Meeting a Moving Target
Meeting a Moving Target

Pictured: Elaine Todorov is one of four members of SLUH's College Counseling team.

A few years ago, SLUH undertook a comprehensive strategic thinking initiative that focused on several distinct areas, including college counseling. Since then, the school has hired three full-time college counselors and started a College Counseling department, which, still in its infancy, has already distinguished itself with a robust year-round program that provides a highly flexible model and more personalized support for students and families. And that's just the start.

Sam Chechik '17 may be an anomaly in that he applied to 20 universities, but SLUH was equipped to help him throughout the entire process—a timely and daunting endeavor even for those applying to half the schools.

"SLUH provided exceptional guidance and kept in regular communication with my mom and me," says Chechik. "I met with my college counselor at least once a quarter as a junior, and I was in touch with him far more often as a senior."

Today's evolving, complex and highly competitive college admissions process requires extraordinary time and attention. Earlier timelines and early decisions are becoming more important, and colleges are seeing record numbers of applications. Simultaneously, selectivity among colleges has increased significantly.

To top it off, college tuition continues to rise at a steady pace—tripling, in fact, at private universities and doubling at public schools in the past few decades. Financial aid is increasingly critical for families. According to a survey on Passing up First Choice College (Royal & Co Survey), more than 40% of the time a family doesn't attend the first choice school, the reason is financial.

"Our counseling model provides us the ability to focus and prioritize the college counseling process more than we have in our past," says Kevin Crimmins, Director of College Counseling. "It's built around flexibility and adaptability to meet the dynamic moving target of the college counseling environment."

Crimmins joined SLUH in 2015 after serving as Associate Director of Admissions at Washington University's Olin Business School. Under his leadership, SLUH has added two more college counselors, bringing the total to 3.5 full-time employees, and developed a comprehensive plan.

Among the department's goals, he says, "We aim to stretch our students and families so they can consider the full array of options available, while also advancing our reputation and building relationships with colleges."

SLUH's new 'core plan' features increased programming for juniors and seniors, along with a new technology platform for improved research, selection and application processes. In addition, a new 'early engagement plan' provides guidance for freshmen and sophomores.

Unique to schools in the region, SLUH now offers a year-round program, with college counselors working throughout the summer to host junior meetings and activity days with application bootcamps, and to allow more time for college relationship building.

In one short year, the College Counseling department has developed a solid foundation upon which to build. And already, plans are underway to enhance career exploration, implement a 'career speakers' series, and as funding becomes available, add new office space and more counselors.

"We continue to work to provide our students and families the best possible programming that is highly personalized as well as timely, relevant and responsive," says Crimmins.

Tools are in place to track success over time, but already, SLUH has seen many successes.

"I think the effort by everyone at SLUH and the additions in counseling made a difference in our son receiving an incredible opportunity," says Greg Spence, whose son Cameron '17 received the Trustee Scholarship, Viterbi Fellow and Viterbi Scholar awards at the University of Southern California, where he's attending this fall on a full ride. Among Cameron's aspirations: he hopes to become an astronaut.

Ed Gartner '17, who earned a full scholarship to Princeton University, says that his college counselor, Kate Kindbom, "encouraged me to apply for QuestBridge, and she was incredibly patient and helpful even when I emailed her for guidance at 11:00 at night right before a deadline."

"Senior year was tough with college applications, on top of everything else," says Chechik, who is attending the University of Pennsylvania this fall. "But my counselor kept me organized and on task through a long and difficult process, and I feel like it's paid off."

Did You Know?

  • The 2016-17 school year launched a newly organized Counseling program, now known as Student Support Services. Comprised of School Counselors, College Counselors and Learning Consultants, it provides greater attention and more personalized service to our students and families.
  • A recent college preparatory survey of 2006-2013 SLUH graduates revealed:
    • 47% earned 11+ college credits while at SLUH
    • 46% used 11+ college credits at the university they attended
    • 20% used 20+ college credits at the university they attended
    • 94% graduated with an undergraduate degree (compared to national average of about 60%)
    • Of those who earned an undergraduate degree:
      • 84% graduated in 4 years or less (far less than national average of 6 years)
      • 38% earned more than one major or degree
      • 82% received scholarships
      • 70% regularly participated in faith formation activities during college