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College & Career Counseling

In 1994, SouthLake Christian Academy (SLC) opened its doors to 23 students in grades K through 4. One of the last things on the minds of those involved was college and career counseling. Even when the school began expanding, the daily challenges and future planning did not traditionally focus on high school graduation and subsequent college admissions.  It was the 1999-2000 school year, when that year’s 8th grade class became the first to move to 9th grade at the Academy, that consideration was given to what an Upper School would require. As a grade level was added each year following, so began the SLC Upper School, and the Class of 2003, 10 students, became the first to graduate from SouthLake Christian. This past year, the Class of 2019 was the sixteenth graduating class. It had 53 seniors. Upon completion of graduation this June, the total number of SLC graduates will total nearly 800.

 

In those early years of the Upper School, the groundwork was laid for what the College and Career Counseling Office (CCCO) has become today. As with many things, college counseling is an ever-changing landscape and requires careful scrutiny to stay abreast. School families are blessed that the church, the school board, and the administration view the CCCO as a natural extension of the overall ministry and fully support its efforts. Growth at the Academy has prompted growth in the CCCO. One of the first outward appearances of that growth occurred in 2008, when the CCCO was moved out of the main suite of offices and into the heart of the school. This was done with purpose. Today, the students have greater access in a more relaxed atmosphere. They are free to utilize resources; with an open door policy, most students are served right at the time of need. This has fostered an amazing relationship among the CCCO personnel, the students, and their families.  It is especially rewarding when so many of the graduates return to visit, letting us know how their SouthLake Christian education and college planning prepared them so well for the challenges they face following graduation. Growth has also precipitated expanding services beyond traditional 2- or 4-year collegiate matriculation to include career, gap year, post-graduate year, and military information and counseling.  Additional resources have been added, including Family Connection by Naviance, a web-based resource for students and parents that encourages and supports career and college planning.

 

In the CCCO, many things take place, not only helping and directing students in the post-graduate planning process, but also keeping a close watch on what classes students are taking and, along with the Administration and the Academic Development Center, how students are doing in those classes.  Recommendations and academic advisements are given to all students so they may meet not only the requirements to graduate from SLC, but also are prepared to be admitted to their best-fit colleges or to follow whatever path God has for them.  It is most interesting to note that, while we have had graduates enroll in many of the institutions the world classifies as prestigious and/or ranks highly in some arbitrary listing, the focus of the SLC College and Career Counseling Office is on helping students and their families identify colleges or post-graduate programs that are a good fit for them, not what the world says looks good on a bumper sticker. Sometimes they are one and the same, but just as often, they are not. The first 600+ graduates have matriculated to more than 242 different colleges and universities around the country, selected international programs or gap years, begun apprenticeships, or enlisted in the United States Armed Services. Students have been admitted to each Military Academy, and SLC has been or is currently represented at most of the state and private institutions in North Carolina and the Southeast. SouthLake Christian graduates are now college graduates and are also representing the school in the worlds of business, politics, medicine, technology, missions, and the military.

 

One of the unofficial mottos of the CCCO is, “The best decisions are those that are prayerful and informed.” It is the daily goal of those of us in the CCCO to keep our families and students informed and to commit to pray for them. We also encourage prayer within the family and often take time during the school day to pray with our students. It is no surprise that with guidance, prayer, and often excellent family involvement, most students select colleges and programs with great intention. Some of the ways this intentionality is encouraged by the CCCO include the following.

 

For all Upper Grade Levels

 

  • On Naviance, the counseling communications portal, there is grade-specific college counseling information. This information is updated with things like which campuses are holding Open Houses, which college reps are visiting SLC, and numerous summer academic opportunities. Additionally, there are links to many web sites that provide information on everything from how to write a personal statement to financial aid. 

 

  • During the middle of the first semester, we have Parent/Teacher Conferences. Families who wish to schedule a conference with Mrs. Woodruff, the college counselor, or would like her to sit in with teachers holding a conference, may schedule at that time. Mrs. Woodruff also meets with parents and students anytime, preferably by appointment, but part of the ministry is that students are often seen whenever they want. With parents, it is not unusual to hold an informal conference during a football game or at intermission of a school production.

 

8th grade 

 

  • While this class is still in the Middle School, Mrs. Woodruff begins to get to know them through their teachers and administrators and by visits to their classrooms as an observer.

 

  • There is a close working relationship between Mrs. Woodruff and personnel from the Academic Development Center (ADC). Students who may require additional help to be successful at the high school level and may require more specialized college or post-graduate counseling are individually reviewed. Early information is available to families.

 

  • A Freshman Fair is held for this class as they rise into the high school. The informational fair is held in the second semester of 8th grade and includes introducing high school curriculum and freshman scheduling. An individualized recommended schedule is prepared for each student with an eye toward graduation requirements.  It is then used as a basis for his/her schedule requests. Following that, families have an opportunity to move about and visit with teachers, view textbooks and syllabi, and ask questions.

 

  • During the summer, Mrs. Woodruff meets with families about scheduling requests and changes.

 

9th grade

 

  • A special grade level orientation is held prior to the beginning of freshman year for students and their parents.  A folder of information called “So…You’re Going to Be an SLC Freshman” is created by the CCCO with information for both parents and students about transitioning to high school. “A Game of Fours” is given to the freshmen, allowing Mrs. Woodruff to better get to know them.  She leads a discussion about high school and preparation for college with a Q&A following. Finally the students are encouraged to visit the CCCO for a tour.

