Preparing for the Search

The college counseling philosophy at Burroughs is straightforward: We strive to counsel students in their search for colleges and universities that meet their academic, social, emotional, financial and geographic needs.

College Counseling Banner.jpgWe recommend schools that fit each student’s individual needs as he or she has developed and matured at Burroughs. This philosophy is consistent with our approach to education at Burroughs: We do not attempt to twist students into a prescribed mold as they consider their next destination. Students are asked to discover who they are and what they think. Together we explore the options for post-secondary education, and students discover the vast number of choices available to them. The journey belongs to the students. College counselors are here to work with them and their parents.

In a sense, the college counseling process at Burroughs is an extension of the advisory program. Students are assigned advisors in 7th through 9th grades and then choose an advisor for the 10th and 11th grades. Advisors help students with course selection and encourage them to get involved in activities outside of school so they can discover where their interests and abilities lie.

In the fall of the junior year, the college counseling team meets with parents to outline a schedule of standardized testing, to describe trends in the college admissions world and to provide an overview of the application process that families will undertake during the next 18 months.

The formal process kicks off in November of that year with a joint student-parent meeting at which we introduce our college counseling team and give a primer on the application process that includes a planning calendar for students, parents and counselors; a detailed explanation of terms and criteria to help students develop their own college lists; information on required standardized testing, college essays and financial aid; and a discussion of various college admission plans that provides insight into how colleges make their admission decisions.

After that meeting we ask each student to request a college counselor. Because our counselors actively participate in the life of the school outside of their duties as college counselors, they may know their advisees before the formal search begins. This partnership is enhanced by the attention paid each student by the full team of counselors, who meet weekly to pool their expertise about colleges and to strategize about every student.

Once assigned to individual counselors, students and their parents meet with their counselors for a general discussion about academic, social, geographic and financial needs. During this meeting the counselor makes a preliminary assessment of the student’s chances for admission to a university based on academic achievement and standardized test scores. Of course, many other factors affect a student’s prospects at any college.

From this point until all students have selected their next educational home, the students and their counselors are in close and regular contact. As mentioned before, the process belongs to the student. Although counselors initiate the critical first planning meeting and others as necessary, no student (or parent) should fail to seek additional input or guidance from a college counselor.

From the beginning

IMG_3753.JPGWe believe—and it is our experience—that the best way to dazzle college admission officers is not to appear impressive but to be impressive. When students develop an affection for the subject matter in their classes, they tend to succeed in those subjects. When they become avid readers, they tend to score well on the SAT verbal tests. When they become earnestly concerned about the people in their society, they tend to devote their time, thought and effort to community service programs. When they develop a passion for the arts, they tend to produce beautiful statues, paintings or plays. All six years at Burroughs are dedicated to creating opportunities for students to become passionate.

The next few pages sketch what we believe is the appropriate focus of college preparation (though it may not be labeled as such) at each grade level, culminating in a summary of the junior and senior years when college preparation merges with college application. During the junior and senior years, while we sustain our commitment to personal development, we also facilitate the logistical demands of the college application process.

7th and 8th Grade: Starting Out

150410_Classrooms_084-250.jpgAt the 7th- and 8th-grade levels our challenge is to make approximately 95 new students who come to us from more than two dozen schools feel comfortable and connected—with each other and with the rest of the JBS community. We seek a delicate balance, nurturing and guiding them while working to increase their confidence and independence. Their course requirements expose them to a core curriculum and expansive extracurricular activities, allowing them to begin exploring and developing their interests and talents. They are given responsibilities as members of the larger community that will prepare them to be future leaders of our school. They are introduced to community service by example and by immersion. Throughout their middle school years, students are given substantial support in developing the good study and organizational skills necessary to succeed at Burroughs and beyond.

Students in 7th grade are placed in untracked classes in all subjects except mathematics. Math placement is based on the results of a test given the previous spring, after admission decisions are made. It is our experience that elementary and middle schools’ math curricula—more than any other subject—vary significantly. Placement in “regular” track math versus “high” math can be a function of what a student has been exposed to every bit as much as his or her ability. By the end of the 7th-grade year, mathematics teachers are able to make recommendations about each student’s likely achievement level in 8th grade and subsequent mathematics classes.

