We know. Process, process, process. Bay students and families hear this word a lot. Our 9th graders are even required to take a class called Creative Process their first semester. Our focus on it is for good reason. Process creates intention, and it gives us space to consider a problem from different angles. So, as with many things Bay, college counseling’s mantra is trust the process.
This can be a tall order in an era that feels so fraught for families and students, and yet we know that what we do here works. The data tells us so, but more important, our graduates tell us that they end up in colleges and universities where they thrive. With the college application process in full swing, now seems like a good time to learn what goes on behind the scenes in college counseling at Bay.
BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING
“College counseling is the culmination of the many aspects of a student’s time at Bay,” says Gina Meneni, our Director of College Counseling. Those unique aspects are why college representatives universally tell us that Bay students ask thoughtful questions and are engaged in a search that will yield meaning for them.
As students move their way up through Bay, they are constantly challenged to do things out of their comfort zone: to design their own chemistry labs, present an argument from the viewpoint of someone they disagree with, design and prototype a consumer product without the use of software or a 3D printer. This is skills-focused learning, not one driven by memorization or prescribed curricula.
Then there’s mindfulness: At most Morning Meetings and often at the start of class, students sit quietly for a few minutes. This practice, which starts out feeling strange for most 9th graders, gradually becomes a valued part of the day as they get older. For seniors, it supports the ability to look inward and create a path that is truly their own and not defined by others.
Finally, there’s our grounding in community, collaboration, and equity. Both our academic program and school life are shaped by these values. Applying to college can be—and usually is—approached as pure competition. But an environment that emphasizes personal growth in a collective context allows Bay students to take a broader view and not see their educational path as a zero-sum game. Every student at Bay gets the same level of guidance and support, including preparation for the ACT and SAT at no cost and as part of their weekly schedule (rather than at nights or on weekends). Each person’s path and results are as valuable as the next.
WHO ARE YOU?
Dorothy Jones, Bay’s Director of Enrollment Management and Strategic Engagement, points out that before any discussion of specific schools takes place, a great deal of time in college counseling is spent guiding students through introspection and deep engagement with their interests and values. The most important aspect of the process (and finding colleges that are good fits) is helping students to understand their own definition of success and articulate their vision for the next phase of their life.
Many Bay classes are designed around essential questions. What is the relationship between economic markets and government? Who gets to tell the American story? College counseling’s essential question is: What combination of factors will create the best outcome for each student?
Answering that question begins with engaging each person in a consideration of themselves as people and as students—their interests, habits, areas of challenge, and concerns. In addition to one-on-one meetings with the counselors, students attend a weekly college counseling class. Working with small groups, the team is able to usher students through all aspects of the process and reduce the feeling of overwhelm that this process induces. As Jones often says, "Let's take this in bite-size morsels." Bay also uses a platform called SCOIR to manage the search process; within SCOIR students complete a series of brain exercises that reveal how they think and approach problems. (Learn more about Bay’s partnership with SCOIR.)
In meetings with parents/guardians, the counselors also come to understand the family’s circumstances, concerns, and wishes. Gradually, all this knowledge accumulates, and the work of narrowing a list of schools and applying can begin.
“What always strikes me about Bay students is how well they know themselves,” Gina Meneni says. An intentional process provides ballast in a stressful time for seniors, while carefully cultivated skills of discernment increase the odds that students will find satisfaction in the work and outcome of their college search and application. In a typical year, 90% of Bay seniors are admitted to their first-choice college or one that they ranked highly, and each student has vetted each school on their list against who they are and what they see as an ideal environment for themselves.
Equally important are those gifts of process and self-knowledge, indispensable skills for a fulfilling life well beyond college.