Setting Us Apart
By: Deena Paradiso
People always ask, “What makes the college counseling program at Hilton Head Prep different from those at other schools?”
Coming to Hilton Head Prep from a strong, competitive school district in Westchester, NY, I know firsthand what is important to both parents and students. It happens to be something that is most important to me: relationships. Parents want to know that the person who is guiding their children through the college process not only knows them but is going to take care of them and their future. We are a team. If parents can’t meet during the school day, we meet after hours at my second office, Starbucks! I am in constant contact with the parents and students throughout the planning and application process and take a personal interest in every one of my students. Seniors have access to my email address and cell phone number so they can contact me at any time with questions or concerns. What truly sets Prep apart from all other schools is the personalized attention that is paid to each child and their family through all stages of the college counseling process.
That process starts early for us. This year we created an eighth grade college research project where the students researched a variety of different colleges and received a crash course on writing a college essay as well as the importance of GPA’s and standardized test scores in the college admissions process. At the upper school level, our ninth graders participated in a seminar where we completed college and career surveys, college searches, and researched careers and college majors. We also talked about GPA’s and standardized testing. Sophomores sat for the PSAT and had a lesson on how to utilize Naviance. All of our juniors and seniors are required to take an SAT/ACT prep course. One-on-one college counseling begins with every junior and their parent(s) as we initiate the college process together. With the implementation of Naviance and x2VOL last year, all upper school students now have access to an online, web-based program which allows students and their families to research colleges and universities and follow applications while logging and keeping up with service hours at the same time electronically through x2VOL. Next year, Prep’s college planning curriculum will include grades 8-12 as the students explore processes with grade appropriate expectations starting with research in eighth grade to one-on-one college application assistance in twelfth.
We have introduced some new programs this year as well. Prep hosted its first ever College Fair in September, which was a huge success, as students spoke with representatives from over 40 colleges and universities including such prestigious schools as Princeton, Bucknell, Furman, Notre Dame, and Villanova along with perennial student favorites such as Clemson and USC. The range of schools represented included both large and small institutions, both in-state and out-of-state, with varying academic requirements for admissions. In April of this year, Prep held its first Case Study Night, A Mock Admissions Session, which gave our students and parents an inside look into the college admissions process. Over 40 parent and student participants met in small groups
(parent-only and student-only) in classrooms to evaluate mock admission applications. Each group was led by an Admissions Officer from a cross section of colleges.
In addition to creating a new Video Conferencing Center which allows students to visit with college admissions representatives from all over the country, I have visited over ten different colleges and universities including NYU, Stanford, Berkeley, and UNC Chapel Hill, and have had the opportunity to participate in counselor programs at the University of Tampa and Duke. In June, I will be spending a week at Harvard, participating in the 2016 College Admissions Institute.
Leading the College Counseling Office is very rewarding. The personalized attention that we are able to offer our students and parents makes a sometimes daunting task feel more comfortable and helps families feel prepared through the entire process. My favorite emails and texts are pictures of the students visiting college campuses and sending off screen shot photos of their acceptances! So when I’m asked what makes our program different, I say “it’s personal!”