Helping Students Find the Perfect College Fit

cc shot
Catherine McGraw, left, and the College Counseling team

Catherine McGraw has been director of the College Counseling office for six months, and in that time, she has made it her mission to expose Williston students in earlier grades to the college-search process. As part of that process, she strives to help students identify a college or university that best fits their unique strengths and interests.

As her first year in this position unfolds, she’s been beyond pleased to witness Williston students meet with success as acceptance letters arrive from Dartmouth, Georgetown, Kenyon, University of Pennsylvania, Vassar, Williams, and many more. Building on that success, she’s instituted new initiatives and continued other tried-and-true programs that provide students and parents what they need to choose the college that fits them best.

“My philosophy emphasizes reflection and self-awareness,” McGraw said. “As students engage in a college search, I want them to feel that they are in the driver’s seat.”

McGraw and her staff have put in place four new programs to help that process this year:

  • Mini-college-fairs: In September and October, 75 colleges came to campus, and sophomores through seniors (as well as parents) were encouraged to visit with admission officers. The fairs were held during dinner and between classes and sports practices so students could drop in when it suited their schedules.
  • College tours: Over fall long weekend counselors took students to Babson College and Boston University.
  • College panel: During Fall Family Weekend, the office invited panelists from the University of Richmond, George Washington University, and Union College to discuss everything from how to stand out in the admission process to what to expect of college athletics.
  • Athletics panel: Coaches from Mount Holyoke and Amherst College and the Athletic Director at Williams College answered questions about playing at the college level during Fall Family Weekend.

These new initiatives supplement College Counseling programs that have been traditional at Williston:

  • At a recent assembly, students got to hear from several young alumni from the classes of 2014 to 2016. When Williston students heard from peers what college is like, McGraw said, they listened intently and were motivated to pursue a college that would suit them.
  • In February, College Counseling hosted a reception for parents of juniors to get the search process rolling.
  • In January of their junior year, students took a three-part class on the online platform Naviance, which manages the college search process, from researching colleges to hosting application documents. The class also covered the Common Application and standardized testing.
  • On two days in April students will have the opportunity to partake in mock interviews with visiting college deans of admission.

These programs are important in a year of significant change to the college admissions landscape. Starting this year, students are taking a redesigned SAT test with new content, format and scoring. The FAFSA application for federal financial aid now opens on October 1 instead of January 1, and it collects income information from an earlier tax year.

Through all that change, however, McGraw’s mission remains the same: “There’s a thread of discovery that runs through the college-search process. Students learn something about themselves,” she said. “In the end, we help students determine where they will thrive while striking the right balance between allowing enough time for researching and visiting colleges and starting at a point that minimizes undue stress on the student.”


Williston Model UN Team Heads to MIT

Guest Blog Post by Josh Calianos ’18

A delegation of 12 Williston students will join hundreds of students from across the globe to participate in a Model United Nations simulation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the weekend of February 10-12. At Model UN, students represent delegates from United Nation member countries and debate international issues.

The MIT conference is a three-day event where students will spend most of their time (8 hours a day) in various committees discussing and debating the most pressing international issues. The ultimate goal is to create consensus in the form of a resolution, or a proposal for how the UN should address the issue. Read more about the conference at our student-run Model UN blog.

Williston Northampton delegation:

UNSC France: Sophie Little
IAEA DPRK: Josh Calianos
WTO Czech Republic: Sydney Kim
WHO Singapore: Brooke Smith
Futuristic Uganda: Reilly Gluz
ASEAN Vanuatu: Francois Kaeppelin
ECOSOC Peru: Vishnu Sekar
IMF Greece: Simon Kim
Historical Horatio Gates: Alexander Foster
DISEC Colombia: Eleanor (Ellie) Scott
EU Vatican City: Sofia Flores
UNECLC ROK: Eleanor (Ellie) Wolfe

State Champ We the People Team Heads to D.C.

The We the People team on the floor of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston

Williston’s We the People team members for the second year in a row out-maneuvered their competition with their superior knowledge and application of civics concepts, securing the state championship. They will head to the national competition in the Washington, D.C., area this April to face teams from across the country.

The team studied and practiced doggedly this trimester, and the hard work paid off when the group met with success in Boston on January 28. Their advisor, AP US Government teacher Peter Gunn, praised the cohesiveness of the team, likening it to a troupe of actors who bond as they practice for a play, or a sports team. “It’s a formidable challenge, both intellectually and interpersonally,” he said.

Kevin O’Sullivan, Ellie Scott, and Shaela Chaires get ready for questioning.

On the day of the competition, the group is divided into groups of five, and comes prepared to answer four to six questions relating to the Constitution, Bill of Rights, or general government, in a setting resembling a Congressional hearing. Judges then follow up with a question that asks students to apply their knowledge to a new facet of a problem. The Williston team out-scored the second-place team by nine-tenths of a point, the narrowest victory in We the People history.

“In a time when an understanding of government seems vital, the engagement of students in the discussion of the structure, development, and process of government—well, I don’t know what we do that’s more important,” Gunn said. He added that when students feel a sense of competence and that they understand how their government works, they are more likely to participate in the democratic process: to keep up with news, to vote, to contact their elected officials, even to take our papers and run for office. Research shows that a high rate of We the People alumni find their way to elected local, state, and federal elected positions.

WTP grads Alex Foster, Ava McElhone Yates, Tyler Greenwood, and Emma Reynolds flank Mr. Gunn, center.

As they prepared this fall and winter, the We the People team attracted a supportive community. Seniors Alex Foster, Ava McElhone Yates, Tyler Greenwood, and Emma Reynolds, who participated last year, helped coach team members this year. Numerous alumni and parents also helped students on their path to become state champs.

But students were not chained to their desks as they prepared for the competition. Students were out at rallies, attended the Presidential inauguration, and canvassed door to door. They developed their political ideas in a climate that did not take sides, Gunn said, but encouraged critical and independent thinking on issues both from the past that are still relevant today—such as laws that pertain to Native Americans—and current policies and programs, such as the Affordable Care Act. As team members, listed below, move on to the next phase in Washington, we send the them our warmest congratulations!

Fiona Bundy ’18
Josh Calianos ’18
Jesse Cassuto ’17
Shaela Chaires ’18
Vikram Dalmiya ’18
Megan Fydenkevez ’18
Brendan Hansen ’18
Anna Harvey ’18
Shana Hecht
Oliver Lawrence ’18
Kevin O’Sullivan ’18
Sara Renkert ’18
Natalie Romain ’18
Ellie Scott ’18
Triniti Slaughter ’18
Sophie Carellas ’18
Sofia Flores ’18
Madison Fulcher-Melendy ’18
Jerry Gao ’17
Josh Holmberg ’18
Gabriel Moon ’18
Katie Most ’18
Roya Mostafavi ’18
Jack Phelan ’18
Erika Sasaki ’18
A’kayla Williams ’18
Harrison Winrow ’18
Derrick Zhao ’18
Shirley Zhou ’18