College Preparation

Glossary of College Application/Admissions Terms

Click here to download PDF of Application/Admission term glossary, a useful tool for students and families.

Letters of Recommendation

Because our teachers develop such strong, long-term relationships with our students, they are in a unique position to write letters that illuminate a student’s academic record, interests and activities, and past and potential contributions. These letters are a very strong part of our students’ applications. Beginning in the junior year, students should think carefully about which teachers they would like to ask for letters of recommendation.

At the beginning of the senior year students fill out a questionnaire about their high school record and their plans for college applications, and ask two teachers of core academic courses to write letters. Students who plan to study music and art, or who plan to play college-level sports, may also request letters from teachers of these subjects, and should be in close communication about setting up art profiles or, in the case of athletes, making highlight videos and other materials for recruitment.

At Shining Mountain, the college advisor also submits a counselor recommendation and statement for every student applying to college.  Just as teacher recommendations are meant to give the admissions committee a glimpse of what a student is like in the classroom, the counselor recommendation and statement also may provide the admissions department with a picture of a student’s place in his or her high school class and in the larger school community, as well as help assess the degree of rigor of a program,  describe what particular leadership positions mean at a school, and, in general, provide the sort of textured comments about a student that would help his or her application come to life. (cited from the article “What Yale Looks For”)

Student Essays

In the first semester of senior year, students have the Senior Essay block. In this class students examine their own biographies, write personal essays and share their work with the class for a wide range of feedback. The students will each have a variety of personal essays that they can use for college applications.

Standardized Testing

Though we recognize the limitations of standardized tests as a predictor of success in college; we also recognize the fact that these tests will be a part of the college application process for many of our students. In the fall of junior year students take the PSAT (the preliminary SAT) on campus.

Extracurricular Activities and Service Learning

A record of contributions through community service and extracurricular activities is an important part of the college application. Service learning is a part of the SMWS curriculum, with students doing a service learning project during Project Week each year, participation in Earth Day Activities, and, in some cases, during Spring Experience. Students can also participate in service projects through Student Council, Peace Jam and National Honor Society, all of which include service projects in their various activities. We also strongly encourage students to engage in service to their community outside of school, and stress the importance of a sustained record of commitment rather than a large number of different projects.

Organizations for Service Learning and Travel

Graded Papers for Submission to Colleges

Some schools, especially those that place a very strong emphasis on student writing, will require the student to submit a graded analytical paper from the junior or senior year. Students should save their student papers in a portfolio, and should regard the assignments for longer papers as opportunities to strive, excel and build a strong portfolio of such work.

Student Athletes

Be sure to meet with your coach to talk about recruitment by college coaches.

Information about Art Schools and Preparing Art Portfolios