Upper School
College Counseling

For Students & Families

Hackley’s three college counselors, who represent more than 50 years of college admissions and counseling experience, each advise approximately 30-35 students per class, an enviable student-to-counselor ratio. We teach all juniors in our required Introduction to College course and get to know them individually through multiple meetings in both junior and senior years. We visit college campuses regularly, and we connect with admissions officers at Hackley, at professional conferences, and during the admissions evaluation process.

We also offer one other thing: a healthy perspective. While many of our students attend the most selective colleges in the nation, we believe it is more important that students find collegiate programs that “fit” them, regardless of the college’s brand name. We believe strongly in the “win-win scenario” – that every student can find great matches in colleges that represent a range of admissions selectivity. Hackley is a rigorous school with high-achieving students, but we do things a little bit differently: we celebrate learning, growth, friendship, community, and the “college fit” rather than our “college list.”

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  • In addition, the following colleges and universities enrolled at least one Hackley graduate:

    American University of Paris
    Amherst College
    Bates College
    Bentley University
    Boston University
    Brandeis University
    Bryn Mawr College
    California Institute of Technology
    Carnegie Mellon University
    Case Western Reserve University
    Chapman University
    Charleston, College of
    Claremont McKenna College
    Colgate University
    Columbia University
    Connecticut College
    Davidson College
    Denison University
    Dickinson College
    Durham, U of (UK)
    Elon University
    Emerson College
    Emory University
    Fairfield University
    Fordham University
    Franklin & Marshall College
    George Washington University
    Georgia Institute of Technology
    Gettysburg College
    Goucher College
    Harvey Mudd College
    Haverford College
    Hillsdale College
    Hobart & William Smith Colleges
    Holy Cross, College of the
    Ithaca College
    Johns Hopkins University
    Johnson & Wales University
    Lafayette College
    Lehigh University
    Lewis & Clark College
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Middlebury College
    Muhlenberg College
    Oberlin College
    Olin College of Engineering
    Pace University
    Penn State University
    Pomona College
    Pratt Institute
    Princeton University
    Purdue University
    Quinnipiac University
    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
    Rochester Institute of Technology
    Santa Clara University
    Sarah Lawrence College
    School of the Art Institute of Chicago
    Scripps College
    Skidmore College
    Smith College
    Spelman College
    St. Lawrence University
    St. Louis University
    Stevens Institute of Technology
    SUNY Geneseo
    SUNY Polytechnic – Nanotechnology
    SUNY Stony Brook University
    Swarthmore College
    Syracuse University
    Trinity College
    Tulane University
    University of California - Los Angeles
    U.S. Military Academy
    U.S. Naval Academy
    Union College
    University of Cambridge (UK)
    University of Chicago
    University of Colorado
    University of Connecticut
    University of Illinois
    University of Iowa
    University of Miami
    University of Michigan
    University of North Carolina
    University of Notre Dame
    University of Oregon
    University of Pittsburgh
    University of Rochester
    University of St. Andrews (UK)
    University of Texas - Dallas
    University of Toronto
    University of Virginia
    University of Wisconsin
    Vassar College
    Villanova University
    Washington & Lee University
    Washington University in St. Louis
    William & Mary, College of
    Worcester Polytechnic Institute
    Yale - National U. of Singapore

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  • Hackley is fortunate to host nearly 120 colleges and universities each fall, and allow the admissions representatives to meet with our current seniors. The following colleges visited Hackley in the Fall of 2017:

    American University
    Amherst College
    Assumption College
    Bard College
    Barnard College
    Bates College
    Bentley University
    Bowdoin College
    Brandeis University
    Bryant University
    Bucknell University
    Butler University
    California Institute of Technology
    Carleton College
    Carnegie Mellon University
    Case Western Reserve University
    Chapman University
    Colby College
    Colgate University
    College of Charleston
    College of Wooster
    Colorado College
    Columbia University
    Connecticut College
    Cooper Union
    Dartmouth College
    Davidson College
    Denison University
    Dickinson College
    Drew University
    Duke University
    Endicott College
    Franklin & Marshall College
    Furman University
    George Washington University
    Georgetown University
    Gettysburg College
    Goucher College
    Hamilton College
    Hartwick College
    Harvard University
    Haverford College
    High Point University
    Hobart and William Smith Colleges
    Johns Hopkins University
    Kenyon College
    Lafayette College
    Le Moyne College
    Lehigh University
    Lesley University
    Lewis & Clark College
    Macalester College
    Manhattan College
    Manhattanville College
    Marist College
    Marlboro College
    McDaniel College
    Mercer University
    Middlebury College
    Mount Holyoke College
    Muhlenberg College
    Northeastern University
    Northwestern University
    Oberlin College
    Occidental College
    Pennsylvania State University
    Pomona College
    Princeton University
    Purdue University
    Roger Williams University
    Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
    Saint Joseph's College of Maine
    Saint Michael's College
    Sarah Lawrence College
    Skidmore College
    Smith College
    Southern Vermont College
    St. John's College
    St. Lawrence University
    Stevens Institute of Technology
    Stonehill College
    SUNY Geneseo
    SUNY University at Buffalo
    Swarthmore College
    Syracuse University
    Trinity College
    Tulane University
    Union College
    University of Cambridge (UK)
    University of Chicago
    University of Colorado - Boulder
    University of Connecticut
    University of Miami
    University of Michigan
    University of Puget Sound
    University of Richmond
    University of Rochester
    University of Saint Joseph
    University of Scranton
    University of Southern California
    University of St Andrews (UK)
    Ursinus College
    Vanderbilt University
    Vassar College
    Wagner College
    Wake Forest University
    Washington and Lee University
    Washington University in St. Louis
    Wellesley College
    Wesleyan University
    Wheaton College
    Whittier College
    Williams College
    Worcester Polytechnic Institute
    Yale University

