College Counseling Philosophy

The success of our office is due to our “team” approach and the philosophy that guides our effort. Because we operate at a school with a strong mission, we can stay focused on what is important throughout the college selection process. When bright, interesting students have the opportunity to experience the joy of learning in their elementary and high school years, facilitated by a warm, intelligent and encouraging community of faculty and staff, they develop as individuals. The College Counseling staff builds upon that foundation.

We don’t judge or underestimate students. We don’t tell students where they should or should not go to college. We try to keep them from becoming overwhelmed by the college search, application and selection process in a way that steals their high school years away from them. And we don’t let students forget to be good community members. Our goal is to assist in the development of these wonderful citizens—our students—and help them attain personal success. We believe in teaching and engaging them in this process with honesty and integrity.

In a community effort, we enlist our faculty and advisors in guiding students and their families through their transition from Parker to college and beyond. And, in doing so, our college matriculation record and the success of our students in college has helped us achieve a national reputation for excellence.

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  • Approach

    Parker students frequently choose colleges and universities that, like Parker, offer opportunities to take an active role in their education and contribute to an engaged intellectual community that fosters creativity, embraces diversity and aims to improve the world.

    Our students thrive on the academic rigor of Parker’s small discussion-based courses, become solid community members and develop a love of learning. Parker inspires and challenges them to think critically, write effectively, analyze thoroughly, present convincingly, listen thoughtfully and strive for excellence. The Parker educational experience encourages each student to develop as a whole person before focusing on the college selection process. Because they embody traits that appeal to colleges, students successfully enroll in institutions of their choice, including the country’s most selective schools.

    During junior year, we begin the college search and application process, collaborating with advisors, teachers, Grade Heads and college representatives to engage students in a detailed, developmentally appropriate program that continues through senior year and graduation. We equip them with the necessary tools and guide them in taking an active role in this process, just as they do with all aspects of their education. We remind students that the college selection process is a learning experience, and we help them take advantage of every teachable moment that emerges.

    Beginning junior year the College Counseling Office provides:

    • Informational meetings for students and parents
    • Small group workshops for students during the school day on choosing a college, writing essays, presenting their extracurricular activities and sharpening interviewing techniques
    • Opportunities to meet at Parker with representatives from more than 110 colleges and universities; please see the list located under "downloads" on this page
    • An in-depth, Parker-specific “college counseling notebook” for juniors and their parents
    • Information, advice and counsel for students and families throughout all stages of the college selection process, from the initial search through the application and matriculation decisions
    • A primary college counselor for students’ individual questions, beginning with a family meeting during spring semester of junior year
    • Information on programs and policies at colleges and universities, obtained by the College Counseling staff as they visit campuses, attend national meetings and develop and maintain relationships with hundreds of colleges and universities
    • Mock admissions committee meeting in September, including a dozen deans and admissions representatives from colleges and universities, to engage seniors and their parents in understanding the process
    • Annual alumni college panel for juniors and seniors in January
    • Advice and assistance to seniors in developing and editing essays and extracurricular charts and assembling supplemental materials for admission and scholarship applications
    • Assistance with reviewing offers of admission, scholarships and financial aid packages, as well as other financial needs throughout the selection process
    • Guidance and information regarding testing and preparation for standardized tests
    • Information on fee waivers and subsidized test prep options for students on financial aid
    • Informational luncheon for students of color highlighting special collegiate programs, college fly-out programs for underrepresented populations and other opportunities (open to grades 9–12)
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FAQs

List of 8 frequently asked questions.

  • Q: Who prepares Parker students for the college selection process?

    Our College Counseling Office consists of seasoned professionals who work individually and as a team to sponsor activities and provide information on colleges and the college selection process. We visit college campuses and attend meetings to establish and maintain relationships with college and university representatives throughout the country.
  • Q: When do you begin working with students?

    Although we communicate important information during sophomore year (practice tests, upcoming college fairs), most of our efforts begin with small and large groups during junior year and individually during senior year. We work closely with advisors, teachers and Grade Heads.
  • Q: Does Parker rank its students?

    Consistent with our institutional philosophy, Francis W. Parker School refrains from awarding prizes or distinctions and does not rank students. In addition, advanced courses are not weighted.
  • Q: Isn’t that a problem for colleges in the application process?

    Quite the contrary. Parker is one of many schools that elect not to rank their students. Ranking can lead to artificial, simplistic and often inaccurate characterizations of students as “better than” other students, ignoring the many subtleties of programs, teachers and interests. Our system preserves a collaborative spirit that encourages students to challenge themselves to do their personal best and take courses that interest them, without fear of being penalized by a ranking system.
  • Q: Why don’t you publish your average test scores?

    We believe test scores are not the best measure of any student’s or school’s value. Publishing test scores also leads to generalizations that can be limiting and inaccurate.
  • Q: Why doesn’t Parker offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses?

    AP courses were originally designed to standardize teaching, provide a structured and specific curriculum, stratify students within a course (regular, honors, AP) and lead to a culminating exam presumed to be equivalent to a college placement exam. Since all Parker students are destined for four-year colleges, our curriculum relies on a deeply talented faculty who teach all courses at the highest level. In fact, fewer colleges each year “give credit” for passing or excelling on AP tests.
  • Q: How does Parker’s “independent curriculum” benefit the college selection process?

    Providing choice and flexibility and developing the capacity for independent inquiry are central to a Parker education. In the tradition of John Dewey, electives across the Upper School curriculum help students meaningfully explore areas of personal interest, make connections across disciplines and discover new methods of inquiry. This independence in the classroom gives students greater agency in their education, providing the space and expert guidance they need to find their place in the world. As a result, students emerge as engaged critical thinkers, gifted writers, articulate speakers and confident presenters who have a demonstrated ability to take responsibility for their educational experience—all highly desirable qualities in the college selection process.
  • Q: What is the College Counseling Office most proud of?

    Each year, college representatives are impressed with the way Parker students present themselves. The intelligence, maturity and depth of each student’s personal reflection shine throughout the college search and selection process—in their meetings with representatives, their essays and their interviews. Our students seek colleges that uniquely suit their personal interests and passions. They retain their individuality, as well as strong and well-formed opinions, throughout the college selection process and as they move into the world.
We adhere to the principle that good teaching and a responsive and responsible education must allow for greater freedom and flexibility, as teachers and students engage in meaningful academic exploration that will prepare them for an ever-changing world. Our students thrive on the academic rigor of our discussion-based courses and develop enormous capacity for and love of learning. There is no better preparation for college.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.