High School Counseling

How do I get started?

After your first meeting with our Director of High School Counseling, start investigating your high school choices by visiting school websites and talking to people who know certain high schools well. When you request application materials from a school, that school will tell you exactly what to do next. Most schools will require a shadow visit and an interview. All schools have open houses on weekends in September through early January.

How important are standardized tests (SSATs, ERBs, etc.) and grades?

Standardized tests are important, but not conclusive, in the process of deliberation.  Some schools place more emphasis on them than others, but it is generally true that achievement (grades) and effort marks are more important than testing. 

How much weight is given to interviews?

Interviews can help a student’s chance. We conduct some interview preparation workshops to familiarize students with the format and the kinds of questions usually asked. We emphasize that this is a time to speak with confidence about individual interests and talents, a time to “toot your own horn.”  Enthusiasm is a key ingredient to a successful interview.  We work not to rehearse but to demystify the interview component; the best strategy in an interview is to BE YOURSELF.

What do the high schools look for in an applicant?

High schools look for students who are the “right fit” for their school. The definition of “fit” is often quite broad and includes many different kinds of students. High schools are looking to construct a class that combines all kinds of people, including athletes, writers, social enthusiasts, those interested in the arts, and those involved in community service, as well as those who come from different backgrounds and different schools. They look for a range of personality types to reflect the world in which we live. Overall, the high schools desire students who value and take charge of their own learning experience.

What happens when the results come in March?

Sometimes the initial results are not the end of the story. At this point, patience is the most important response.  Maintaining a sense of adult balance and perspective is essential for your eighth grader’s positive outlook.  Every year, despite inevitable bumps along the way, the process turns out well for each student.  Our job as adults is, as always, to continue to support the children as we prepare them for the transition into high school. 

What is the role of SF Day in the high school admissions process?

We can advise, facilitate, encourage, and recommend, but decisions rest with the high schools.  We provide experienced and individualized counseling throughout the process, we gather information from every upper school teacher, and we compile all of the information and recommendations for the schools to consider.  We stay in constant contact with the admissions directors and provide up-to-the-minute information to our students.  We go to bat for each student, and we share his/her exhilaration and disappointment when the results are announced.  We do not “get kids into schools.” The students themselves have earned the grades, taken the tests, participated in the activities, and written the applications. We are simply a “guiding light.”

What is the role of the school recommendation letters?

Three letters are written on behalf of SF Day students applying to high schools. The first is the high school counselor’s letter, an overall letter of introduction to the student that describes him/her as a student and a citizen of the school. Next, English and math teachers fill out both a checklist about specific skills particular to their disciplines as well as write a letter about each child as a student. All three recommendations emphasize a student’s strengths and skills and personal style, while also pointing out areas for growth that a school might need to take into consideration in admissions. Schools looking for a student who is the “right fit” must count on the middle schools to report honestly where an applicant may be in his/her skills and learning process. 

These three recommendations are usually all that are required or necessary. Unless a high schools asks for an additional letter, you should not submit more than is required.  Consult me if you have a question about extra recommendations.