Preparing for College Applications at ISB's Senior Retreat
Posted 09/01/2017 02:51PM

ISB guidance counselor Patrick Stenger with Grade 12 student Kelsey W.

High School Guidance Counselor Patrick Stenger and Grade 12 student Kelsey W.


Grade 12 students at the International School of Beijing (ISB), kicked-off their year with the Senior Retreat, on August 25. Organized by the high school counseling department annually, the retreat further prepares students for college applications.

The morning commenced with talks by Head of School, Patrick Hurworth, and High School Principal, David Munro. Afterwards, the high school counseling team led the students through a number of individual- and group-activities. Each engagement was designed to help reduce their target list of universities to no more than ten institutions, and to build timelines and strategies for completing their applications to those universities. Workshops covered specific topics such as interview techniques and the application processes for various regions including North America, the UK, and Europe.

High School Guidance Counselor Patrick Stenger gave a presentation on the classic "why me" college application essay, helping students understand how to craft a sincere and effective response. "The essay is about justifying why a school is a good fit for you," said Mr. Stenger, "But the process of writing it helps you decide what is really essential to your university experience." The retreat built on work initiated last spring, when students began reflecting on, researching, and identifying which characteristics of universities were most important to them.

Senior Kelsey W. said that the retreat had major practical outputs: students received timelines, lists of materials they needed to submit and when, additional suggestions on universities to consider, and guidance on books and online resources to help their research. "Some of the broader characteristics I've been looking at have been location and size," said Kelsey. "But the schools I'm really drawn to have aspects within individual departments or programs which are richer and more pertinent to what I want to get out of university." Students also began working on their application essays and letter-of-recommendation requests.

Kelsey strongly praised the high school counseling team: "It's been a very useful day," she said. "We have had great support in finding those schools we're going to end up going to and loving."

Mr. Stenger stressed the importance of self-knowledge and following your passions. "It's not about 'getting in': Our students are successful in multiple applications," he said. "It's about choosing the program that's going to provide them with the greatest value."

Mr. Stenger advocated for a balanced, healthy approach to the challenges ahead, encouraging students to bring in mindfulness and other practices that will allow them to remain physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy throughout the year. "The students are ready, they have achieved a lot, and their successes are well earned and well deserved," he said. "At ISB we work really hard and we achieve a lot, but we do it with integrity and we enjoy the journey."

senior ISB high school students studying

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