Pathways to College

An extremely well-attended Parent Panel entitled “Pathways to College” took place on a beautiful Friday over Parents Fall Weekend. Jim Alexandre, president of the Deerfield Parents Network, introduced two speakers who know the most about this process: Martha Lyman, Director of College Advising, and Peter Warsaw, Academic Dean.

Both stressed that our job as parents and educators is to inspire our children to discover what they love. Expose them to a variety of courses and extra-curriculars. Provide a safe and supportive environment within which to experiment and even fail. Encourage our kids to push outside their comfort zones while always following their internal compass. It is the journey that is important. That being said, there are many “pathways” students can follow on their passage to higher education. 

  1. Academics. Deerfield believes students must find the proper balance between rigor and performance by taking the most advanced classes they can be successful in. “Success” is defined as a student who is healthy, happy and productive. DA also encourages advanced study in at least one subject.
  2. Athletics. Approximately 20% of students at DA are recruited athletes, and many are post-graduates. Should your child have this talent and passion, contact Vita Thiel, who is the NCAA coordinator at Deerfield.
  3. Arts. Students should pursue a cohesive program of study. For example, an advanced instrumentalist should consider studying Music Theory and Composition; or an accomplished visual artist would do well to take AP Studio Art, AP Photography, and/or AP Art History. Students may compile a portfolio or a video with highlights of their work/performance for submission to colleges. A little known fact is that students can get co-curricular exemptions to pursue their art passions from the moment they enter DA, allowing students to use afternoons to develop their craft.
  4. Global Citizen. Opportunities abound at DA to pursue this pathway with RoundSquare, which is a global association of schools, summer language trips and study abroad. DA can help your child find the right program. Being an active global citizen requires both grit and poise and, in order to stand out in the college admissions process, something more than a single summer camp-like program.
  5. Community Service. The best advice to students is DIVE DEEP! This is a richly rewarding passion that requires much time and effort. DA offers Cambiando Vidas with Sheryl Cabral, faculty member, building houses in underdeveloped nations over school vacations, and RoundSquare trips. There are also a host of opportunities with non-governmental organizations your child can explore.
  6. Leadership. Time is tight at DA, but students wishing to pursue this pathway have a range of options from student council to Scroll editor to concertmaster.

Let’s not forget that the main job of a Deerfield student is to simply grow up. Deerfield prides itself on creating an individual who is self-reliant, authentic, distinct, and a person of integrity. Moreover, Deerfield wants its students to be confident in life, prose (having a distinct voice in their work), and in presentation (in personal conversations).

And finally, some interesting facts: Most DA students graduate having taken only four Advanced Placement examinations, realizing that Deerfield doesn’t rely as heavily on the “AP Track” as other schools. Deerfield has a detailed departmental course map  that color-codes classes by what they prepare students for. Did you know that every English course offered junior year prepares students for the SAT II and AP exams? For more on AP exams and course selection, see Course Selection 101 from The Link’s Spring issue. Speaking of the SAT II, most colleges ask for two but many students take more to find the two subjects they are best in (and only submit those). These are important exams and require additional study. And just in case you and your child are wondering how they will find the time to prepare for these exams, DA offers free test prep for SAT and ACT each term. The online Academic Approach materials are available to all students, free of charge, for their entire DA careers.

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