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Class of 2021 Plant Sale is Underway

Order holiday poinsettias and paper-whites at https://sanford.link/2Q7uDm0.

Preparation starts earlier than you might think

We recognize that many families choose Sanford for its focus on preparation for a successful college experience. Though individual student meetings to discuss the college application process begin in the junior year, we lay the foundations much earlier. In fact, a student's navigation through the college application process represents, in a way, a sort of "capstone project" for their Sanford experience, as the student will bring to bear all of the independence, self-reflection, writing skills, poise, persistence, patience, humility, and other traits that they have developed in their time at Sanford.

But simply enrolling at Sanford starts a student's preparation for the college process. 
  • Sanford’s rigorous, college-preparatory approach and curriculum offers thorough preparation for students’ next steps, even starting in the elementary school years.
  • Students develop close relationships with faculty throughout their years, ensuring the development of important interpersonal skills with people of all ages, some of whom may be asked to speak on a student's behalf during the college process. 
  • Faculty advisors meet weekly with students from the time they enter Upper School, ensuring that they are challenging themselves and developing the academic and personal skills to succeed.
  • The breadth of both curricular and extracurricular requirements - and options - direct our students to explore new interests and test their boundaries.
  • In addition, Sanford’s Upper School Counselor and Learning Services Coordinator gets to know every student—and helps students get to know themselves—so that when it is time to start applying to college, students bring a self-awareness and maturity to the process.

Junior and senior years

The active phase of the college application process follows a timeline that
  • Ensures students receive regular support and individual guidance
  • Facilitates students’ completion of all application requirements—including tests, campus visits, and all necessary application and financial forms.
Because we truly want each student to be successful, our process is comprehensive, yet flexible enough to personalize the attention we give each young person.

View our timeline for an outline of Sanford’s college counseling process and important information at each stage of the college search.

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  • Scholarships & Financial Aid

    Almost all colleges offer financial aid and/or scholarship programs, but projecting accurately how much college may cost is becoming the single-most complicated - and inconsistent - element of the college search process for families. Students will find that they will get very different financial aid packages from different institutions.

    Since 2011, colleges have been required to include a net price calculator (NPC) on their websites. Using data provided by individual families, this tool should provide families with a ballpark estimate of their projected out of pocket cost to attend a range of institutions. But even these projections can be misleading or, even, erroneous. As in all things, the key to not being surprised by the financial realities of college is to be proactive.

    Most colleges offer aid “packages” that are comprised of grants (money that does not have to be paid back), loans, and work-study. While some colleges promise to meet 100% of demonstrated need of all accepted students, most colleges employ “preferential packaging” and “gapping” systems (leaving a “gap” between the student’s demonstrated need and what the college actually offers in aid). In preferential packaging, the students with the strongest academic records may receive 100% of their need and relatively small, if any, loans, while students with less impressive credentials will receive smaller grants and much larger loans.
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  • Athletic Recruiting

    While many high school students are interested in playing sports at the collegiate level, it is important to remember that unless a college coach has contacted the student directly – and most likely watched the student compete in the sport – it is not likely that sports ability will sway a college’s decision significantly. In some cases, however, an extraordinary athletic talent – just like an extraordinary academic or artistic talent – may drive the application process. In these instances, constant communication between the college counselor, the student-athlete, and the high school coach is necessary to make sure that no element of this often-confusing process slips through the cracks.  We at Sanford are experienced in guiding students and their families through this system.
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College Counseling Timeline

Grades 9-10:

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  • Annual Grade-Level Parent Meetings

    As students move through the Upper School, they receive appropriate and timely guidance to prepare them to make a successful transition to college. The college counseling staff and the Head of the Upper School, along with the Director of Counseling, meet with parents annually to provide an overview of the college counseling program geared toward the needs of individual grade levels.  The ninth grade parent meeting, for example, focuses on laying a strong academic and extracurricular foundation for the future as well as addressing some of the essentials of adolescent development. The formal college counseling program does not begin for students until their junior year; however, the entire Upper School program is deliberately and carefully designed to prepare students for college success.

    Please see our College Counseling Events located on the sidebar of the College Counseling page.
  • Class College Meetings

    Throughout the year, the college counseling faculty meets with students during class meetings to discuss topics that pertain to their academic and extracurricular programs at Sanford.  In grades nine and ten, we encourage students to make the most of their Sanford education: take challenging courses, get involved in meaningful extracurricular activities, work hard, develop strong relationships with their teachers and coaches, and be positive members of the Sanford community, both in and out of the classroom.  

    Please see our College Counseling Events located on the College Counseling page.

