By: Nuray Salina

Recently CATS Academy Boston students met with the College Counselling Team during the School Assembly. Next year Juniors will be Seniors applying to universities, so it is extremely important to meet with the College Counselors this year. The college counseling team here consists of four people: Ms. Smith, Mr. Cassely, Dr. Hooks, and Ms. Roihl. They will become your closest advisors and teachers. Your counselor will provide professional and experienced guidance to you regarding the application process for college admission.

I interviewed Ms. Smith, the Director of College Counseling about her advice for students in their Junior year.

Nuray: Ms. Smith what do you enjoy most about working with CATS students?

Ms. Smith: Well, it’s difficult to say what I like the most because I like a lot of different aspects of being here at CATS, but I think that what I like about working with students on the application process is helping them to realize how many options they have.   There are more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States. Approaching the process with an open mind and following the right steps in the right order are important. I find CATS’ students to be lovely and diverse. I love hearing the different languages, seeing various friendships develop across home-country lines. I chose to come here because of this diversity and the internationalism of our school.

Nuray: Ms. Smith, what advice would you give to Juniors?

Ms. Smith:   In terms of college applications, Junior year is very important.  It is the last complete academic year that a college will see in reviewing applications, so these grades are very important. In the fall, students receive quarter grades but they are unofficial. If you’re applying early, we inform admissions offices about the current course work, but mostly colleges use the first semester grades for the Senior year. My message to Juniors is to be the best student you can be in all of your classes, be responsible, be punctual if not early, and, come see us!  We would like for you to meet with College Counseling so that we can get to know you. We want to learn all about you – not only your academic performance, but also about your family, about your interests in terms of activities or sports or community service, and what you want to do after you graduate from CATS.

Nuray: So, you are welcoming students to come to your offices and talk to you, to ask questions about the process and school they are interested in?

Ms. Smith: Yes, absolutely. Ms. Roihl, Dr. Hooks, Mr. Cassely and I are ready to meet with you whenever you want to come and see us.   Of course, sometimes we are in meetings, but we maintain an open door policy.   Any student is welcome.   And sometimes we come find you!!

Nuray: Ms Smith, should Juniors start preparing any documents, or essays, for their application process this year?

Ms. Smith: We will discuss this with students as we prepare for their Senior year and college applications, but if a student writes an essay this spring for their college applications next fall we would hope that the student would revisit the topic, the writing, and update it. Students who want to share with us something that is not evident on their grade reports or in their activities, anything that may impact their applications, please come and speak with us so that we can advise you early. International students whose native language is not English will need to submit TOEFL scores as part of their applications. Please come and see us if you have questions or problems getting these done.

Nuray: Do you think a student’s’ active participation in activities both in school and out-of-school helps them in terms of their college applications?

Ms. Smith: Absolutely!  Colleges are looking for students who express interest in activities which involve working to improve the social aspect of their community or an environmental aspect of our world, issues about social justice and human rights, and simply helping their community with kindness and caring for others. The activities you choose should be something personally compelling to you as a student.  Consistently doing something that demonstrates to colleges that you have an ability to think outside of yourself, to take actions for others, and for the world and a very special addition to any application.

Nuray: What do you think is the worst mistake students could make in their Junior year? I mean a mistake that would badly influence our applications. What shouldn’t we do?

Ms. Smith: Don’t procrastinate, do not put things off, do not wait until the last minute….and that has to do both with your academics as well as the college application process.   And be good citizens of the CATS Community; obey the rules, take care of others.

Nuray:  I think a lot of CATS students want to apply to the famous “Ivy League” universities. Are they very difficult to get into? What can students do to improve their chances of acceptance?

Ms. Smith: The “Ivies” are perceived to be the most selective colleges. It means that they admit less than 10% of their applicant pools, and that’s because the chances of admission are a function of numbers. I think that the most important thing for international students are their English skills. They must demonstrate fluency – a true ability to speak, to read, and to write in strong English, to be able to synthesize ideas and analyze them in English.  They also must have a superior academic record while pursuing the most rigorous courses offered by the school.  The next thing that these colleges are looking for is the student’s involvement in something outside of school that improves the world, whether it is their local neighborhood or working for a global issue. For the Ivy League colleges these three things are the most important.

Nuray: Ms. Smith, is their a most appropriate number of AP courses that would improve a student’s students chances to be accepted by a good university?

Ms. Smith: Although the Common Application asks for the number of AP or Honors courses in a student’s course history, as I just said, they want to see that the student has chosen a challenging path, and that path is always unique to that student.