Frequently Asked Questions
about College Counseling
How does the college counseling process work at Catlin Gabel? How many college counselors are there?
Catlin Gabel has two full-time college counselors who work closely with students, families and college admission representatives. They lead a department that includes a registrar who handles student record submission to colleges, a member of the English faculty who works with students as they write application essays, and an administrative assistant who makes everything run smoothly.
The heart of the program, following the philosophy of the school, is student empowerment through individual counseling and guidance. Most individual meetings begin in the junior year, though college counselors are available to meet with students and parents at any point. Students are encouraged to reflect on their values, strengths and goals throughout the process. In addition to individual meetings, the college counseling curriculum and support system includes group programming, academic advisor training and course selection guidance, small group college counseling classes, parent meetings, and opportunities for writing and reflection. A timeline for the process and calendar of events are available on the college counseling website.
Our students seek colleges that will challenge them, suit their interests, and sustain the life-long learning process that was nurtured at Catlin Gabel. Destinations for each class vary, of course, and individual considerations including unique academic programs, family priorities, and finances influence students’ choices.
The 79 members of the class of 2017 attend 60 different colleges in 23 different states. Five attend universities outside the USA. About 45% of the class attend college on the East Coast, about 33% on the West Coast, and the rest in other U.S. regions and overseas. Several students chose a gap year before enrolling in college full-time, with plans that include travel, employment, and attendance at an intensive athletics academy. A full list of colleges where students in the last four graduating classes were admitted and chose to attend is available here.
How do colleges handle Catlin Gabel’s progressive approach to curriculum and grading? How do they compare Catlin Gabel students to applicants from schools with AP or IB programs, or weighted grades?
Our college counselors work closely with colleagues in college admission offices to give background and context to Catlin Gabel students’ experiences. In addition to meeting and speaking regularly with college admission representatives, the school publishes a School Profile that is included with each transcript. This document gives context for each student’s record. College application readers evaluate applicants from hundreds of different schools from across the globe, and understand the unique education that schools like Catlin Gabel offer students. They also judge applicants based on the opportunities available to them, so they do not expect our students to be part of a curriculum that is not offered here. In addition, students have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement (AP) exams at Catlin Gabel if they wish, and to report their scores to colleges. In spring 2016, 42 students took 85 exams. 81% earned a score of 4 or 5.
A transcript including course titles and traditional letter grades (A-F) that college admission committees are familiar with is translated from the narrative reports and submitted to colleges. While we do not report weighted or unweighted grade point average (GPA) to colleges, college application readers are familiar with this practice and it encourages them to read our transcripts deeply; in fact, many colleges recalculate grade point average even if it is reported. We believe, and our students’ college admission results support, that our grade reporting practice is given full consideration in the application process.
How do students feel about their college options at the end of the process? Did they get in where they wanted to go?
In a survey of the class of 2017, 97% of our students reported that, at the end of the application process, they had college options that suited their goals and abilities. To achieve this level of satisfaction, our college counseling program encourages our students to prioritize and narrow their searches based on criteria that work for them; these might include academic offerings, culture and atmosphere, academic mentorship, cost and value, employment and graduate school admission prospects, faculty teaching style, or location. We are confident that each student who commits to the process will come up with a group of colleges that they are excited about attending, since (as parents of adolescents well know) a favorite in any category changes over time. Our college counselors work to give students the freedom to explore many options and move forward toward attending a college that is right for them.
We encourage every student to consider value and cost as part of their search; these are deciding factors for a significant number of Catlin Gabel families. Our college counselors are well-informed about the process of applying for need-based aid, and stay up-to-date on colleges’ and independent organizations’ merit scholarship awarding policies. The school partners with local college financial aid officers to present annual information nights for all upper school families, including a FAFSA/CSS Profile workshop for seniors.
We hear over and over from colleges that our graduates attending their institutions are our best ambassadors. The academic transition into the freshman year of college is typically a smooth one for our students, and the faculty and admission staff at colleges make note of the skills and leadership that Catlin Gabel graduates bring to their classrooms and campus life. This gives a lens through which application readers can view our current students. In addition, college representatives who visit the school each year meet with students and our college counselors to get a personal sense of the school.
Do college admission officers know about the school? How do they learn about Catlin Gabel, especially at colleges that are far away from Oregon?
Representatives from more than 120 colleges visit Catlin Gabel each year to recruit our students. This group includes colleges from Edinburgh to Shanghai, and from Manhattan to Eugene. The school’s reputation in college admission offices is excellent, thanks to the vibrant conversations that visiting college reps have with our juniors and seniors when they visit, the performance of our alumni at their institutions, and the work of the college counselors and school administrators to build relationships and work together as educators. Our college counselors, upper school head, and head of school visit college campuses each year to gain personal impressions of different colleges and universities, connect with alumni, and meet with admission officers.
About 77% of our most recent graduating class applied to an early application plan (Early Decision, Early Action, or Restrictive Early Action). Approximately ⅓ of the class applied under a binding Early Decision agreement. Our counseling process promotes a thorough college search and a thoughtful evaluation before submitting any application, especially one that is binding. Our timeline and support system are flexible and fully support early applicants as well as those who go through Regular Decision and Rolling application processes.
How are students supported in specialized recruitment or search processes (athletics or fine arts, for example)?
Catlin Gabel has a long history of students who wish to extend their experiential education outside the classroom after graduation and before enrolling in college. Recent graduates have spent gap years pursuing service, work, athletics, travel, professional dance, and more. We normally have 1-5 students in each class who choose a gap year. All seniors are encouraged to go through the college application process in order to have the option of attending college immediately after graduation; most colleges will then allow an admitted student to defer enrollment for a year or more if they wish.