College Guidance Part II
By Jann W. Gates
Looking beyond life at the Santa Fe Waldorf High School, students ask: What comes next? College? An apprenticeship? Employment? By the eleventh grade questions about the future take on an element of reality and a sense of urgency. What am I going to do with my life? Do I have to make up my mind now? How can I best develop my abilities and prepare myself for worthwhile life work?
As students and parents begin to find out what colleges and universities expect in an applicant’s preparation, they gain a new appreciation for the uniquely balanced curriculum at a Waldorf High School. The study of the five broad academic disciplines—English language together with American, English and world literature; another modern language (in our school this is Spanish); history and the social sciences; mathematics; physical and life sciences—continues throughout high school. There is an emphasis on writing, the mastery of a required curriculum, an integration of artistic expression into academic study, an inter-disciplinary approach to topics, and opportunities for independent research. The college admissions officer and prospective employer recognize that a graduate of the Santa Fe Waldorf High School has taken a rigorous college preparatory course of study.
And there is more! Each year the student takes studio art (drawing, painting, sculpture), drama, choral and instrumental music, and eurythmy. Each year there are courses in the practical arts (textiles, ceramics, print making, woodworking, bookbinding, metalwork), physical fitness, wilderness experience, environmental and outdoor education (gardening, forestry, conservation). Seniors may have individual internships in business, law, medicine, social services, agriculture, conservation, construction, or the arts. The senior trip may be combined with opportunities for service and learning. Thus Waldorf students learn how to transform human experience through the arts and how to enter the world and contribute actively in shaping it for the future. Colleges and employers welcome applicants who know how to take initiatives and complete tasks.
Typically Waldorf high school graduates enroll in a college or university in the year they graduate from high school. Occasionally students wish to defer going to college for a year or two. It is still important, however, to go through the college application process in the senior year: 1) The student may choose the college he/she plans to attend, ask to defer enrollment for a year, and avoid having to apply during the year of apprenticeship. 2) The student learns what the application process entails and completes it during a time when he/she can work closely with the school’s college advisor. Even if interests change and the graduate wishes to apply to a different college, he/she knows how to go about it.
In the U.S. and Canada 93% of Waldorf high school graduates enroll in college or university. This rate of college attendance is much higher than the national average in the United States. In 2001, among persons 25 years of age and older, 52% had enrolled in college. Twenty seven per cent of the same age group completed four or more years of college.
The college advisor guides and supports high school students and their parents as they make plans for college. Students and parents learn about the standardized tests (SAT I, SAT II, ACT, and Advanced Placement Tests) and the role of test results in the college admissions process. Tenth and eleventh graders take the Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test, which in eleventh grade identifies students who may apply for National Merit Scholarships. Practice tests for the SAT I and ACT are given to juniors, so that they can focus on one rather than both of these most frequently requested tests. The school sets guidelines about test selection and dates for test administration, so that students maximize their opportunities for further study.
Fortunately, the choice of colleges today is remarkably broad. There are almost 4200 colleges and universities in the United States—1700 two year colleges and 2500 four year colleges, universities, schools of art and design, and conservatories.
In eleventh grade a student compiles a list of colleges that offer programs that correspond to the student’s special interests. Getting a “taste” of different kinds of colleges starts right here in Santa Fe. The entire class may visit St. John’s College, the College of Santa Fe, Santa Fe Community College and the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Each student can review course offerings and majors at these four colleges to see how closely any one of them would fulfill his or her educational goals.
The search expands geographically as the student and college guidance counselor look nationwide for colleges and universities that meet the student’s criteria. The initial list may be long, but in the second semester of the junior year the colleges that most interest the student become clearer. Opportunities to visit colleges in the spring vacation and summer before the senior year will increase interest or help a student decide not to apply. Seniors become experts on the college application process. In Part III of this overview of the college admissions process, we shall take a close look at the challenges and pleasures of applying to college in the senior year.