College Counseling


The College Office at Berkshire has a tremendous track record for finding colleges and universities that best match each student’s talents, interests and aspirations. The school takes even greater pride in students’ academic success, leadership and community contributions once they get to college.

Berkshire provides a level of service and expertise in the college process far surpassing schools of similar size. Students are encouraged to meet with college counselors at any time for guidance, but the formal process begins during the winter of fifth-form year, when college counselors begin to meet with students on a regular basis to identify each student’s talents and interests and to develop an initial list of colleges to explore. Naviance’s Family Connection is an essential online resource which students, parents and college counselors all access to research, organize and help direct the college process.

Fifth formers begin visiting colleges and universities during March vacation, and the balance of the fifth-form year is devoted to refining each student’s college list, preparing for the first round of standardized testing and planning the sixth-form course of study. The summer is spent visiting additional colleges, beginning the application process and writing the college essay. In the fall of the sixth-form year, students complete their standardized testing and finalize their applications. Berkshire’s college counselors oversee the application process throughout the fall, meeting weekly with each sixth former to ensure that applications are thoroughly reviewed and submitted ahead of deadlines. The college process at Berkshire is rooted in an effective partnership between each student, his or her parents and the college counselor.

College Timeline

Fifth Form Year

September

•Students meet with their advisor and Fifth Form Dean to ensure the most challenging and appropriate course of study.

October

•PSAT is administered at Berkshire for all Fifth Formers.

January

•SAT is administered to all Fifth Formers

•College counselors are assigned to Fifth Formers.

•Initial meetings with college counselor to discuss interests and goals, to review PSAT results, and to confirm each student’s standardized testing schedule through spring and fall.

•College counselors assist all Fifth Formers in registering for the May SAT and April ACT.

February

•Fifth Form Parents College Program for students and parents, with visiting college and university admissions representatives. All Fifth Formers are required to attend.

•College meetings with counselor to draft an initial list of colleges to consider and research.

•Practice SAT at Berkshire for students enrolled in SAT Tutorial Program.

March

•College and university visits and interviews strongly recommended during March vacation.

•Interested Fifth Formers have the option of taking the March SAT at a test site near home; review and confirm this decision with your college counselor.

April

•ACT is administered at Berkshire for all Fifth Formers.

May

•SAT is administered at Berkshire for all Fifth Formers.

•SAT Subject Tests available to select students in AP courses just prior to/after the AP Exam; review and confirm this decision with your subject teacher and college counselor.

•Register with NCAA Eligibility Center if an aspiring Division I or II athlete.

•Students make formal requests for two teacher recommendations.

•Finalize your preliminary college list.

•Complete College Essay

•Complete a draft of the Common Application form

June

•SAT Subject Test(s) for Fifth Formers as appropriate. These tests are taken at a test site near home since Berkshire is not in session. Recommended for students planning to apply to colleges or universities which require SAT Subject Tests in addition to the SAT or ACT. Review and confirm this decision with your subject teacher and college counselor.

•ACT is available for interested students at a test site near home.

Summer

•Additional college visits and interviews are strongly recommended before students return to school in September. Students continue to refine college list.

•Students are encouraged to prepare for the fall SAT and/or ACT

Sixth Form Year

September

•Individual meetings with your college counselor to recap summer visits and to review applications, essay, and any required supplements.

•Sixth Form students meet regularly with their college counselor throughout the fall.

•Meetings with college admissions reps who visit campus.

•ACT is available at a test site near home or Berkshire.

October

•SAT (or SAT Subject Tests) is administered at Berkshire for all Sixth Formers.

•ACT is administered at Berkshire for all Sixth Formers.

•CSS Financial Aid PROFILE is completed by students/families likely to request financial aid.

•FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) opens online and is available to parents requesting financial aid for college.

Fall Long Weekend

Additional college visits are recommended, especially to confirm an upcoming ED/EA application.

Final revisions and updates to college applications and supplements.

November

•Deadline for most Early Decision (ED), Early Action (EA) applications, and all University of California applications.

•SAT (or SAT Subject Tests) is administered at Berkshire for all interested Sixth Formers. Note: Only test date for Language with Listening Subject Tests.

•Final college visits are encouraged during Thanksgiving Recess.

December

•SAT (or SAT Subject Tests) is administered at Berkshire for all interested Sixth Formers.

•ACT is administered at Berkshire for all interested Sixth Formers.

•Early Decision and Early Action decisions returned from colleges and universities.

•Many Regular Decision (RD) applications submitted.

•First semester grades mailed out to colleges.

January

•Remaining Regular Decision (RD) applications are submitted.

•Deadine for most Early Decision 2 (ED2) applications.

•Final SAT/SAT Subject Tests are available at a test site near Berkshire.

April

•Decision notifications from all remaining colleges and universities.

•College and university revisit programs for accepted students.

May

•May 1st reply date for Sixth Formers to confirm matriculation. Enrollment deposit due.

June

•Final grades and transcripts mailed to colleges.

Parent Guide to Naviance's Family Connection

All fifth formers and their parents are auto-registered for Family Connection the summer before the student’s Fifth Form year. Parents receive an email which includes your username and initial password.

