girls to the college process, answer general questions, and introduce them to the tools they will be using to help manage their search. A Junior Parent Orientation offers an overview of the planning calendar and an introduction to Naviance, the web-based college planning tool that SEM makes available to parents and students.

“We teach a trimester-long ‘College Counselling Workshop’ for juniors,” shares Leslie. “Our curriculum is designed as an intentional approach to college applications and to help students identify their abilities, interests and achievements. We cover a wide range of topics including personality inventories, career and major exploration, academic goal setting, resume writing, building and enhancing activities lists, and personal essay writing exercises.”

Entering their final year at SEM, students will meet with college representatives from over 75 colleges and universities. During this time, counsellors help students meet early deadlines and narrow their college options, in a process that’s highly individualised. While the counsellors and parents are included in the process, SEM instils independence in their students, providing them with the tools and direction to discover their own path.

“Our belief is that while there is no perfect college for anyone, there are very good schools that offer many opportunities for growth and satisfaction. At SEM, we carefully counsel our students and help them discover which school is the right fit for them,” Leslie says.

With so many institutions to choose from, Leslie and her team aim to help each student find the best match based on their interests, achievements and goals. This includes, among others, devising a standardised testing plan, completing the “My Ideal College” questionnaire, visiting campuses, planning summer activities, helping ask for teacher recommendations, bringing in admissions directors, hosting a Financial Aid Workshop led by seasoned professionals, and more.

Source: Buffalo Seminary

SEM’s curriculum combined with counselling allows young girls to experience college life in a safe space. Source: Buffalo Seminary

The impact of SEM’s college counselling process is profound. Many SEM students have been accepted into top colleges and secured internships. The class of 2022 received acceptances from universities such as the University of Alabama, Arizona State University, Boston University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, Wellesley College and many more prestigious institutions.

“The class of 2022 included budding scientists, artificial intelligence enthusiasts, musicians, artists, political enthusiasts, global activists, future teachers, lawyers and medical professionals. They received acceptances from many fine institutions and intend on studying all over the world,” Leslie says.

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