As the summer comes to an end and schools are preparing for the arrival of young pupils in classrooms, it is also a time for certain Falls Church students to begin thinking about their next academic or career steps.
Normally, rising juniors and seniors are entering the time period in their lives when they decide what their career and academic interests are and where they could pursue those interests. For many, this means finding a university that offers a variety of majors and minors that suit one’s interests.
To prepare for this next step, Falls Church students are finding ways inside and outside of school to help them get ready academically and professionally. Sheri Mural is the College and Career Specialist at Meridian High School, a Falls Church City Public School. Her role is to work primarily with juniors and seniors to help “navigate their post-high school plans.”
Starting in mid-September, Mural said she has college admission officers visit the high school and talk about their institution, while students can “ask targeted questions and get detailed information.” Last year, there were about “150 colleges and universities” that had opportunities to “connect with [Meridian] students” through college visits in the fall.
Mural also helps students “build a diverse college list,” which balances out the schools they have a good chance of being admitted into, or “reach schools” that have small percentages of students who gain admission. She also provides advice on how students can “put together their extracurricular activities,” filling out the Common Application — an undergraduate admission application that allows people to apply for over 1,000 colleges and universities in the United States — what application essays “should look like” and who to get recommendations from.
Throughout the year, Mural works with the Student Services team to offer programs toward parents and guardians of seniors on questions they may have and for juniors “to get started on the thinking process on their post-secondary plans.” She also helps students who are not on the “college-bound path” and has invited representatives from each military branch to talk about the different career paths within the various branches.
Although standardized testing is still a part of the college application process, Mural said it is “just one component” and that the “test-taking landscape has changed.” This is due to many colleges and universities being “test-optional,” which means SATs and ACTs do not have to be submitted for an application to be considered for admission. For students who are looking at universities that do review test scores, Mural said Test Preparation sessions are offered for rising seniors. These sessions are offered as early as the end of August, so students have the option of sending their test scores by the early action deadline on November 1.
To say whether the application process has gotten easier or harder is a “tough question.” For an “ease of applying,” the Common Application is accepted by over 1,000 colleges and universities, allowing the main common application essay to be submitted to however many institutions a student decides to apply to. However, the “test-optional” choice that some institutions offer has made it “easier for students to feel that they can apply to multiple colleges and perhaps have a better chance of being admitted.”
From an admissions standpoint, a vast increase in the applicant pool can cause the university’s selectivity to go up, making it more difficult for students to be admitted into the schools they are interested in attending.
For outside materials students can use, Mural said Virginia “has an abundance of additional resources to help students prepare academically.” Tutoring and private college counselors can help students work on a “one-on-one basis” to achieve academically, prepare applications and “polish essays.”
In Mural’s opinion, the college application process can be “navigated without those additional financial expenses for families,” and there is “an abundance of resources in [Meridian’s] school building to help students feel confident” after submitting an application.
For more information about resources, visit the Meridian High School College and Career website at mhs.fccps.org/o/mhs/page/college-career-center.