CCO Introduces Online College Resource: ‘Family Connection’ Site Assists in College Search

Starting the college admission process is a stressful time for students, as they manage test dates and begin searching for a college that fits their needs. The College Counseling Office is constantly working to improve support and communication as they help students discover what they want in a college and eventually, apply to the college that is the best suited to them. This year the CCO has given students a new tool to make the process easier: a web based program called Family Connection that puts critical college application information at students’ fingertips. Family Connection is the student-oriented branch of a web database called Naviance. The program allows students to create a personalized list of colleges, organize due dates, store essays and view test scores and GPA’s. The program also offers a comprehensive college search with a database of 3,676 colleges. Students can compare colleges’ acceptance rates, sizes, majors and average SAT scores. Students can also compare their grades and test scores to those of previously accepted students from Phillips Academy. Another feature provides students with the contact information of admissions offices. The College Counseling Office began using the Naviance program four years ago, but felt it was time to take the college process into the 21st century. The office hopes that Family Connection will replace the arduous process of sifting through thick college review books and conducting time-consuming Internet searches. Students now have a tool that puts all of this information in one place, and allows students to access it from wherever there is an Internet connection. College Counselor Lanita Foley said, “Changing from paper to electronic form has been very exciting, it makes things much more organized, and allows easy communications between us and the students.” Students in the Class of 2008 are required to complete the a number of questionnaires on the Family Connection website, and College Counselors may suggest possible colleges to students by adding them to their list. Parents also receive accounts, and this enables an easy flow of information between students, their families, and the CCO Mrs. Foley hopes that the site will “demystify the college process.” Last week, the College Counseling Office offered four optional training sessions on how to use Family Connection in hope that students would familiarize themselves with the program before completing the first Upper Questionnaire. The purpose of the questionnaire is to make the counselors familiar with the students before they actually meet. The questionnaire length has been daunting for some students, but many have found the format easy to use. Cassidy Carpenter ’08 said, “[I] couldn’t imagine writing it on paper. The computer made it much faster. I finished in under two hours.” Nicole Duddy ’08, however, was disappointed when she lost an hour’s worth of work on the questionnaire because she did not save frequently enough. “It was very frustrating. The system just shuts down after a continuous hour of work, so if you don’t save you lose everything.” Students have also begun exploring the site’s other features. Joey Mensah ’08 found the college search feature helpful, but was a little concerned with some of the statistical data. “Some of the data is a bit overwhelming. You can’t distinguish between early and general admission,” he said. Other students were worried about the impersonal nature of the Internet’s increasing role in the college process. Mike Sullivan ’08 said “I wish the the college counseling office was more personal. I feel like on the internet program I become just another statistic.” The Class of 2007 is nearing the end of the road with their college applications. Some seniors feel like the program is going to be a great aid to the Class of 2008. Iliana Amezquita ’07 said, “I wish I had this program when I was applying, I feel like it would have saved me from many sleepless nights fretting about deadlines, test and dates and other information that is now easily accessible.”