Linsly School Cultivates Success in College Counseling

Photo Provided Linsly’s Director of College Counseling, Penny Cunningham, uses a personalized approach as part of Linsly’s four-year college counseling program, meeting with students individually as early as their junior year. She is pictured with Linsly seniors Elijah Ciotti of Cannonsburg, Pennsylvania, and Caitlyn Mead of Wheeling, who are finalizing their college search process.

WHEELING — Starting in the freshman year and continuing through the senior year, The Linsly School’s four-year college counseling process is a recipe for success.

In fact, 100 percent of Linsly’s graduating senior class is accepted into and attends a four-year college or university. From mock college admissions committees to college essay writing workshops, by the time a student is a senior at The Linsly School, he or she is prepared to confidently embark on the college search and selection process.

Linsly Director of College Counseling Penny Cunningham begins preparing students for the competitive college search and selection process as early as their freshman year of high school.

“One of the first steps we take with our freshmen is simply to conduct a transcript review with them,” Cunningham said. “Many of these freshman students transitioning to high school have never seen a transcript before or don’t fully understand the importance of their transcripts starting in the freshman year. So, we simply take time to review with freshmen what information colleges are going to be looking at over the next four years in terms of their transcripts, and why it is important.

“This gets them thinking about the college search and selection process from day one of high school.”

Now in her 15th year as director of college counseling at Linsly, Cunningham shares her expertise with students after also having years of experience on the college admissions side of the profession. Prior to her role at Linsly, Cunningham previously served as the assistant vice president of enrollment management and dean of admission at Chatham College in Pittsburgh, and also as dean of admissions at Bethany College.

One of the programs that Cunningham leads at Linsly is the Senior College Seminar. This is actually a class required of all Linsly seniors that covers a variety of topics pertaining to the college search and selection process, including exploration of career and college majors, assistance with financial aid and scholarship applications, college application essay writing and using Naviance, an online-based college search resource program available to all Linsly seniors and parents.

During Senior Seminar, Cunningham collaborates with other members of the Linsly community, including alumni, faculty and parents, to be guest speakers and presenters to share their areas of expertise to assist students in the college application process and financial aid process.

Judi Olsavsky, Linsly senior English instructor and head of the Linsly English Department, is one of those guest speakers.

“To spark students’ ideas about what they should write, I offer a presentation which explains how the essay is used in the admissions process and what admissions committees are looking for in the essay,” explained Olsavsky. “During this workshop, I show samples of essays, both effective and ineffective. While we talk about the college essay in senior English class, students independently write their essays.”

Olsavsky also explained that during her college essay writing workshop, she covers descriptive writing strategies for them to use independently.

“Colleges want students to own their essays,” Olsavsky said. “So my role is to offer some feedback as they talk out their topics, but I do not act as an editor for them.”

Other Senior Seminar guest speakers this year include financial aid speakers, college visitors, alumni and parents who talk about their various careers and educational paths. In addition, Senior Seminar covers logistical topics such as deadlines for applications pertaining to regular, rolling, early decision, and early action, SAT and ACT registration, and requirements for the NCAA Clearing House.

“One of my favorite activities that we do in Senior Seminar has to be the mock college admissions committee,” Cunningham said. “The students serve as the admission committee for a college and are given the profiles for four potential students along with a profile of a college. The profile lists what the college is looking for in potential students.”

Cunningham explained that the class then talks through the pros and cons of each of the potential students.

“The objective is for our seniors to admit two of the students, wait list one, and deny one,” said Cunningham. “This lesson always produces some lively discussion on who to accept and why. It is definitely a beneficial activity and allows the students to see how difficult and competitive this process is for admissions offices and students.”

In addition to Senior Seminar and the transcript review process during freshman year, Cunningham also meets individually with members of the junior class each spring, to jump start their college search process. She also holds junior parent meetings to help parents know what to expect and what steps to take now, as they embark on their child’s senior year. She even introduces students and parents to the web-based program Naviance, which offers both students and parents resources on college comparisons, career choices, scholarship opportunities and more.

Students at Linsly also have an opportunity to meet with college admissions representatives from all over the country, who visit Linsly on a rotating basis. So far this year, Linsly has had college representatives visit from approximately 40 different colleges and universities.

“We know that the earlier we prepare students for the college search and selection process, the more likely they are to find a school that is a good fit for them, and that is the ultimate goal,” Cunningham said.

At Linsly, 100 percent of seniors are accepted into and matriculate at a four-year college or university. Last year’s graduating Class of 2018 was accepted into 110 different colleges and enrolled in 47 different colleges in 22 states and Canada.

Founded in 1814, The Linsly School is a private, independent day and boarding school for students in fifth through 12th grades. Located in Wheeling, Linsly offers college preparatory classes that combine the traditional values of hard work, respect, honor, honesty and self-discipline within a challenging academic program designed to unlock the potential of each student. For more information, visit www.linsly.org or call the Admissions Office at 304-233-1436.

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