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Beyond the Numbers

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Comparing numbers is a good place to start when choosing a school, but the best fit for a prospective student is usually sealed with aspects of a school that aren’t easily quantified, says Robert Hampel, School of Education professor at UD. Each student is unique, so it’s important to examine options with a particular student in mind. The best answer is not one-size-fits-all.

That’s especially important if the prospective student has had a less-than-ideal middle school experience, says Steven Norman, principal at Positive Outcomes in Camden. In a high school where the college attendance rate after graduation is 98 percent, that student may be at higher risk of joining the two percent who don’t move on to higher education. However, that same student is likely to be a part of the 85 percent who attend college with a Positive Outcomes education, rather than the 15 percent who don’t.

Good college admissions officers look at more than the numbers, Hampel says. They look for passion in one area, not necessarily uniformly good test scores or grades. He recommends looking closely at extracurricular activities, and asking if the offerings resonate with the prospective student: sports, music, fine arts, student government, niche clubs, even community service learning opportunities.

At Sanford School in Hockessin, students can be a library aid, join the chess club or be a part of Project Beyond Engineering Club. At Greenwood Mennonite School, there are leadership opportunities on the chapel committee and worship team. “Rave TV” lets students produce Rave Reports for the closed circuit broadcast network at St. Thomas More Academy in Magnolia. There, students can also be a part of A La Mode Fashion Magazine, the astronomy club, Cupcake Coalition, Finance Park, or the Model United Nations. Delmarva Christian introduces students to a variety of experiences through internships and career exposure, says principal Michael Vonhof. It might be industrial arts one semester, health professions the next, and then interning at a radio station.

“Sometimes it shows them what they want to do. Sometimes it lets them know what they don’t want to do,” he says. “That is important, too.”

While students are checking out extracurriculars, parents should explore how open the school is to parental involvement, says Dr. Kae Keister, associate professor and regional chair of the Teacher Preparation Undergraduate Programs at Wilmington University in Dover and Georgetown.

“Parents’ involvement is directly related to student success,” she says, “and that can take on different shapes. It can mean booster clubs, mentoring and tutoring opportunities. But it also means support from home as well. You’ll want to know how open teachers are to communicating through email and how much information is available on school Web sites.”

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