by CeCe Darakjian
On June 15th approximately 640 students graduated from San Clemente High School. Amazingly, almost 90% of those students will go on to some sort of advanced education. Some may go to a technical school, many will avail themselves of the outstanding opportunities offered by California’s Community Colleges and some will head off to four-4 year colleges and universities scattered across the country. Some will go as far afield as Indiana or Florida and some as close to home as Irvine or San Diego.
For a few of these kids their futures have been clear since they were toddlers. Maybe they grew up in a house full of USC paraphernalia and "Fight on for ol’ SC" were the first words out of their mouths. Maybe they had decided as a child to follow their dad and their granddad into the marines. Or maybe they have worked on a special talent for years and always knew the best place to pursue their dream. But those kids are the exception and not the rule.
Most students enter high school with absolutely no idea of where they want to go or how to get there. Along they way they are influenced by teachers and family and friends, but it is the high school Academic Advising team who gives them their guidance. This group of hard-working professionals is the stepping stone upon which high school students eventually become college students.
The Capistrano Unified School District offers numerous options for students needing help in college and career planning, both on campus and off. One of their most important resources is the College and Career Planning Center located at The Shops at Mission Viejo. This center serves CUSD students from kindergarten through twelfth grade. It is basically a one-stop shop for students, and their parents, who have questions related to their academic future, from choosing which college might be right for them, to understanding college admissions tests. From writing a personal essay, to researching financial aid, the career-planning center has it all. It emphasizes helping students make responsible choices by having a better understanding of those choices, options and decisions.
While college applications are typically completed during the junior or senior years of high school, the components that go into that application begin long before then. Many of our local elementary schools offer programs designed to start students thinking about life after high school. These programs often focus on helping children to start to define their goals and to recognize the role education can play in achieving those goals. Through the use of such programs as career days, even elementary school age students are able to see the important role education plays in helping them become who and what they want to be.
By middle school, most students and parents are beginning to have specific questions about college selection and admissions and that’s why each year Debbie Morgan, the Director of College Guidance, presents a Surviving and Thriving in High School workshop at each of the local middle schools. This program emphasizes preparation and planning, hard work and desire in achieving both personal and academic goals. Debbie provides families with worksheets and timelines to assist in college planning. She also distributes information about academic curriculum, testing and the importance of extra-curricular activities. By the time these students hit high school they have a great head start on the road to college and beyond.
Once high school starts the planning process can become quite serious. Each high school in the district has on site academic advisors to help with class selection, keeping track of credits earned and providing guidance on academic testing. At San Clemente High School, Sally Cunningham leads a group of six academic advisors who work hand-in-hand with students to help make their goals a reality. Sally is proud of the reputation SCHS holds among colleges and universities around the country.
According to Sally, "Our International Baccalaureate program and Advanced Placement classes make our graduates very attractive to colleges."
Of course, academics are not all that colleges look for in a successful applicant. The advisors stress four main areas for students to concentrate on. Leadership, commitment, contribution and co-curricular activities are the things that make an applicant stand out. It’s important for students to take their education outside of the classroom and to participate in activities that match their interests. Things like science fairs, mock-trials or hospital work allow students the chance to exercise the knowledge they have learned in the classroom in a different setting.
Each summer the College and Career Planning Center offers a series of workshops for incoming seniors. Entitled, Senior Survival...Navigating the College Application Process! This workshop guides seniors through the applications process.
Incoming senior Ariana Reish plans to attend this workshop, but first she paid a visit to the advisement office and it went just as she had hoped. She had begun planning for college during middle school. As a freshman she met with her advisor to create a four-year plan, and during her junior year she had a personal meeting with Debbie Morgan to confirm that she was on the right track. Over the last couple of years Ariana’s interests and goals have changed, so she met one more time with her advisor just to confirm that her senior schedule would suit her needs.
"I was glad to hear that the classes I’ve taken will work to get me into San Francisco State" said Ariana. "My advisor encouraged me to keep up my academic work load and to continue to challenge myself. I know that will help me with getting into the college I want to go to."
Regardless of a student’s goals for the future, whether it be two years at Saddleback or four years at Harvard, the academic advising team knows just the right steps to get them where they want to be. b
To contact the College and Career Planning Center please call (949) 234-5357 or just drop by 556 The Shops at Mission Viejo (Just outside the food court). To make reservations for this summer’s Senior Survival workshop call (949) 234-5357. There is no charge for the workshop but numbers are limited and they do fill up fast.