It is essential that every high school student has a point person to assist them as they mature, develop their passions, explore their next academic steps, and discover who they are as an individual. While schools often have an on-site counsellor to guide students, at The Stony Brook School (SBS), an entire programme is aligned to help students unlock their passions and determine what will propel them while on this path of discovery.
SBS is a college preparatory, co-educational day and boarding school for students grades seven to 12. Located on the north shore of Long Island, just 55 miles east of New York City — one of the most culturally diverse and vibrant cities in the world — the school boasts of a college counselling programme that helps students gain admission to the school that will best meet their needs.
Shaping resilient characters
“There are over 3,000 institutions of higher learning in the US alone,’’ says co-director of college counselling, Erik Johnson. “So how do our students identify a good fit from among these choices? We create a student-centred approach to college counselling that asks students to understand themselves more deeply, and identify the most appropriate educational opportunities.’’
“It’s a process that leads to growth,” notes Johnson and fellow co-director Christine Loo, “no matter the outcome.”
One of SBS’s top students, Amanda, is now a student at Stanford. While the school’s college counselors are proud of this result, they are even more impressed with how this student remained resilient and positive in the midst of some early disappointments in the application process. Even when she was tempted to feel discouraged, she remained positive and was especially encouraging with her peers, genuinely celebrating their success when they gained admissions into their dream college. Amanda truly embodied SBS’s school motto, character before career, notes the counsellors.
Another SBS student struggled with uncertainty surrounding his goals and aptitudes. He had started the college process convinced he wanted to be in the pre-med track. With some soul-searching and guidance from his counsellors, he eventually found his calling — the humanities.
How The Stony Brook School promotes college-readiness
SBS’s college counselling programme officially begins when students enter the 10th grade.
“Sophomore year is the best time to formally begin the process of thinking about college,’’ says Loo. “By this time, students have established friendships and life rhythms. They have also had exposure to academic engagement and rigour, standardised testing, and have deepened their interests in extracurricular activities and found out who they truly are.’’
10th grade: Increasing college awareness
At this stage, students will be encouraged to immerse themselves in regular meetings to discuss college readiness, personal goals and standardised tests. There will be guidance on course-selection, while students will also take their PSATs, finish all personal inventories on SCOIR (a cloud-based software that helps students, parents and college counselors manage the application process together), furnish their résumé and continue researching colleges.
11th grade: College preparation officially begins
Junior year students will meet with the college counsellor to assess areas such as their academic achievements, potential, interests, strengths and areas of growth. They will also be advised on standardised testing before taking the required tests — be it the SAT or ACT. Eleventh graders will also participate in a minimum of five visits by college representatives to the school.
12th grade: Applying
In senior year, students finalise college lists, complete exams, and gear up for college applications. Students will also be advised on financial aid, scholarships, and athletic recruitment. Course selections and application schedules are reviewed by a counsellor, who will ensure student submissions are made between November and January, so decisions are received mid-April. Students are also guided as they make their final commitment to attend college by May.
SBS’s college counselling programme is detailed but effective. Many of their students secure admissions in top institutions such as Boston University, Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth University, New York University, Stanford University, the University of Southern California, and Yale University.
“If I could describe why the college counselling programme at SBS is unique, it’s because we know and love our students,” says Loo. “We remind our students that each one of them is unique — that a person exactly like them will never walk this earth again. We try to look at each student through their parents and guardians’ lens: every parent who sends their child to school wants that child to be known and loved. In a nutshell, this is what we do best at SBS.”