Arriving from Santiago, Chile to Miami, my family and I were anxious at the thought of joining a new school. College preparation has always been one of my parents’ main focuses while looking for schools. I come from an immigrant family and have seen how my parents fought for their educational dreams to make them a reality. Their stories inspire me, and I can’t wait to write my own.
When my parents were introduced to DSA, they immediately fell in love with everything DSA had to offer, especially their college preparation program. They loved that it began in 6th grade and would support me all the way through graduating high school.
Now, as a sophomore at DSA, I realize my parents’ decision was the best one for my future. DSA is guiding me through all the steps that I need to take to achieve my aspirations.
But, enough about me. Let me walk you through a student’s view of the unforgettable journey to college.
Middle School Years
As a new middle school student, you’re stuck in an odd place – halfway from becoming a teenager, but you’re also not a little kid anymore. Right now, college is the least of your worries. You’re probably more focused on what floor your classrooms are on, who you’ll sit with in lunch or even how long it’ll be until recess. Yet, middle school years impact and influence successful college planning more than you realize! That’s why DSA introduces you to early college planning, and supports you and your parents to stay motivated in middle school.
What does early college planning start with?
In 6th grade, you take the Career Development Test which connects your personality traits to potential jobs and fields of study. This exposes you to start thinking about the future and gives you the opportunity to explore a variety of jobs all based on your interests and academic strengths.
Staying motivated with your grades is also super important!
Believe me, I know, being a middle schooler can be confusing and weird, and the last thing you want to hear is a pep-talk from your parents on why you need to raise that B in math… but, at the end of the day, you need your parents! Your parents’ help and motivation play an indispensable role in your educational growth. So your parents and teachers are here to encourage you in the importance of academic perseverance. They know what it will take for you to succeed in high school and college… so, trust them!
- Middle school years are very important. They develop you for high school.
- As a student, you have the opportunity to explore a variety of different careers through the Career Development Test.
- Parents, encourage your students regularly!
Look at you! You’re halfway there through the chaotic, awkward, fun, and sometimes crazy years called middle school. You’re starting to get more choices and a voice in your extracurricular options. There are options like Math Club, Drama Club, National Junior Honors Society, Cross-Country, Student Council, Soccer, and more!
What’s the big deal about joining school clubs?
Middle school clubs and sports start giving you the freedom to express yourself creatively, artistically, athletically, academically, and socially. This is the year you start learning more about yourself. “What’s my favorite subject?” “Do I like working in a team or independently?” “Am I more academically, athletically, or artistically inclined?” Joining extracurricular activities will help you find the answers to your questions, ultimately unraveling who you are as a student and what makes you unique. Joining clubs and sports, overall, helps you build and sharpen your abilities in teamwork, competitive environments, and leadership. But, clubs don’t just help you learn about yourself, they also support your academic development. Stepping out of your comfort zone and joining a new extracurricular can be scary, but with your teachers and parents guiding you along the way, you’ll learn new things, learn about yourself and others, helping you mature into a student ready to take on 8th grade.
- Try new things! Join extracurricular activities such as clubs and sports
- Through these activities, as a student, you learn leadership, teamwork skills, and more about yourself
The final year has come to end your middle school journey and commence your long-awaited high school adventure. However, before doing so, DSA makes sure that you have all the resources that you need to be fully prepared for the next chapter in your educational life.
You’re almost a high schooler! Just not yet…
As 8th graders, you strive to build a strong foundation for the next 4 exciting years of your life. High school! Yay! (Finally…) Learning style, time management, and other self-assessment skills help you connect habits to goals. This year you can start to develop studying techniques, learn how to manage your time between extracurriculars and academics, and start creating good relationships and communication with your teachers. These skills are crucial for your high school success! Listen, I’ve been there, 8th grade can knock you down and I’m sure you are exhausted, but you need to stay strong.
Parents have homework too!
