The college application process can be a daunting prospect. From standardized testing and personal essays to in-person interviews and extracurricular activities, there are many moving parts to manage and the decision to attend a university can impact the rest of a young person’s life. At Whitfield School, the college counseling team offers an individualized experience for every student, allowing them and their families to navigate the process with confidence.
“The college admissions landscape is changing rapidly,” notes Amanda Henry, Whitfield’s director of college counseling. “Parents approach it based on their own experience or that of their older children, but everything from extracurricular activities to standardized testing is different. We offer a structured program that guides students through the process by rolling our different elements at appropriate times.” Whitfield students start working more in-depth with the college advisory program in ninth grade, learning to identify their strengths through strong academics and extracurricular activities. In sophomore year, students receive their individual counselor assignment as they start standardized testing. They also learn more about different majors and career paths by engaging with Whitfield alumni through the Career & Major Exploration Program.
During junior year, students participate in the College Knowledge course where they learn how to research colleges, craft resumes, draft personal essays and handle applications. “In junior year, we start meeting more with students one-on-one,” says Ebony Sistrunk, associate director of college counseling. “I like to call Whitfield a Goldilocks school—it’s not small, but it’s not so big that we can’t give students individualized attention.” That individual attention allows students to take control of the application process, finding college options that fit their interests and needs. Sistrunk notes that Whitfield’s graduating classes rarely have more than two students attending the same university. The class of 2023 included 84 grads attending 68 different schools.
Henry says that parents start working with the college counseling department in fall of their child’s junior year—although the focus remains on students driving the application process. “Parents are engaged, but we don’t ask them to manage everything,” she explains. “We do the heavy lifting so that they can act in more of a cheerleading and encouraging role.” In senior year, the College Knowledge course continues with a focus on financial aid, decision-making and preparation for college life. By the beginning of November, all Whitfield students are ready to turn in at least one application by the early action deadline.
The effectiveness of Whitfield’s college counseling program is evident in the experience of students and their families. For senior Taryn Jones, the program allowed her to easily navigate the complicated process, while taking a leadership role in her own education. “As a parent, the amount of time it takes to help your child with their college journey is daunting,” note her parents, Corey and Sheila Jones. “Whitfield’s college counseling streamlines most of that effort, alleviating a lot of work and worry. They have a deep understanding of your child, which enables them to provide a guiding path. During our initial meeting, Amanda had already compiled lists of suitable schools for Taryn, considering academic, social, geographical and environmental factors. Our experience has exceeded our expectations in every way.”
Whitfield School is an independent, coeducational college preparatory day school for grades six to 12. It endeavors to cultivate ethical, confident and successful students in a community of innovation, collaboration and trust. Pictured on the cover: Whitfield student Taryn Jones (’24). For more information, call 314.434.5141 or visit whitfieldschool.org.
Cover concept and photo by Geoff Story
Pictured at top: Amanda Henry, Corey Jones, Taryn Jones (’24), Sheila Jones, Ebony Sistrunk
Photo: Geoff Story