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Why Sophomores Meet for College Planning in the Spring

“Planning.” Not College Counseling.

As a swimmer, I know what a season of training entails. It starts in the fall, with the first week of practices meant to get you comfortable in the water again. The workouts gradually pick up in intensity, and conditioning kicks in during the winter months. You feel broken down and tired, and the end of the season seems farther away than ever. You persevere, however, because recovery is in sight. Taper begins, priming you to peak at exactly the right moment. When the postseason meets roll around, you are in top condition, ready to show off your best performances.

The college application process is surprisingly synonymous with any sport season. Think about it: the meetings begin in junior year, and after a while, you may feel swamped with work, overwhelmed by the paper work, and daunted at the prospect of applying. By the time application time comes around, however, you are prepared to crank out the essays and applications and present yourself in the best light.

However, when does the training actually start? Does it begin with that first in-season practice? Does it begin when it “starts to get hard?” For most athletes, the answer is “No.” Pre-season training plays an essential role in the outcome of the season. If you walk into a season completely out of shape and practice, crucial time will be wasted when work needs to be done.

Most athletes see the importance in getting a head start on training, so most students should see the importance in being informed about the college application process early on. After all, Columbus Academy is a college preparatory school, and applying for college is a race we all must train for. That training must occur at the right time to provide the best results–and this is when the college counselors face another challenge–when should college counseling begin?

While it’s a complicated question, there is a plethora of reasoning behind this decision, with input coming in from all sides. In a school at which college is the expectation, it’s understandable that most parents want counseling for their children as soon as possible. Yet, as Mrs. FitzPatrick and Ms. Heywood make clear:  “too much too early can be detrimental,” and there’s no point in making students unnecessarily anxious. The college counselors must balance the demands of parents with the stress of students, which is no easy feat.

With much deliberation, they finally arrived at the answer of the “spring of sophomore year,” denoted by events such as the College Counseling Preview night for sophomore families in March, and the academic planning meetings that were held this April. Incidentally, this is when talk began, particularly around sophomores, about whether it was too early. And after hearing the reasoning behind it, I would agree with the counselors and say, “No, it isn’t.”

In terms of timing, this spring is the best time to start looking ahead to what we need to do in our junior and senior years. Our schedules have been planned out, but not finalized, and the counselors have mainly finished their work with the current junior class, so they can start to focus on their upcoming batch of students and team up with Mrs. Izokaitis and Mr. Dow to begin the meetings.

What’s more, the academic planning meetings were just that: planning for the next couple of years. For all the ideas students had about this being the start of the college counseling process, Ms. Heywood stated that they tried their hardest to keep “college” out of the conversation. Instead, time was spent looking at our schedules, discussing courses for next year, looking at standardized test dates, and maybe inquiring about summer enrichment programs. The main reason the counselors got involved wasn’t because they wanted to talk about college during the meetings, but instead because they have a broader view of our academic standing, and they could provide a better perspective than most. The meetings were also meant to create more a level playing field. By informing all students and their parents of the work that needs to be done, the class can progress together in the college counseling process.

Mrs. FitzPatrick stated that looking for colleges this early on was “irresponsible,” and that “You may be looking at colleges that are totally inappropriate.” So much is subject to change in the next one-to-two years, and they understand that starting the college search process now would not be helpful. This was simply the start of our pre-season training, before the real practices begin junior year.

Finally, Ms. Heywood and Mrs. FitzPatrick made one more point clear: college should not be the center of your high school experience. True, in a college-preparatory school, when college becomes the expectation, a great deal of stress crops up around the topic. But with a well thought-out training schedule, all of us should be in prime condition come fall of senior year.


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