Georgetown, Penn, Brown, University of Virginia, Wesleyan, Middlebury, and NYU. The Class of 2022 at Saddle River Day School has fantastic college choices. But like most everything in the last two years, today’s high school graduates were confronted with significant change when it came time to apply to colleges. In a process that was already mystifying and stressful, many of the traditional metrics shifted as schools, families, and colleges did their best to adapt. Application numbers went way up, acceptance rates plummeted, and even the old stalwart of the SAT is slated to go through significant changes starting in 2023. It was a challenging time and many families across the country were left stunned at decision time. Despite all of this, Saddle River Day School Students continued to stand out in the world of highly competitive college admissions. They have benefited from the wonderful advising from our Office of College Counseling, which met these challenges head-on with student-focused advising that helped increase options and alleviate stress.
A hallmark of the college advising experience at Saddle River Day School is building a personalized and well-thought-out list of schools. Applications across the most selective schools increased significantly over the past two years, and students and families had to adapt to find new ways to stand out in this increasingly crowded and competitive pool. Colleges like Colgate University in Hamilton, NY saw over a 100% increase in applications over the past two years. Boston College’s Class of 2025 had an acceptance rate below 20%. Harvard, Yale and Princeton shrunk to a microscopic acceptance rate of 3% and under. The significant jump in applications, coupled with over 1,900 colleges and universities employing a test-optional policy meant that many colleges had to rethink their application requirements. In short, the world of college admissions is vastly different from what it was 5 years ago and is light-years away from what it was a generation ago.
The guiding principle for Karen Ferretti, Saddle River Day's Director of College Counseling and Robert Kettlewell, Associate Director is to “always think of the students first and always see them as individuals.” Students are encouraged to build an ambitious academic schedule of Honors, AP and College Prep classes that will be both challenging and fulfilling. As Ms. Ferretti says, “Nothing replaces the transcript. Success in the classroom is critical.” High achieving students are also encouraged to apply to the SRDS nationally recognized Gateway Honors Diploma Program. Students in this program develop college-level research projects in high school and learn how to speak passionately and persuasively about their individual topics.
But success these days requires more than a high GPA or SAT. Colleges are looking for different ways to measure and predict student success. Having student clubs and extracurricular activities built into the school day ensures all SRDS students begin building their resumes with leadership positions as early as 9th grade. College advising begins in 9th grade, too, and by 10th grade, students are attending a weekly college workshop. It is here where they learn that it is essential not only to put in the work in the classroom but to do so in the college process. They learn the importance of self-advocacy, they build relationships with admissions representatives, they take tours, do essay writing and interview workshops, and they spend a great deal of time thinking about who they are and what they want to be.
This last point is incredibly important because it widens the focus past just discussing the undergrad experience. Lists are created deliberately with an eye toward career choice and graduate school work. “We want students to think about where they will be in 10 years, not just where they want to go next year,” says Ms. Ferretti. “We strive to find not just one fit - the proverbial dream school - but multiple fits that make sense and excite the student. By elongating the process, we have more time to explore the idea of fit and discuss goals. Students accomplish more earlier so they aren’t crushed by the perfect storm of rigor, expectations, and applications. In the end, this reduces stress and anxiety and leads to happier graduates.” Saddle River Day School students know that they are cared for in many ways: we consider their hopes, dreams, and where they are going to find the most success in their college years. We know they are far more than a transcript and test scores. Our students leave campus ready to be the next generation of innovators, thinkers, and leaders.
Strong advising leads to excellent choices and happier students. That is college counseling done right.