SVHS students receive college application support
In the spring of 2011, Sonoma Valley High School juniors were offered an opportunity to participate in a home-grown college support program created in response to the apparent needs of SVHS students. The “College Application Accelerated Track,” commonly referred to as CAAT, was introduced as a way for college-bound students to stay ahead of the game, have better opportunities for application success and be less stressed during their senior year.
Twenty-two juniors rose to the challenge, completing the CAAT application by submitting their academic resumé, including short essays, registering for at least one college entrance exam (SAT or ACT) by the spring of their junior year and by submitting a short personal statement indicating why they believed they would benefit from the CAAT program.
Surprising to some, CAAT students, according to the high school’s Dragon’s Tale, “were not unified by their high academic rankings, but by their collective motivation to stay organized and make the best of their resources. The students came from a variety of academic and personal backgrounds ranging from the first ranked in the Class of 2012 to first-generation college bound.”
Participants agreed to meet as a group two-to-three times in the spring of 2011, a couple of times over the summer, with two final meetings this past fall. They also agreed to follow all timelines and complete requirements as directed, with the goal of finishing their college applications by mid- November. Students were also charged with the responsibility of helping at least a few of their peers who did not benefit from the extra support. A testament to their commitment was clearly evidenced when nearly all of the students came back to school in June, on their first day of the summer vacation, to receive information and guidance for the summer months.
As a part of staying ahead of the application rush, CAAT students were encouraged to apply Early Decision (ED – binding) or Early Action (EA – non binding) if the schools of their choice offered this option. Early successes have already been celebrated with CAAT students being accepted ED to University of Pennsylvania, and EA to Georgetown, Tulane, St. Mary’s College, Green Mountain College and University of Portland. We are eagerly awaiting additional results of ED and EA.
When asked how the CAAT program benefited them, senior Maddie Goertzen said, “Coming from a family where I am the oldest child, I was not very informed about the college application process until I participated in the CAAT program.”
SVHS senior Joshua Heiser said, “As a result of CAAT, I finished my Academic Resume, CSU applications, Questbridge application and UC applications early, giving me time to have them edited and reviewed.”
And, Sarah Summers said, “CAAT got me thinking about college, which was perhaps the most valuable asset of the program. … It was also great to communicate with other students in a productive environment.”
Words of advice for upcoming seniors from CAAT participant Selena Caruso include, “I would tell them to research colleges throughout their junior year, be thinking about their major and extracurriculars that support it, and keep a notebook for anything you think of that could be an essay topic.”
Gabby Peterson added, “Apply early, look at schools you expect you wouldn’t like …”
And Alex Arrellano-Halford said, “I would say that juniors need to think ahead and stay focused on school as well as applying (to colleges).”
Students in this year’s junior class will learn more about this free, optional program this spring, and will be invited to submit their applications in March. An attempt will be made to accept most students who are earnestly interested in participating actively in the CAAT Program.
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Kathleen Hawing is the College and Career Center coordinator at Sonoma Valley High School.