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Questions? Answers!

List of 11 frequently asked questions.

  • What is the role of the college counselor in helping my son or daughter get into college?

    Our primary job is to support and guide students as they navigate this process. To learn more about the specific ways in which we work with our students and families, please review the College Counseling Handbook section on Roles and Responsibilities. Most importantly, we hope we can help make this a positive, “win-win” process for students by helping them find a number of colleges that “fit” them, across a range of selectivity.

    While we are here to support students in many ways throughout the process, of course we are not surrogate parents. That is, we don’t drive the process or manage each student’s applications. We are always here as a resource and advocate, and we will teach students how to “own” the process themselves. We will give them all the tools they need to succeed, and in the end the students accept the ultimate responsibility for completing the process. And by accepting and fulfilling this responsibility, students gain independence, confidence, maturity, pride, and a sense of self – all of which are critical as they head off to college.
  • What is the parent’s role in a student’s college process?

    The trickiest part of the process, for parents, is how to provide just enough impetus to motivate your children, without taking control. Walking the fine line between managing your child’s life and letting go is nothing new to parents! You may be tempted to take control, but it’s important that you respect your child’s ownership of the process. For more information on how to best support your child while also allowing them to grow, learn and explore, please review the College Counseling Handbook section on Roles and Responsibilities. Most important, remind your children how proud you are of them, and reassure them that this is a “win-win” situation; they will attend a college that meets their needs, and their motivation and Hackley education will prepare them to do great things in college.
  • How do college counselors support students with their essay and other portions of their applications?

    The actual application to college, as well as the essay, are the two pieces of the application process a student has the most control over during their senior year. The essay is also the part of the application that can help a student stand out to an admissions officer reading hundreds of applications. In our Intro to College class, we discuss what makes a good essay, we review sample essays, and we discuss the role of the essay in the application. We can help students brainstorm topics, and Hackley offers an optional summer course taught by one of our English teachers to allow students to devote specific time to the crafting of their main application essay.

    We give students individual feedback (when asked) on their own applications and essays. We do not, however, write essays or play copy editor. The professional ethics of our national association are very clear that students should be “the sole authors of their applications and essays” and that they should not receive “inappropriate assistance.” Hackley students focus on writing in so many of their courses, and hone this craft over time in our curriculum, so that writing the college essay is not always as daunting a task as some may have imagined.
  • What courses should my son or daughter take in order to be prepared for college? Is it more advantageous to take an easy course and get a better grade, or take a hard course and risk a lower grade?

    Most college admissions officers are likely to respond, “it’s better to take a hard course and get a good grade”! While that is not very helpful advice, there is a kernel of wisdom hidden within it: it’s best that students challenge themselves in areas where they have ability and/or interest and are able to do reasonably well. We encourage students to select courses that are challenging, but not so challenging that working to keep that grade up will impact other grades. Balance is the key. It does not make sense for students to take on an academic load that will overwhelm them, turning their Hackley experience into nothing more than a grind based on a narrow interpretation of what some college admission officer may want to see.

    Hackley’s curriculum fully prepares our students for the admission requirements at the vast majority of colleges. In fact, most of our students complete more coursework in certain subject areas than is required for admission. Students’ advisors work to help them select courses that will appropriately challenge them and fulfill their academic interests. College Counselors discuss curricular choices with all of their junior counselees, and are also available to speak with underclassmen about their course selection, as desired.
  • What effect does the fact that Hackley doesn’t offer AP courses in English or History have on the way admissions officers make decisions?

