A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith is Director of College Counseling at Westtown School. Previously, she served as Associate Director of College Guidance, faculty co-clerk, English teacher, and English department chair at Wilmington Friends School. She attended Mount Holyoke College and earned her M.S.Ed. at the University of Pennsylvania.

Recent Posts

College Prep: Tips for 9th and 10th Graders

Posted by Jessica Smith on February 25, 2020

 

If you are either a current 9th or 10th grader or the parent of one, it is likely that college prep has or will soon come up in conversations. Realizing this, Westtown School’s Director of College Counseling visited our ninth and tenth-grade students in early February and shared these thoughts about college.


At this point, our recommendations about college are always about how to make the most of high school. We want students to work hard and learn a lot, not just because strong grades look impressive to colleges, but because the learning you gain along the way will make you a better student and a more interesting person. Looking good is nice, but if you go through high school trying to merely look good (for college or anyone else) instead of being your full self, you won't have a very satisfying experience.

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Inspiring the Best in Kids

AP Courses: Are They Necessary for College Admission?

Posted by Jessica Smith on January 25, 2019

This question comes up in our Admission office, College Counseling office, and even in our Lower School lobby. Parents and students alike worry about college preparation and bolstering transcripts. We asked our Director of College Counseling to shed some light on what colleges actually look for, what students need, and how a Westtown education prepares students for college.

 

You might already know that Westtown School offers over 50 upper school courses with advanced designations, but you might be wondering why Westtown doesn’t offer Advanced Placement (AP) courses. In 2005, after a vigorous two-year curriculum review, the school’s Curriculum Committee recommended removing the AP designation from all Westtown courses because, as they found, “[A] Westtown Education is a religious endeavor, is rooted in community, educates the whole child, fosters an appreciation of racial, ethnic, economic and religious diversity, calls for a variety of approaches to pedagogy and assessment, encourages interdisciplinary learning, allows time for the present moment, and empowers students to create positive change in the world...Our students’ growth as independent learners will be enhanced by teachers having room in their curriculum to create challenging laboratory and research experiences and to assign lengthy and difficult works of literature in English and in foreign language studies, to name just a few.” The committee found that neither AP nor International Baccalaureate (IB) programs allowed for the depth and richness Westtown prizes in its course offerings.  

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Topics: Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens, Inspiring the Best in Kids

Summer To Do: College Prep

Posted by Jessica Smith on May 1, 2017


Yes, summer is a time for students to relax, enjoy, and rejuvenate but also an important time for your teen to stay on track with their college prep. Wondering how to do this and where to focus your energy?  Here are a few simple reminders for you and your teen.

  • Grades count. Please don't believe the myth that grades don't matter until junior year. Colleges will look at applicants’ grades from freshman year onward, and the stronger the grades, the more choices your child will have. It's not just about having a good grade and looking good to colleges. Students need the skills they learn on the way to achieving those grades in order to do well in future courses. At the same time, remember that their best may change as they progress through high school. We are all hoping for authentic effort, not perfection.
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Topics: Building Self-Esteem in Teens, Raising Resilient, Healthy Teens