Strong Guides: Whitfield School
At Whitfield School, college counseling isn’t just about college; it’s about a journey—launching young people into the next phase of life, sending them out into the world as mature, self-possessed individuals. The program has other goals as well: its two full-time counselors—director Sara Ringe and assistant director Beth Wilner—say they are able to devote themselves completely to the process. Because of Whitfield’s size (410 children in grades six through 12), each has a caseload of only around 35 students in the class of 70. This, Ringe says, allows for a high level of familiarity with both students and their families.
However, while families are involved, head of school John Delautre says the counselors ask that parents allow their children to have ownership of the process. “We want students to be in control,” he explains. Ringe concurs, adding that beginning as early as eighth grade, college counseling programs are in place to guide students through every stage. She explains that one-on-one counseling begins junior year, once kids are mature enough to steer their own course.
Delautre says Ringe and Wilner make it their business to familiarize themselves with a wide range of schools. “There are many, many great schools around the country. You may not have heard of them, but they are wonderful places for connecting students with their hopes and dreams,” he says. And, afterall, isn’t that what parents really want for their children?
Over the course of the year, Ringe visits “scores of schools” across the country, and even has gone abroad to assess foreign programs. Last year, she visited the universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and St. Andrews. She estimates that at least one Whitfield student goes abroad to school each year.
Whitfield’s college counseling office is proud of its numbers. For the past 30 years, 100 percent of seniors have had a four-year college option upon graduating, and 98 percent will matriculate. (Roughly 2 percent take a gap year.) In addition, over the past five years, an average of 75 percent of each graduating class has received at least one scholarship offer. Last year’s senior class received a total of $2.2 million in scholarships toward their first year. “We have access to a database of thousands of scholarships,” Ringe says. “Making college affordable is one of our priorities.”
As part of its mission to help kids take charge of their college search, Whitfield guides them through the nuts-and-bolts of the application process and helps each student get to know themselves. Come junior year, classes on resume and personal essay writing are integrated into the curriculum. During summer vacation prior to senior year, a series of weeklong workshops provide students opportunities to put the finishing touches on their application packets.
The counselors say part of their job is guiding students toward a range of options, and preparing them for both acceptance and rejection letters. “We point out which colleges are likely to say ‘no’ or ‘yes,’” Ringe says. They stress something parents already know: it isn’t the university that will make or break a person. “Almost no one regrets where they choose,” she concludes. “And most end up saying, ‘This is exactly where I want to be.’”
Pictured: Director of college counseling Sara Ringe with seniors Mark Wheeler and Madi Boone
Photo: David Cerven
Whitfield offers and individualized college counseling program, which helps students find the right university and realize theirdreams. One-hundred percent of seniors have a four-year college option upon graduating. Pictured on teh cover, seated: Kim Strege ’17, Mark Wheeler ’17. Standing: Sabrina Genovese ’17, director of college counseling Sara Ringe, Owen Smith ’17. For more information, call 314.434.5141 or visit whitfieldschool.org.
Cover design by Jon Fogel | Cover photo by David Cerven