Revamped College Transition Series Engages Seniors, Families

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Revamped College Transition Series Engages Seniors, Families
Stacy Calfo

Built around feedback from alumni and topics suggested by students, the programming explores campus life, personal finance and the importance of self-care.

The transition from high school to college marks an important milestone along the path to adulthood. This step, while exciting and joyful, can also be a source of stress and worry for both seniors and their families. Ravenscroft’s revamped College Transition Series aims to foster an environment where seniors and their families can prepare for what’s ahead and equip themselves with the tools to navigate all of its complexities.

“We were looking at the [transition] curriculum for seniors and realized we had some unprogrammed days in the spring,” Upper School counselor Sam Borkovic explained. “This gave us the opportunity to expand the programming for seniors and include their families, because they also need to support their student during this huge moment in their life.”

Class leaders Sunishka Deshpande ’22 and Alexa Shaffer ’22, with Kennedy Cousar ’22 and Jairus Cook ’22, carry their class banner during the Senior Parade on the first day of school.

Seniors enjoy some downtime and lunch from local food trucks during Senior Celebration Day on April 22.


Managing college applications and career considerations

The series begins in the fall with the College Counseling team as they work with seniors on their potential list of colleges and their formal applications.

“College is a very enigmatic topic, and many seniors apply without fully understanding what they are getting into.”

“This process is a deeply personal conversation between each student, their counselor and their family,” Co-Director of College Counseling Lia Prugh said. “We engage each of our seniors and ask them, ‘How do you want to define yourself after Ravenscroft?’”

This year, the series included a virtual College-Aged Alumni Forum, giving seniors the opportunity to speak directly with Ravens who are in college now. In February, alumni from various professions joined the series for the virtual Alumni Career Fair, talking with both juniors and seniors about how they chose their careers and what’s involved in getting started.

“College is a very enigmatic topic, and many seniors apply without fully understanding what they are getting into,” Eric Belcea ’22 said. “Gaining this knowledge before entering college is essential for helping ease our transition.”

“It’s also important because it gives seniors a chance to talk to alumni who are currently attending universities, so they are able to understand what being a college student is really like,” Isabella Speranza ’22 added.

Alumni who contributed to the series agree that these considerations are important for students heading to college.

During the Feb. 4 Alumni Career Fair, actor and nonprofit founder Emily Procter ’86 talks to juniors and seniors interested in careers in the arts.


“I hope the seniors see the different ways in which Ravenscroft is preparing them for the next step, and I also hope they understand that what they decide to do in college may not be what they end up doing long term,” Courtney Roane ’06, a private equity attorney in Dallas, Texas, who spoke at the Alumni Career Fair, said. “It’s okay to change your mind, it’s all going to be okay.”

Seniors gather for their class spirit-building activity at Treerunner Adventure Park in the fall.

Members of the Class of 2022 cheer the return of the Women’s Flag Football Championship — and their eventual win over the junior class.


Thinking about college life

As the year progresses, with the stress of application season over for most seniors, college counselors, senior advisors and the Student Affairs team start focusing on what it means to go to college and how to navigate this new community. This year, the content in the series reflected topics seniors themselves had identified as important.

“Young alumni were also beneficial in providing feedback to let us know how we could have prepared them better for college life.”

“We surveyed the seniors in the fall to see what they would want to learn more about. As much as we think we know what they need, we don’t always know,” Borkovic said. “Young alumni were also beneficial in providing feedback to let us know how we could have prepared them better [for college life].”

The survey results revealed seniors were eager to learn more about personal finance, basic life skills (such as laundry) and how to navigate difficulties with roommates. Lessons for these topics were incorporated into senior advisory sessions in February, March and April.

“It’s important we work hand-in-hand with senior advisors to ensure it’s a comprehensive transition program,” Prugh said. “Many students are comfortable with their advisors and tend to ask more questions.”

Ravenscroft alumna, parent and board member Laura Helton Kalorin ’92, who participated in the Alumni Career Fair, emphasized how valuable these conversations are for today’s students. “Hearing different perspectives — besides your own parents’ — is essential,” she said. “And I would have appreciated someone dispelling the ‘You Can Have It All’ myth, especially as a female physician. I grew up being told this, and I no longer think it is true. Now I tell my son and daughters, ‘You can have it all, it just won’t be all at once!’”

Seniors and fellow Upper Schoolers enjoy a visit from certified therapy dogs in November.

Seniors hear from Dr. Clinton Bolton about the importance of mental health self-care on April 7.


Focusing on safety and self-care

The series also hits at deeper topics that are vital to a healthy experience of college life, including the importance of campus safety and self-care — a particularly important topic, as mental health struggles in teens and young adults have increased significantly in recent years.

A workshop led by Campus Outreach Services in January walked seniors and, in a separate session, their parents and guardians through various campus safety and relationship scenarios.

Senior Celebration Day, held on April 22, gave seniors an opportunity to relax and be together, enjoying food trucks and informal games, before their last day of classes on April 29.


“The ‘I Said, You Said’ role-play from the presenters gave our students a chance to see the complexity and nuance of challenging situations” they might experience at college, Borkovic explained. “Seniors tell us this is a very powerful program because it’s a real scenario.”

Above: In what has become a time-honored tradition, members of the senior class — sporting their new class T-shirts — pose before the Bell Tower on the first day of their senior year.

The 2022 College Transition Series

As a comprehensive approach to helping seniors prepare for the next phase of their lives, the College Transition Series covered topics many students said are important to them. Sessions often included preparation and debriefing to ensure students gleaned as much as possible from them.


January


February


March

  • Advisory lesson on Personal Finance


April

  • Student Mental Health Workshop with Dr. Clinton Bolton

  • Senior Families Mental Health Webinar by Capital Counseling

  • Advisory lesson on Roommate Dynamics and Difficult Conversations in College

In April, the series wrapped up with workshops on mental health self-care for both students and their families. A local clinician spoke to students about advocating for their mental health in college, how to build a supportive community away from home and how to seek help if needed. Two other clinicians hosted a webinar for parents and guardians.

During the family webinar with Capital Counseling, topics included how parents and guardians can support their college students from home and prepare them to take on more responsibility at college.

Watch the webinar “Supporting Your Student’s Mental Health in the Transition to College” by Henriette Williams-Alexander and Jill Triana. (Password: Pf!1=2Tx)


“Ravenscroft prides itself on having a close community that offers a lot of support and accessibility for families,” Borkovic said. “Now that their children are transitioning to being adults and leaving home, how does a family get help for their emerging adults? This is an extremely important topic we had to cover.”

Seniors get some exercise and fresh air as they play games during Senior Celebration Day — another strategy for self-care that will be important at college.


“This program has been great, and Sam really challenged us to partner with her and try something different,” Prugh said. “I hope this is a program we continue to evaluate each year and continue to update these offerings to better reflect the issues affecting college freshmen each year.”

For Borkovic, building on this year’s success with seniors is part of a broader goal to better prepare students across the Upper School.

“College is such a marker of your identity — where you want to go and what you want to study. This series has the potential to touch on every facet of our Lead From Here program, so we should make it as robust as we possibly can,” she said.


Learn about Ravenscroft’s comprehensive wellness programming for students in PreK-12 in our Spring 2022 cover story, “Ravens Exercise Self-Care Through Wellness Programming.”