A majority of Montana Academy graduates attend colleges and universities. Applying and being admitted to a college or university is a major rite of passage for students at Montana Academy. However, given the importance of this “rite of passage,” it becomes critical for us to define roles and responsibilities to insure a student’s safe passage to this important next stage of their lives.

Many MA parents retain their educational consultant or have hired a college consultant to oversee the process of selection and application. Other parents choose to provide the advice and guidance themselves. In any case, we want students to begin this process during their “junior” year and/or when they have reached Sun Clan.

The college application process provides an arena for families to support their teenager without taking over the entire process. The dance is always delicate. We want students to be in charge, but they can’t do it without your help. The first step is for you as parents, to work with your Clinical Supervisor to figure out whether or not your teenager is going to Sky House or graduating from the main campus. Once some tentative timelines are in place, you need to figure out some general parameters about college selection. Financially, what makes sense for your family–in state, out of state, liberal arts college, community college? Does location matter—close to home, or anywhere in the country? Also, make decisions about what is feasible academically? SAT scores and grades—particularly from the last two years of school—need to be taken into consideration. It doesn’t make sense for students to apply to colleges that are out of reach for financial or academic reasons.

College consultants can be invaluable help in developing these parameters. If you haven’t hired a consultant, you will need to take a greater role in developing these parameters with your teenager. Once you and your teenager have figured out these parameters, we recommend that students develop an initial list of about 7 to 8 schools. Include in this list two to three “safety schools’–schools that students can fall-back upon in case they don’t get into their top choices.

Even though Montana Academy therapists and teachers aren’t in a position to do thorough college advising, we feel that most are best served attending smaller colleges with a strong sense of community. An excellent college resource is a small book, Colleges that Save Lives: 40 Schools that will change the way you think about colleges, Penguin Publishing.

Once students have their potential list of schools, Montana Academy staff help applicants negotiate the process. During study hall students, under the guidance of Connie Jones, they develop a professional profile summarizing their accomplishments (community service, academic awards, leadership positions) which helps staff in writing recommendations. Typically students need from two to three letters of recommendation. They usually ask their therapist and one or two teachers to write letters and supply them with copies of their personal profile. Students must have these letters completed before moving to Sky House.

After finalizing the list of colleges and universities, students create an on-line common application account and send on-line links to staff who have agreed to write letters of recommendation. The common application turns out to be a useful tool for students to monitor where they are in the application process. Students add names of staff responsible for writing letters of recommendation and keep track of where they have applied. You and/or your consultant can also monitor the common application material.

Students compose a draft personal essay and select a MA staff (teacher or therapists) to read and meet with them about their essay. We also encourage students to share their essay more broadly, particularly with their parents and possibly their Educational Consultant. We expect students, who complete the MA program at the Sky Houses, to leave the MA campus with a draft essay. Once at Sky House, students revise their essays before submitting them on the common application.

While on campus, the Clinical Supervisor and Team teacher work together with students to insure they meet deadlines. Again, if you have hired a College Counselor, the counselor will usually take major responsibility for overseeing the process. When at Sky House, the Sky House Managers assist students in keeping track of deadlines and expectations during the application process. While we encourage you to work with your son or daughter, we want our students to be in charge. Yet, gentle prodding is always good!

Your teenager may need some help regarding deadlines for admission. To complicate matters, colleges and universities typically have early or late admissions with different dates for application for the various admission options. Students need to make decisions about not only where they are applying but when. It makes sense for students to apply for early decision to their top choice. Early decisions are binding. If students seek early admission and are accepted they are expected to attend.

One final note–Connie Jones handles all transcript requests. It becomes the student’s responsibility to contact Connie (via e-mail for Sky House Students) about when and where to send transcripts.

Applying and being accepted into college represents a developmental milestone for students at Montana Academy. It is definitely a time of celebration.