    College admissions officers are professionals at evaluating transcripts, understanding high school curricula, and evaluating students within the particular context of each high school’s offerings. One of our jobs as College Counselors is to communicate clear information about Hackley’s curriculum to colleges. We do this in person when admissions reps visit our campus, when we speak on the phone with admissions reps, in our letters of recommendation, and in written information we send to colleges with every individual application. We underscore the fact that we do not offer AP courses in English or History, and we also explain that our students often opt to take the Advanced Placement exams in those subjects and outperform most AP students from other high schools. We are fortunate that colleges understand our curriculum well, and know that even our courses without the “AP” letters before them are taught an extremely rigorous level.
  • How will colleges evaluate extracurricular activities?

    Colleges stress one theme in terms of extracurricular and community activities: depth over breadth. The student who thinks he or she will impress the admissions committee with a long list of clubs and involvements will probably come across as scattered. It does not matter what one chooses to do, as long as one is intent upon developing his or her talents and interests in the area or areas he or she chooses. Initiative and leadership are other factors that play a role in the evaluation of one’s extracurricular record. The bottom line is that the college wants to know what impact an applicant is likely to have on its campus.
  • How much of an impact can athletic, artistic or performing arts talent have on an admission decision?

    As with many questions related to college admissions, the answer is, “it depends.” There are different levels of “impact.” There are, in fact, a handful of admission decisions every year involving Hackley students that do, in fact, reflect what might best be described as “special talent.” In this circumstance, a student has gained an important advocate in the admission process (a coach, music professor, or art department chair, for example) who is willing to put his or her weight behind a student’s application. This level of extra support happens only for high-level athletic recruits or visual artists and performing artists who are truly distinguished within a particular college’s own talent pool.

    Hackley’s college counselors work with our students to help them highlight these special talents in an effective and timely fashion, in direct communication with college personnel, through athletic camps and/or showcases, via supplementary submissions or auditions, and in their college applications. Hackley’s faculty is also supportive of our student athletes, artists and musicians in helping them with this process. Since athletic recruitment often starts earlier in one’s high school career, families who think their students may have exceptional athletic talent may wish to review our athletic recruitment pamphlet.
  • What about jobs and summer enrichment programs?

    When summers are used to help our students explore their interests and improve their talents, their lives will hopefully be enriched and the experiences will be memorable. Summer activities may boost their confidence or simply allow them to pursue the interests they don't get to pursue during the school year. They can even help them look into the future a bit as well, if they enroll in a program on a college campus or a research opportunity or internship that exposes them to areas such as engineering or business or music or art.

    Although summer activities in and of themselves are unlikely to change a college admission decision – and certainly won’t supersede one's grades and test scores – they may make students more interesting people, and thus more interesting college applicants. And colleges want to enroll interesting people, not simply strong transcripts. So, if your motivation is rooted in the intrinsic value of a particular activity, whether a summer job, camp, or some program -- if students' summer activities reflect their personalities and enrich their lives – then go for it! Hackley maintains a library of summer opportunities in the College Counseling Office for all interested students.
  • When a lot of students in the same class apply to the same school, aren't they competing against one another?

    Thankfully, colleges do not have quotas for the numbers of students they can (or can’t) admit to their school, and therefore, colleges will take the students who are the right fit for that institution, regardless of how many applicants come from a specific high school. It may turn out that all of our applicants are well qualified for admission, or it may be in a given year that our applicants are not as strong as the pool in general. Because gaining admission to any particular place is always a relative competition based on that year’s pool, the results vary. For this reason, we may have a year in which College X accepts five Hackley students, followed by a year in which College X accepts no Hackley students. Our main concern is that students apply to schools that are the right fit for them – and if a college sees that fit come through in an application, their decision will not be based on how many other applicants from Hackley have been submitted.
  • Should my child take the SAT or the ACT? When?

    Colleges have no preference for one test over the other, so the best plan is to try them both and pick the one that feels most comfortable. Hackley offers the Pre-ACT and the PSAT 10 to all sophomores in February and March. These preliminary tests are intended to help students decide which of the two tests they prefer, and to do so in time for those who might like to do a little test preparation the summer before their junior year. The scores for the PSAT 10 and the Pre-ACT are not official and are not sent to colleges. The primary purpose of these two tests is to help sophomores decide which one to focus on going forward.

    We ask that students take either the SAT or ACT in December of their junior year in order to have an official score for the first College Counseling family meeting. There are other opportunities to take the tests in the fall of junior year, but taking the test too early may mean that your child has not progressed sufficiently through our curriculum in order to be as well prepared. Based on the initial test score, your child’s counselor will help develop a testing plan and schedule for the spring.
  • When should my child take SAT Subject Tests and in which subjects?

    There are only about a dozen colleges in the United States that require SAT Subject Tests for admission, and about half of those schools will allow you to replace that requirement by taking the ACT instead of the SAT. Most Hackley students who take Subject Tests do so in June of junior year, so this will be a primary topic in our winter meetings with juniors. There are, however, a few instances in which freshmen and sophomores ought to consider taking a Subject Test in June. For specific guidance on this topic, please review the What About College brochure.