The college send-off

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How WWS schools are preparing kindergartners, middle school and high school students for college

Westfield Washington Schools’ students in grades kindergartenthrough12 are getting a jump start on their futures. Westfield High School’s College Readiness program is not just informing parents how to prepare for college for students of every age; it’s keeping students ahead of college application as the process evolves to be more competitive and expensive every year.

The College Readiness program provides a series of seminars with a hands-on format. This exposes students and parents to free technological tools that teach families the step-by-step process of applying for colleges and scholarships.

WHS junior Colby Neuman, who aspires to study aeronautical engineering, said the program is more than an instructional seminar and has expanded his college search.

“It has given me a more in-depth understanding of the college application process. It helps with finding schools you may not have thought about and the best methods to apply and get into them,” he said.

Colby is interested in Purdue University and is now considering University of Michigan, Maryland University and the California Institute of Technology.

WHS parentLori Neuman said the program represents how WWS operate and the district’s consistent focus on improving students’ lives for the future.

“I’m very proud to see WHS create this program. It’s what I expect from the school,” Neuman said. “We’re an innovative district always forward-thinking. The schools are working hard to be the best in the state.”

Carroll Easterday, former director of administrations at Butler University, has headed up the program that incorporates technology and has produced and distributed WWS’ first college application guide book, which is stocked with information about every topic related to preparing students for college andis targeted to all grade levels, not just high school seniors.

Easterday said the program she and WHS counselors developed builds a foundation for younger students to give them a head start to be well-informed and active in college preparation, which will send WWS’ students into the world of higher education confidently prepared.

Steven, Jerry and Denise Johnson and College Readiness materials.

“We want to see students informed as much as possible so they can attain their aspirations, and that process has to begin much earlier as colleges become more competitive to get into,” Easterday said.

The grade 11 seminar facilitated by Easterday and other WHS school counselors last week brought admission directors from Purdue University and the University of Notre Dame for a Q-and-A session, and to lead breakout sessions focusing on financial preparation and how to succeed for applying to highly-selective colleges.

Alissa Fisher, senior associate director for UND’s admissions, said WWS’ new program and the program’s goal to target all ages is a necessary tool to help students succeed in the increasingly competitive and evolving world of further education.

“The college search and application process is different than what students’ parents may have gone through. Parents think, ‘I got into this school and it was easy. Why didn’t my child get in?’” Fisher said. “Things aren’t the same and students need to know more at a much younger age.The system has changed drastically since their parents went through the application process and they need to get today’s information sooner.”

Attending families said the process has even changed since they sent their first child off to college.

WHS parent Denise Johnson went through the application process with her son who graduated from WHS in 2008. The College Readiness program eased her nerves as the WHS junior undergoes the application process that has changed so much in just four years.

“The process is a little easier from our earlier experience. The program has made the process much easier on my son and taken a lot of the stress out of the process because it’s so highly informative,” Johnson said. “It provides more than just information for the application process. It helps us look for school options we may not have thought about, and how to look for schools.”

WHS juniorSteven Johnsonsaid he attends the seminars because they provide unique information.

“I can get new information I haven’t heard before,” Steven said. “The school is really doing a lot to push students to do a lot more to help them in the future, to get people ready for it. It’s a really good direction for the school and us (students).”

Not only has the program provided materials and workshops, but it has also taken a technological step into a new venture that helps students and parents organize application materials online. Just like the application book, WWS are launching Naviance for the first time, an online program that organizes students’ applications, tracks test scores and post letters of recommendations.

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