 

  • During the first semester, freshman are brought into the computer lab to register an account with Naviance Family Connection. Once registered, students are given a hands-on tour of the site and are able to explore the many support services Naviance can provide during high school and the post-graduate search.

 

  • The PSAT8/9 is administered to this grade level to begin building a college admissions “testing resume” for each student that will be used later as a junior and can be used throughout a student’s tenure by the CCCO and the ADC to help identify strengths and weaknesses prior to collegiate testing.

 

  • During the second semester, a scheduling meeting is held for this now- rising 10th grade class.  An individualized recommended schedule is prepared for each student with an eye toward graduation requirements.  It is then used as a basis for his/her schedule requests.

 

  • During the summer, Mrs. Woodruff meets with families about scheduling requests and changes.

 

10th grade

 

  • Mrs. Woodruff continues to advise this group with specific plans as they relate to college admissions, building on the 9th grade year.  A grade specific meeting is generally held in the fall semester to review the post-graduate timeline and opportunities at this grade level. The meeting closes with Q & A.

 

  • Students are invited to special presentations given by college and program representatives throughout the year.

 

  • Administration of the PSAT/NMSQT is made to this grade level, continuing to build the testing resume. 

 

  • In the spring, a scheduling meeting is held for this now-rising 11th grade class.  An individualized recommended schedule is prepared for each student with an eye toward graduation requirements and college admissions.  It is then used as a basis for his/her schedule requests.

 

  • During the summer, Mrs. Woodruff meets with families about scheduling requests and changes.

 

11th grade

 

  • Grade-specific information for juniors and their parents is given right after school starts.  It outlines steps they can take to ensure a solid year and to begin the college and career process in earnest in January.

 

  • Students are invited to special presentations given by college and program representatives throughout the year.

 

  • Administration of the PSAT/NMSQT is made to this grade level. 

 

  • In January of the junior year, a meeting is held with all the junior students and at least one parent. Families receive a specially- prepared post-graduate handbook, “What’s Your Path?” Some of the information includes researching schools, financial aid and scholarships, admissions testing, how to attend a college fair, how to make a college visit, military service academies, ROTC, NCAA Eligibility, special admissions for Fine Arts majors, community colleges, gap years, the application process, college admission essays, and much more. During the meeting several of the general issues surrounding the process are discussed and then individualized paperwork is distributed.

 

Following the meeting, each student and his/her parents/guardians have specific surveys on Naviance’s Family Connection and other paperwork to complete for Mrs. Woodruff.  These are questionnaires that help her determine what everyone is thinking about the post-graduate process, particularly expectations and potential choices.  Once those surveys and paperwork are completed and submitted to the CCCO, Mrs. Woodruff begins prayerful review for each family, and a meeting between student, parents, and she is scheduled.  This allows each family to ask questions specific to their own process.  It is also a time for families to review what is required between January and August to best prepare the student to begin processing college applications soon after school begins for the senior year.  Summer plans, admissions testing, senior scheduling and specific colleges or programs that match their criteria for location, size, academics, and more are discussed.  Mrs. Woodruff prays with each family about the upcoming season upon which each student and family is about to embark.  This is by no means the only time Mrs. Woodruff meets individually with these families, as that happens often throughout the senior year, but it is a great beginning.  

 

  • In the spring, a scheduling meeting is held for this now-rising 12th grade class.  An individualized recommended schedule is prepared for each student with an eye toward graduation requirements and college admissions.  It is then used as a basis for his/her schedule requests.

 

  • During the summer, Mrs. Woodruff meets with families and students about scheduling, May AP testing results, June admissions testing results and plans for fall testing, college visit impressions, and more.

 

  • A couple of weeks before school starts, the rising seniors receive notification from the CCCO to complete an update survey helping to focus both them and Mrs. Woodruff as to where their search stands after the summer months.  It is also a reminder of the beginning of the year meeting for all seniors and at least one parent where the details of applying and the special events surrounding senior year are discussed.

 

 

12th grade

 

  • Each senior’s transcript is given a final review to make sure each student has or is meeting all graduation requirements and the transcript is ready for presentation to colleges and universities.

 

  • The above-mentioned beginning of the senior year meeting on how to apply is held.  Discussions include how to request a transcript from SLC, what to do if you have attended another high school, how to request letters of recommendation, whether to apply early or regular, and many other questions. This meeting is followed by Senior Application Boot Camps.

 

  • College Counseling personnel meet repeatedly with seniors regarding application questions, reviewing their timelines, editing essays, keeping them on task and on deadline.

 

  • Students are invited to special presentations given by college and program representatives throughout the year.

 

  • Mrs. Woodruff talks with students and prays with them through the wait on admissions decisions; helping seniors understand institution decisions of accept, deny, defer, and wait-list; and what to do about each one.

 

  • Between March 1 and May 1, seniors are taught how to accept an offer of admissions and how to say thank you, but no.

 

  • Final preparations are made with the seniors for graduation – photos, program notes, video, speeches, all the unique things that make an SLC graduation so special and a capstone for our seniors and their families.  

 

Preparations for life beyond the doors of SouthLake Christian Academy are an ongoing process in all facets of a student’s tenure at the Academy. Our goal in the College and Career Counseling Office is to provide our students and their families with prayerful counsel, encouragement, and extensive resources that allow each student to discern and fulfill the purpose and plans God has for his or her life, discovering not only who they are, but Whose they are.