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Working Toward College Application Readiness
Posted by: Andrea Fox Published: 4/26/16

A Glimpse of Resources Available to SPHS Students

SOUTH PASADENA, Calif. (April 26, 2016) – With more than 90% of SPHS high school seniors reporting that they will be attending either two-year or four-year colleges and universities, it seems like everyone at this time of year is talking about who’s going where for college.  Throughout the spring, many high school seniors learn which of their top choice colleges and universities have accepted them.  By May 1, most students will have decided where their next four years will be spent.  How did they get to this point? 

     The college application process begins in full force during a student’s junior year in high school, but leading up to that time students as young as freshman at SPHS are introduced to Naviance – a web-based platform designed to help students identify their strengths and align their interests to long-term college and career goals. Each student creates a personalized success plan linking their high school path and accomplishments to meaningful post-high school goals. Parents also are able to create their own Naviance accounts in order to review their student’s college, career and guidance activities.  Originally funded by the South Pasadena High School Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA) and now funded through District resources, Naviance helps streamline student planning and advising.  The PTSA also hosts a forum for parents, which covers how to sign up and use the system.

     During sophomore year, the focus shifts to career exploration, and high school counselors encourage students to take the career interest inventory offered through Naviance in order to start matching their traits, skills and interests with colleges, majors and careers. A newly added feature this year, Roadtrip Nation is a series of interviews with experts in various careers.  Students can select specific areas of interest and may watch videos featuring interviews with individuals working in matching fields.  The interviews are conducted by young adults who are in the process of figuring out what their next steps will be for college and career. 

     At the start of junior year, SPHS is abuzz with colleges and universities that come to the school for on-campus visits, coordinated by high school counselors. Between September 1 and December 15, approximately 134 different colleges and universities set foot on the SPHS campus.  Many report that SPHS produces well-rounded, high-achieving students who are increasingly sought after by top universities.  Interested juniors also take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT) – typically in October – which is the basis for national merit scholarships.  This year, eight students from SPHS qualified as National Merit Semifinalists representing the top 0.5% of the state’s senior students.

     “Working with students from South Pasadena is always exciting,” said Hillary Higgins, Assistant Director, Undergraduate Admission, University of Southern California (USC). “Many students are familiar with USC either from frequent visits to campus or a family connection to the university.  My visits are always packed with thoughtful questions from a lively and excited audience.  It’s wonderful to meet students who enjoy the application process and are enthusiastic about their futures.”

     Throughout the year, the PTSA also hosts an interactive forum for parents and students called “Life Beyond High School” where a panel of experts share the ins and outs of helping prepare students for life after high school. SPHS counselors also work with the Regional Admissions Counselors of California to host an 11th grade College Awareness Night.  Students and parents are invited to participate in workshops where they act as a mock admissions committee, reviewing three students’ college applications to further their understanding of how to create a strong college application.  At the end of the evening, participants are able to gather additional information through a mini college fair held in the SPHS gymnasium.

     Juniors wrap up the school year by taking the standardized test of their choice – the SAT, the ACT or both -- depending on their target colleges and universities.  They also finish additional assignments related to preparing them for the college application process including filling out brag sheets – which both parents and students are asked to complete -- creating a resume, adding possible colleges to their list of interests, writing a rough draft of their personal statement, filling out a college data sheet and participating in some of the scheduled college visits, such as this spring’s visit to California State University’s Channel Islands campus. 

     Additional field trips are offered to students as a way to introduce them to college life.  This year, SPHS students visited the University of Southern California for a campus tour and Loyola Marymount for a college fair in the fall. A group of students will visit the University of California, Riverside for a college visit and youth conference soon.  A number of colleges return to visit in the spring as well, though the most common time for representatives to visit is during the fall semester.

     By the start of senior year, many students are working on their college essays and are preparing their applications.  This process dovetails again with the college visit cycle and seniors can take an even closer look at the schools that have risen to the top of their lists.  Seniors meet with counselors to discuss the best possible college options and to work through planning for college application deadlines, which vary from October through January depending upon the type of application the student has undertaken. After this process is complete, students wait to hear from schools about admissions and financial aid.  Armed with all this information, students with the help of families, teachers, counselors and more decide which college or university best fits their needs and the cycle begins again for the next group of students.


For more information, contact: Andrea Fox, South Pasadena Unified School District, afox@spusd.net