With a college education being so important in this competitive, global economy, getting into the “right” school is becoming increasingly more important.  With some top schools admitting less than 10 percent of their applicants, everyone wants to know how they can crack the code and gain admission to these institutions.  At Harrisburg Academy, we begin the personalized college counseling experience in 8th grade.  One aspect of this is the college visits that happens during the 8th grade educational trip.

This year’s educational trip to the Washington D.C. and Baltimore areas included college visits to Georgetown University and the U.S. Naval Academy.  And when our students asked “What does it take to get admitted here?,” the tour guides from these two very different institutions gave a similar answer.  At both schools, our tour guides explained the importance of taking your academics seriously – starting with freshman year of high school.  They also explained that colleges and universities want to see students challenge themselves with their courses, which in the Academy’s Upper School includes taking International Baccalaureate courses.  A commitment to service during high school was also mentioned as an important distinction for successful applicants.  Finally, our guides mentioned that a demonstration of leadership during high school especially helps candidates stand apart from their peers in the admission review process.

As an educator, I see this trip to Washington D.C. and Baltimore as such an important part of the 8th grade experience.  I love being able to expose students to great schools like Georgetown and the Naval Academy before they ever step foot in our Upper School, where all of their grades are recorded for their future transcripts.  A trip like this gives students a chance to reflect on what kind of student they want to be and what kind of goals they want to set for themselves.

I wish everyone could have seen our 8th graders running around on Georgetown’s multi-sport field under the lights, carefree and having fun.  Hopefully someday, one of them will be doing the same, only next time, as a college student.