Your parents are doing the best they can to continue pushing you through this final stretch before the start of high school. They are there to boost your confidence, reassure you, and let you know that you got this. 8th graders, you truly do. As cheesy as it sounds, don’t stop believing. Put in the work and go get that middle school diploma because the next stop is high school.
The big day has arrived. You’re a high schooler now! “Wait a minute, I have how many responsibilities now?” But don’t panic. Again, DSA teachers and college counselors meet with you and your family to support and help you adjust to the fast pace of high school.
High School 101: Community Service Work
One of the most important parts of this process that applies to your whole high school career is community service work. At a minimum, you must complete 80 hours of community service hours before graduation. This means that you as a student are tasked with taking an initiative in your community to help your city grow and develop. A few examples of these are tutoring elementary students, giving food to the homeless in South Miami, or creating Christmas boxes for children all the way in Guatemala. There are even ways to aid your community without even leaving your room. Platforms like UNICEF and the American Red Cross offer virtual volunteering opportunities for teens interested in creating an impact and change in their schools, communities, and the world. College counselors are always there to help if you have any doubts on how to log in your hours and where to look for opportunities to volunteer. “How many hours do you have?” This is a phrase you won’t stop hearing until you graduate.
Club options expand in high school
Aside from community service, you have the opportunity to join student-led organizations like Model United Nations, Business Club, or Physicians Club. DSA pushes you at this stage to become more independent and capable of leading and organizing. Extracurricular activities serve as creative outlets so you as a student can learn the extensive values of teamwork, leadership, discipline and tenacity while having the opportunity to explore a variety of different organizations based on your interests and intellectual curiosities.
- Start community service work
- Remember to log your hours into X2Vol to keep a track and record of your entire community service work for colleges to see.
- Join extracurricular activities
This is the last year of being a lowerclassman and the reality of soon applying for college is sinking in.
How are my college counselors going to help me?
During sophomore year, you will have individual one-on-one meetings with DSA’s college counselors. They are so helpful and supportive! In these meetings, counselors will discuss with you the steps needed to be taken this year. A central topic in these sessions is choosing the best classes to take your junior year. “APs, DEs, what even are these, and how are they going to help me with the college application process?” Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment are college-level courses that allow you to receive college credit before graduating. Classes like these show admissions officers that you are ready to take on and excel in university academics. Aside from advanced-level courses, you also have the opportunity to choose electives that match your passions and curiosities. Choosing courses can be overwhelming but college counselors help in advising you on exploring this array of classes that will fit the profile of the colleges you are thinking of applying to. The rigor in courses for 11th grade will take a big leap from those of your years as a lowerclassman. Through your selection of these classes, you will have the chance to learn more about your passions and skills as an academic.
- You get personal meetings with college counselors.
- Choose a junior year course schedule that fits your interests and the profile of colleges you are looking at.
Junior year, known for its notorious reputation and harsh critiques by upperclassmen can seem all but inviting. This year is packed with standardized testing, college counseling meetings, researching colleges, and emotions like stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. Aside from staying on top of SAT/ACT preparation, you are encouraged and reminded by DSA teachers to stay involved in extracurricular activities and to stay engaged academically. Sometimes students can feel stressed and overwhelmed but preparing well and communicating with your counselors and parents can help you deal with one of the most academically challenging, busy, and important years of high school.
Meet your new bestie: Standardized testing
This year standardized testing (SAT and ACT) becomes one of the top priorities on your college planning list. The SAT and ACT measure your readiness for college and provide universities with a common point to compare all applicants with. College Board, the company which administers the SAT/ACT, provides many resources for you to study and prepare for exams with. Khan Academy also offers great tools for personalized exam practice. Wow, that’s a lot, I know, but remember, consistency is key! Yes, junior year is hard, but DSA’s faculty show an immense interest in your development and success as a future university student.
You start a school wish list!
The college counselors meet with you to create a list of potential universities that would be a good fit for you based on your career interests and your academic results in high school so far. Counselors help you with researching and understanding the future application process which includes many factors like financial aid, college credits that have been completed in high school, essay prompts, letters of recommendation, solidifying test scores, and stats for the colleges on your list.