The 8th-grade introduction math course, which is demanding and appropriate for many of our students, is not as fast paced as the 8th-grade Algebra I course, but it will lead students to proceed, albeit more slowly, through most of the same material through high school.

At the end of 8th grade, students are prepared for high school and thus are given the opportunity to begin to make their own course selections. The choice in mathematics is generally dictated by the choice made for 8th grade. The choice for 9th-grade science requires similar consideration. Students who want to apply to the most highly selective colleges and universities should take the biology achievement class and be able to do well in that class. The science department will make recommendations about this choice for each student. Unlike math, however, there is no fixed sequence of courses in science. A student who does not take biology achievement, for example, might take chemistry achievement or physics honors.

It has been our experience that students are more engaged and more stimulated when they are challenged. We therefore recommend that students take the most demanding course load that they can comfortably carry throughout the high school years. Although building a college profile should not be the primary focus when making course decisions, the most highly selective colleges and universities will favor students who take the most demanding courses appropriate for them and achieve highly in those courses.

Most students will continue to take five academic courses. Four academic courses are recommended for students who have difficulty in one academic subject, who want to concentrate their work in four academic classes or who want to focus their work on the arts, athletics, activities or other pursuits. This group of students will be significantly less competitive if they choose to apply to the most highly selective colleges and universities.

9th and 10th Grades: A Time to Focus

150408_Classrooms_028.jpgDuring the 9th and 10th grades, students work to develop strong study skills, a sense of independence and a sense of identity. As they progress through the core academic classes, they work at higher and higher cognitive levels and expand their capacities as thinking and questioning individuals. As students sample electives, they begin to expand their sense of who they are and where their interests lie. College is not an immediate vision, but as they become stronger students, they are laying the foundations for their future academic paths.

Beginning in 9th grade, letter grades and activities are recorded and appear on student transcripts. Students have independent free periods, during which they can study on their own, while seeking help from their teachers when they need it. Students continue taking courses in the arts and are encouraged to participate in community service activities and competitive athletics.

Increasingly, they consider and are advised on course selection as it may impact their college prospects. At the 9th-grade parents meeting in January, the director of college counseling informs parents of the stated and unstated admission expectations of colleges. Students who take biology accelerated in 9th grade are encouraged to take the biology subject exam in June.

In 10th grade, students begin to take specific steps toward the college application process.

  • In October, students take a PSAT test as practice for the one they take in October of the junior year.
  • College counselors give students small group “tours” of the college conference room resources.
  • In the winter, the principal and college counseling director discuss summer activities.
  • In the spring, the director of college counseling meets with sophomores at a class meeting to discuss course selection for the junior year. Interested students are welcome to attend the annual Four School College Fair (Burroughs, MICDS, Clayton and Ladue) in April, and some attend the St. Louis Metro Fair.
  • In May, students and their parents attend the Burroughs college counseling seminar where college admissions representatives present information on a range of topics (arts, engineering, women’s colleges, etc.).
  • Students who take chemistry accelerated in 10th grade are encouraged to take the chemistry subject exam in June.
  • Throughout the sophomore year, students are encouraged to visit colleges when they travel with their families or visit friends and family members at other schools.

11th Grade: Turning Toward the Future

150417_Classrooms_191-250p.jpgThe junior year is frequently regarded as the most important year in high school in terms of college admission. Most students consider the junior year their most challenging academically, and, in many cases, it represents the final grades earned before applications go out. It is the year in which students are assigned an individual college counselor and begin to construct a college list based on their academic, social and geographical interests. Self-examination and conversations with their counselors help students better understand their desires and their goals, and they begin to think about which schools would match them well.