Grade 11:

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  • Fall College Planning Night for Juniors & Parents

    In the fall of the junior year, the college counseling team convenes a meeting of juniors and their parents. The meeting provides an overview of the key events which will unfold over the following 18 months and addresses the varying roles of students, parents, and counselors in the application process. Perhaps most importantly, the college counseling team reinforces Sanford's essential philosophy about the college application process.
  • Naviance Night

    During Naviance Night, typically offered in November of the junior year, parents are introduced to Naviance/Family Connection, our college counseling database. Naviance is an internet-based program which many schools, including Sanford, use to assist the college counseling process, track historical data, and submit school forms to support students' college applications.
  • Spring College Planning Night for Juniors & Parents

    In the spring of the junior year, the college counseling office offers a second large-group meeting for juniors and parents. In this meeting, the team shares more specific details now that most families are more immersed in the mechanics of the process. In addition, the college counseling office invites college admission representatives, for whom Sanford is one of their assigned schools, to serve as panelists for questions from juniors and parents.
  • The Student-Counselor Relationship

    In the fall, each junior is assigned to one of the college counselors. The relationship that builds between the counselor and the student is critical to ensuring that the process goes smoothly and that the student and family confidently navigate the application process. The relationship generally begins with individual meetings with the counselor and the student and/or family throughout the late winter and early spring. Through these early meetings, students and families should begin compiling an initial college list, which is normally fairly broad in scope. Together, the student, family, and counselor gradually pare down the list – usually no later than late fall of the senior year – to the group of schools to which the student will apply. 

    During the application process, the College Counselor serves to advise the family on the process, assist the student by reviewing application materials and answering questions when necessary, and write the school’s formal Counselor Recommendation about the student.  In short, the College Counselor provides support for the family during their journey through the application process; however, the counselor does not fill out materials on behalf of the student, register the student for tests, or other such tasks.  This is the student’s application process; the college counselors are here to help facilitate, as needed.
  • Junior Year "College Class"

    Beginning in the second semester of the junior year, students attend a series of small group sessions in which they explore a range of college admissions topics with their college counselors. The workshops convene once per cycle during students’ free periods. Readings and discussions are specifically designed to teach students how to navigate their way through the college admissions process. Perhaps most importantly, students are introduced to the Common Application and other application formats, discuss possible essay topics, and engage in activities such as "Mock Admission Committee".
  • College Fairs

    Periodically, large groups of college representatives are organized at a College Fair. While Sanford does not host a College Fair of its own, Sanford students may attend annual fairs held locally. Specifically, there are typically at least two college fairs in northern Delaware each year: one at the University of Delaware, and one at one of the local catholic high schools.

    In some ways these fairs can be overwhelming – vast numbers of prospective students browsing unending lines of tables…how does a participant accomplish anything? And yet, some of these tables are staffed by the very people who may be reading applications…while others may be staffed by volunteers who know less current information about the institution than a potential applicant. College Fairs may provide access to a great deal of information in a short period of time, but they also could prove a waste of time, depending on the intention of the prospective student and the questions posed to college reps. Our advice? Plan wisely and keep perspective.
  • Visiting College Campuses

    We encourage students to begin visiting college campuses during their junior year, though some families begin even sooner. Sanford’s spring break in March allows a perfect time to see a number of campuses. Colleges offer daily information sessions and campus tours for students and families, and most of the smaller colleges offer personal interviews. Campus visits are a critical part of the college search, and students should make the most of each opportunity. It is hard to “know” a school until you have actually set foot on the campus. By listening to what others have to say or write about a college, it is easy to think that one has a good understanding of whether or not a college would provide a good match, but time after time, students tell us that it was the campus visit that determined whether or not they would apply to a college. We highly recommend that students visit all of their college choices before beginning the application process.

Grade 12:

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  • Senior Year College Counseling Workshops

    Twice each month, the college counselors meet with small groups of seniors during free periods to discuss upcoming events and general deadlines and to disseminate relevant information about where the students should be in the process. Additionally, students work hand-in-hand with their college counselor to progress through the application process, using the school’s relationship with Naviance, an internet-based college counseling program, as a tool. 
  • College Admission Representative Visits

    This year, over 120 colleges and universities scheduled visits to Sanford to meet with interested students. These meetings serve multiple purposes. First, they serve as an opportunity for the colleges to share information with prospective students who perhaps aren’t familiar with the institution. These visits may also provide an opportunity for both students and schools to further solidify a previous relationship, which may have started with a student’s visit to campus or submission of an application. With prior approval, juniors and seniors are permitted to miss a class in order to attend a college representative visit; younger students may attend if they have no other academic conflict.
  • The Application & Personal Essay

    College admissions officers often say that they admit “applications,” not students. In most cases, college admission offices don’t know the people they admit, but they know their applications inside and out. Students, therefore, need to submit strong applications that put themselves in the best light. College applications can be both deceptively simple and misleadingly complicated. It can be easy for students to overlook the significance of proper grammar and spelling while filling out an online application. Applications are not text messages or e-mails! Capitalization, spelling, and grammar are important. A good college application tells a story, first by describing all of a student’s high school achievements, and then going beyond the facts and figures and offering a glimpse into the real person behind the screen.  

    In the college essay, students have an opportunity to share a piece of themselves that cannot be found in any other part of the application. After reading a good essay, a college admissions officer should get a sense of what makes the student unique. Some of the questions that a good essay might address are the following: What are your core values? What keeps you up at night? What are your dreams and goals? What have been your biggest challenges and how have you faced them? Who do you admire? The admissions officer should also get a sense that the essay rings true with everything else that they have seen in the application. At Sanford, we encourage students to seek feedback on their college essays; the college counselors and the English faculty are available to help students with their essays, and students often go through several rewrites before they have a solid piece of writing.

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