Guiding the Way to College

With over 150 college acceptance letters already received by the 89 students in the Class of 2020, the options can be overwhelming. “Up to this point in their lives, this is the biggest decision they’ve had to make,” said college counselor Gianna Benson. “We don’t want students to commit to any colleges until they have all of their acceptances and financial aid packages. We want them to have all the facts first and make an educated decision that is right for them in all ways--financially, socially, academically, etc.--and that won’t happen until April.”

This school year the Guidance Department made some significant changes in personnel and process. Allyson Genger came to us from Marquette University and joined the team as a college and alumni counselor. Allyson said: “I was working in admissions, and some of my favorite experiences were our pre-college outreach programs, including the Cristo Rey Summer Leadership Institute [Recent grads Tiana Thai and Alexis Balocating attended the Institute the summer before their senior year.] It was a really impactful experience, and that’s when I started considering moving to the high-school side because the relationship with students is so different… to help someone really pinpoint what they’re looking for in a college experience, and being able to help with the persistence, being able to stick with those kids after they graduate from ICA Cristo Rey.” Ms. Genger, along with long-time college supporter for our Spartans Tina Sprouse, will help our alumnae as they navigate college. 

Allyson went on: “I’m looking forward to building relationships with some of the local partnerships in the area. There are pre-college programs some of our students work with, as well as community partners, and community colleges. A bulk of my work will be supporting students’ transition from community college to four-year universities as well.” Counselor Gianna Benson is excited about the new developments: “I am hoping this will lead to higher college graduation rates and much higher transfer rates for students who attend community college after ICA Cristo Rey. It’s a place where we can make big gains.”

The excitement and pride are warranted as she continued, “The increase of personnel combined with a new class one class period per week for seniors, will see our students even more prepared to succeed when they leave ICA Cristo Rey.”

Starting in this second semester, Allyson will be teaching that College Prep 12 class. There is a particular lull when applications have been turned in and one is waiting for all the letters to arrive from colleges, which means the course will become something of a College 101 class, answering a lot of those early college student questions: What’s a Bursar’s office? Where do I find the Registrar? What is a prerequisite?

This will free Ms. Benson up to work with juniors once a week for five weeks, in the College Prep 11 course, “to jump-start the application process with letters of recommendation, essays and personal statements, so that come August they’ll be even more prepared and we can hit the ground running.”

Of having the College Prep 12 course this year, Gianna says the biggest advantage was “the face time! We get to know each other so much better. They hopefully get to trust me more. This whole process is an unknown for them. Every student has a different level of parental involvement. Some students have a sibling or a cousin who has gone through this process, and some students have no one. So my job is to help them through this year of making decisions.”

The course is an opportunity for all students to receive regular support, not necessarily just the proverbial squeaky wheels. One student who, in the words of Ms. Benson, “really owned the process” of applying to colleges is senior Gabby Goncalves: “I think the class had an important role in the college application process, having her for 50 minutes every week was really helpful. There was a lot of the process I didn’t know, like what certain things meant like ‘early action’ versus ‘early decision,’ or dealing with financial aid and scholarships. The faculty has been really supportive as well. Just applying to college is an accomplishment, and I was worried I’d be drowning in work and stressed out, which I was... but I’m most proud of maintaining and improving my grades through the process.” Gabby has applied to thirteen schools and has already received ten acceptances.