Regularly scheduled as well as impromptu class meetings are used to communicate college search information. Students and their parents are prompted through the following steps:

  • During free periods, students may attend meetings with college representatives who visit Burroughs.
  • Parents are invited to a meeting in the fall for an overview of the college search process.
  • In October, students take the PSAT, the qualifying test for National Merit.
  • Counselors encourage students to consider selecting one or two activities that they enjoy and in which they might achieve leadership positions from among the many which they had been encouraged to try in earlier grades.
  • A financial aid seminar is held in October for interested parents of juniors and seniors.
  • Students and parents attend College Night in November, the kickoff for the formal counseling process.
  • Each student is assigned to a college counselor based on the student’s preferences. The college counselor becomes the student’s primary advisor.
  • Students and their parents meet with their college counselors. 
  • Students discuss standardized testing planning with their college counselor.
  • Students are encouraged to visit colleges and are allowed two excused absences to do so.
  • Some students and their families plan college visits during spring break with guidance from the college counselors.
  • Students and parents attend the Four School College Fair in April, where college admission representatives speak one-on-one to students.
  • In the spring, students and parents attend the college counseling seminar where college admissions representatives speak on a range of topics.
  • College counselors give students small group “tours” of the resources in the college conference room and encourage questions.
  • Juniors consult with their counselors before registering for the SAT Subject Tests in June.
  • Students register for advanced placement examinations, if appropriate.
  • Counselors help plan summer visits to colleges. Families make appointments for campus tours and interviews.
  • Parents write “recommendations” about their children to help the college counselors better know their advisees.
  • Students conduct independent college research throughout the school year and in the summer. Counselors are available to consult with students throughout the school year.
  • Students refine their college lists during the summer, and begin to draft essays that will be included in their applications.
  • College Counselors host a Summer Application Workshop in June or mid August to help students get started with their applications.  An essay workshop for all students is held in mid-August.


12th Grade: The Closing of One Chapter—The Opening of Another

150528_Diplomoa_021-300p.jpgCertainly college applications and senior grades are significant. Students devote tremendous time, thought and effort to writing college applications and then devote emotional effort to understanding both positive and negative decisions rendered by admission offices. However, we urge students not to overlook their roles as leaders of the community. The senior class sets the tone of the school and should seize the opportunity to make that tone as positive and healthy as it can be. We constantly remind our seniors that this is their final year at Burroughs, and they should take advantage of the opportunities afforded them. Many seniors find that they do their best work in the classroom, take more chances in the arts and have deeper and more meaningful relationships with faculty once their applications have been sent.

The following list highlights the college admission process:

  • Students (or students and parents) meet with their counselors during the first three weeks of school to finalize their college lists
  • and discuss application plans.
  • Counselors speak to parents during Mini-School.
  • College Counselors help students polish their college essays.
  • A fall meeting is held with students and families to familiarize them with senior year, with particular attention to the preparation of college applications.
  • College Counselors and teachers write recommendations to support each student for their college applications.
  • Students fill out applications for schools that have early action, early decision and rolling admissions plans.
  • Counselors check with colleges to be sure that all applications have been received and to advocate for our students.
  • If approved by their counselors, students may take off up to three days from school for college visits.
  • Parents are invited to schedule phone or personal conferences with their child’s college counselor as needed.
  • Students attend meetings with visiting college representatives to hear their presentations and talk about specific situations when necessary.
  • Counselors advise students to send the official SAT and/or ACT Score Report to all colleges to which they are applying.
  • Counselors and students have a discussion about final standardized testing.
  • Families fill out the CSS Profile if they are applying for financial aid.
  • Students make sure that applications are proofread and mailed on time with application fees.
  • After October 1st parents fill out an FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and/or the CSS Profile and send it along with the college’s application for financial aid.
  • Seniors take the SAT Reasoning Test/SAT Subject Tests/ACT in October, November or December. Some register for the SAT Reasoning Test/SAT Subject Tests in January, if advised.
  • Students receive early decision/early action letters from colleges by the end of December and discuss results with their college counselors.
  • By the end of April remaining decision letters are received and college counselors are available to help students choose their colleges.
  • Students send in one deposit to the college of their choice by May 1.