Click here to access Family Connection, and follow these steps:

On the home page, enter your email (username) and password and click “Log In”

Select the child (if more than one at Berkshire), and click “Go”

Select one of the two tabs, “about me” or “colleges”

ABOUT ME

These are sections you will find most useful:

•my profile Biographical and contact information for each parent.

•my account If you would like to change your password, you can do so here.

•my assessments Do What You Are

•journal An archive of all “Journal Entries” emailed from college counselor to student and parents as updates throughout each stage of the college process.

COLLEGES

Search for colleges

Enter the name of any college or university. This will direct you to a list of schools under “college lookup” with each school linked to admissions information and an application history from previous Berkshire candidates. We encourage students and parents to visit a college’s individual website via the link “View Website.” The top ten overlaps for previous Berkshire applicants are available via “Overlaps” which can help to expand a college list by considering similar schools. Most importantly, we always direct students and parents to each school’s comprehensive admissions data (not simply the data for previous Berkshire applicants) available via the grey ADMISSIONS link, to the right of GENERAL INFO.

Colleges I'm thinking about

+ add to this list Students, parents, and counselors can build a list of colleges and universities to explore and research. Each school is linked to the same information as outlined above, and the application type and deadlines are easily organized and accessed here. We recommend that students initiate building the college list during their initial meetings with their college counselor in order to encourage their initiative and ownership of the college search.

Compare Me This tool allows you to compare average GPA and test scores for accepted students from Berkshire over the last five years. Each student’s final Fifth Form GPA, SAT, and ACT scores will be entered as these become available. School averages are displayed in green when the student’s number is higher and in red when the student’s number is lower. The far-right “Accept” column shows the number of students accepted out of the number of students that have applied from Berkshire. As many factors beyond GPA and test scores impact each student’s candidacy at an individual college or university, it is essential that students and parents regard this admissions information as one factor among many that will help guide the college search for each student.

Please follow up with your child’s college counselor if you have any questions about Family Connection.

Summer College Essay Requirement

In addition to the required summer reading for all students, rising Sixth Formers at Berkshire are required to write their college essay over the summer. The pace and expectations at the beginning of each Sixth Form year can make it challenging for Sixth Formers to find the time to write their most thoughtful and effective college essay. Therefore, in order to encourage each student’s best effort with this critical component of the college application process, we require every Sixth Former to submit a college essay to his or her college counselor at registration.

This essay could be an initial draft, or a fully developed essay that reflects each student’s significant effort and considerable revision. The relative quiet of summer provides time to consider and determine the essay topic and to begin the lengthy and essential process of drafting and revision. While each Sixth Former will work with a college counselor (and other trusted readers) to revise and finalize the essay before including it with his or her applications, the essay submitted in September should be close to a final draft. Our college meetings with students during April and May of the Fifth Form year include discussions about appropriate and effective essay topics. In addition, a college counselor visits every Fifth Form English class during the spring to present a workshop on writing an effective college essay, highlighting models of effective essays and outlining key strategies.

With most colleges and universities accepting the Common Application, Sixth Formers can usually submit one essay with all their college applications. Most colleges, however, will also require additional school-specific short essays or responses (supplements), making it even more important for students to devote time over the summer to completing their primary essay. The college essay is a central component of each student’s application, and it remains the one place in an application for a student to truly highlight his or her unique and distinctive personal qualities. Writing an effective college essay should be a deeply reflective exercise. The essay should provide a clear window into who each student is as a person and what values, experiences, and qualities he or she will bring to a college or university community.

The essay is also regarded as a writing sample that allows college admissions officers to assess each applicant’s skills and talents as a writer and critical thinker. We encourage our Sixth Formers to embrace the challenge of writing an effective college essay and to use it to celebrate their unique talents, interests, and aspirations while also showcasing their strongest writing.

The final version of your college essay should be between one to two pages (250-650 words) in length and is typically formatted in 12-point font with 1” margins. Students should always include their full name at the top of the essay in the event that their application materials are temporarily (and rarely) misplaced within a college admissions office.

We encourage Sixth Formers to follow up with their college counselors with any questions or for advice during the summer and at any step in this process. Good luck!

2017-2018 Common Application Personal Essay

Please write an essay on a topic of your choice or on one of the options listed on the Common App website, click here. This personal essay helps us to become acquainted with you as a person and student, apart from courses, grades, test scores, and other objective data. It will also demonstrate your ability to organize your thoughts and express yourself. Note: Your Common Application essay should be the same for all colleges. Do not customize it in any way for individual colleges. Colleges that want customized essay responses will ask for them on a supplement form.

Keys to an Effective College Essay

Less is more. Write with a clear, concise, and easy-to-follow style. Use specific and vivid examples. Always remember that the best writers spend most of their time editing the words they can do without.

Be true to yourself. A personal essay is a window into your unique qualities. Be authentic. Write with your true self in mind, not an idealized version of whom you’d like to be.

Don’t make a big deal out of nothing. Choose a significant experience and talk persuasively but appropriately about its impact on you.

Tell a story. The most successful college essays are simply stories well told. It’s not an academic piece of writing. It’s a creative piece of writing. Write with a voice that’s conversational and welcoming.

Set the hook. Your first sentence and first paragraph need to sing. Remember that your essay is sitting in a stack of a hundred others. Make the admissions officer “sit up” at the start of reading yours.

The brutally honest question: Could anyone else have written this essay? If the answer is yes, start over.