Don’t wait until the last minute. I repeat, don’t.
All this information is needed to execute applications successfully and on time to meet college deadlines. That means NO PROCRASTINATING! It’s easier said than done, but really, doing all of this before the start of your senior year provides a smooth and calm submission of college apps. Plus, preparation is a skill you’ll use in college and beyond. Preparation means less stress, more opportunities.
- SAT and/or ACT preparation and testing.
- Stay involved with extracurriculars and stay engaged in classes.
- Personal meetings with college counselors to create your college wishlist.
- Learn about all the aspects of the college application process, from app requirements to financial aid.
The countdown to college has begun. Let the senior season begin! This year is the final sprint of the race but every step must be taken strongly to finish victoriously. Starting your senior project, submitting applications, and waiting for decisions is nerve-wracking, but DSA is here for you and they have your back.
Time to Submit College Applications!
Now more than ever, you will meet with the counselors to finalize and perfect your college applications to finally send to colleges. Most seniors submit applications to 8 different colleges. The mixed feelings of worry and relief become the aftermath of submitting your applications, but you are not alone.
Senior Project who?
Another focus of Senior Year is the Senior Capstone Project. Mr. Kirchoff, Director of Curriculum and Instruction describes the Senior Capstone Project as DSA’s “Version of an abridged Masters thesis project”. You choose a topic and perform in-depth research to write an academic thesis paper. When completed, you will present your project to a faculty panel. All this prepares you for the rigors of college and beyond. DSA alumni have come back to share feedback and praise for the capstone program. It helps them transition to college-level work so much smoother.
The moment of truth… which college are you going to?
In the spring, you will receive admissions decisions from the colleges you applied to. Apart from being accepted or rejected, you could get deferred or waitlisted… but, what does this mean? A deferral simply put is a second chance at admission. This happens if you applied as an early applicant, meaning your file will be reviewed at a later date. Waitlisted on the other hand means the college reviewed your application but has decided that you will be placed on the college admission waitlist. There are ways of getting off that waitlist and into that college. You could send application supplements and send emails of your continued interest in the university. Even though you might get waitlisted or deferred from one of your options, the good news is 100% of DSA students get accepted to college! When you finally get that acceptance letter, don’t be surprised if you let out some tears, screams, and a million other emotions. It’s a big day!! You can finally say to yourself, “I am going to college!” Now if you were accepted into multiple colleges, the biggest question will be “Where am I going for college?” This question may be hazy for a few months, or it may be clear right away, but always remember to speak to your counselors and most importantly your family. You have until May 1st, National College Decision Day, to make your big decision!
Graduation, the moment you’ve been waiting for!
At last, you see the finish line, and as you cross the graduation stage, waving at the crowd of roaring parents, family members, and friends, you receive a warm hug and your well-deserved diploma. With a big smile on your face and a blue cap and gown, you walk off the stage and look ahead to the start of the next great chapter in your life: COLLEGE!
- Creating, perfecting, and submitting college applications with the guidance of college counselors.
- DSA Senior Capstone Project
- 9-month process
- College Decision Day
As a current sophomore at DSA, I can’t wait for the moment I step on the stage to receive my diploma, but I also don’t want this chapter in my life to be over just yet. As each year passes by quicker than the last, I notice my friends grow and mature, and I realize it’s the little things that count. Moments like laughing in lunch with food stuck between my teeth, deep and mind-boggling discussions with Mr. Schultz on “What is love?” or “What is the meaning of life?”, or singing “My Lighthouse” in Chapel, feeling the bleachers move as we all clap our hands and sing.
I am so thankful for the people I have met and have yet to meet through DSA. As a soon-to-be junior, I am hopeful and anxious to see what will happen next year. My dream is to go to Duke or Northwestern University to study business, but for now, you’ll find me growing, learning, laughing, and enjoying the high school journey!
This blog post was written by 10th grade student and DSA marketing intern, Isabella Antelo.