As a new director of College Counseling at Ross Upper School, Lawrence Alexander is helping students make informed choices about their academic journey beyond Ross. He recently talked with School News about the services available to students and families, and his approach to helping them navigate an important chapter in their lives.
Describe your role at Ross School. I love my job. It’s all about matching our great students with great colleges and universities. My colleagues and I work diligently to understand the student’s interests and personal and academic goals. Once they settle on the right fit, we then discuss a strategic path to securing an acceptance from a specific institution.
Providing insight into what colleges look for in potential students is key. Schools are increasingly taking a holistic approach to admissions, and a student’s noncognitive skills are as important to promote as their grades and rankings. I remind the kids that they are not a number on paper, and a test score on the entrance exam is only a small part of the big picture.
We also discuss domestic and international courses of study, financial aid, scholarships, student life, and the application and acceptance processes.
What services do you provide to students and families? It’s important to take the mystery and anxiety out of the equation for students and parents. A way to do that is through discussions of their options. For example, representatives from more than 50 colleges will visit the Upper School this fall to meet with students, and we’ll hold College Counseling events such as our recent Senior Parent Night to answer specific questions.
The fall is an incredibly busy time in the world of college counseling. More than half of the senior class is applying for early admissions, and we’ll be with them for every step of the journey. Currently, I’m helping students secure letters of recommendation, prepare their applications, and showcase their skill-sets, talents, and experiences, including extracurricular activities, community service, and athletic abilities.
We also offer programs to help prepare students for the PSAT, SAT, ACT, and TOEFL exams.
At what grade level does the college counseling process begin? It’s never too early to think about college, and my door is open to any student or parent with questions. It can be a scary process, but information and guidance alleviates the stress, especially in the formative high school years.
Often I talk with families who have had a list of colleges in their minds for years. Others have strong opinions about what ranks as a “good school.” It may be so on paper, but it’s possible that a student would be better matched with another institution. As we work through their expectations, we typically find three or four additional options.
I find the earlier in the process for these periods of discovery to happen, the better. Prior to Ross, I was Director of College Counseling at the Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria. I had the pleasure of taking our younger students on a visit to Yale, and they remarked that it looked like Harry Potter’s Hogwarts. It’s wonderful that they have a fun and magical association with their first college experience.
I’m a father to three beautiful children—Jaylynn (12), Elijah (2), and Leighton (1). I will certainly look to prepare them well in advance for their college decisions, but my two youngest will be safe from a lecture from dad on the subject for a few more years.
What brought you to Ross? The Spiral Curriculum and the School’s approach to education is helping students become the independent thinkers colleges are looking to invite into their communities. For example, there are many colleges that have students design their own major, and our students are uniquely prepared for these situations. It’s so rewarding to work in this type of environment, and to help people find their academic fit and a path to a successful college experience.
I also really enjoy being part of the Ross community. As a House Parent, it is my pleasure to mentor the 12 students in our home, and it’s a great opportunity for my wife Monique and me to share a unique boarding experience with our own children.