Just two weeks ago, Brooks School's newest graduates walked off the stage on Prize Day and toward the next step of their lives at colleges and universities this fall. Where are they headed? A better question might be, 'Where aren't they going?'
Members of Brooks just-graduated class of 103 students are moving on 61 different institutions of higher learning, from colleges in New England to universities on the west coast, schools in the heart of the country, and one outside of it.
Visit College Counseling's Matriculation page for a full list of the colleges and universities that members of the Class of 2017 will attend in the fall.
"This year's class was incredibly successful, results-wise," said Dean of College Counseling Andy Campbell. "Students applied to a well-balanced list of schools and we made sure that everyone had a number of options at their disposal, so, at end of the day, many were deciding between four or five schools, not one or two."
Helping students feel empowered to make informed decisions about college — throughout the application and decision process — is the main goal of Brooks' college counselors.
"The school is so lucky to have such dedicated people in this office," said Campbell. "Kristin Moody, associate director of college counseling, is very knowledgeable and exceptional in the way that she connects with students. Wendy Brennan, another associate director of college counseling, is new to the office this year and has been fantastic for the school. Assistant College Counselor Christine Jackson is the engine. The value of what she does can't be underestimated. She makes every kid feel so welcome when they come into the office and her planning and attention to detail is critical. We have a great team here."
And thanks to their help, Campbell said he was truly proud of the way that students were prepared this year. "It really was the students who did it," he said of the school's positive results from the 948 applications that sixth-formers sent out. "We were along for the ride, we were advising there were highs and lows and we're always there to be supportive and make sure the right things were done, but at the end of the day the students drove the bus."
A difference in the route, so to speak, that the Class of 2017 took this year was they way in which they prioritized specific offerings and size in their target list of schools. "More now than ever we are seeing kids apply to school based on programs available at the college and the majors offered," explained Campbell. "Urban and bigger has become more popular too, with 77 percent of graduates choosing to attend schools with more than 4,000 person enrollment." Historically, that hasn't been the trend at Brooks.
"This year, students looked at a wider range of schools and were really objective thinking about their choices," he added. "A lot of our kids now are branching out outside of new England. We have multiple kids who considered Big Ten schools. That's awesome. I love that! All it takes is one student to go to a school that maybe someone didn't think about, and if it works, that story resonates and prompts other students to look into it as well."
Considering colleges in areas of the country beyond Brooks' backyard and intimate size is vital, according to the dean. "You never know what you can find; what kind of network you could discover," he said. "It's really exciting when kids come back to us and say, 'I never thought in a million years I'd decide go to this school but I'm so glad that I did!' That happens quite a bit."
The other victory in this year's college results is financial. "What was really successful for us is that the largest number of kids have a great place to go next year and that it's a choice that's affordable to them," reported Campbell. "We have kids who received merit money based on academic performance and they didn't even see it coming! That was very gratifying. It's a huge win anytime that happens."
Demonstrated family need has been met for Brooksians who applied for financial aid. "This year's class, for the most part, is attending schools next year where they feel comfortable with the amount that they're being awarded and the amount that they have to contribute and it's actually very rare when that happens," said Campbell.
In an effort to keep this great momentum going, Brooks' college counselors have already stepped things up for the class of 2018 — Brooks School's largest ever. New initiatives include enhancements to the school's fifth-form testing program and offering a class trip day, during which sixth-formers participate in a college boot camp to help them prepare for the application process. "Students will spend half the day working on essays and testing plans as well as fine tuning their list of target schools," said Associate Director of College Counseling Kristin Moody, during a presentation to faculty at the end of the school year. "The other half of the day will be spent canoeing on the Ipswich River. The idea is to help assuage concerns while waiting for individual meetings."
More than 100 college representatives visit campus each fall — and Brooksians are ready for them. (Students meet with a college counselor individually starting in the fourth form; in the fifth form they add in college-focused work in their Self in Community classes; in the fall of sixth form, they prepare for college fairs, school visits and work with counselors on how to make the most of each opportunity).
"Ultimately, though, any Brooks student can be successful after graduation regardless of the name of the school that they go," said Campbell. "It's the truth. It's not about the bumper sticker. A student's choice of college should be about what he or she is interested in, what they want their college experience to be like in the classroom, the extracurriculars they want to enjoy, who they meet, and what they want their options to be afterward."
Campbell doesn't believe in the philosophy that the college process is successful if Brooks can say everyone has a "home" post-graduation. "That's not enough," he said. "It should be, 'Does everyone have a home that they're happy with?'" For the class of 2017, the answer is a definitive, yes. "For the most part, students left here happy with the process," he said. And for that the College Counseling Office ends its school year with successful results too!
For more information about Brooks School's College Counseling program, click here.