SHS develops strong relationships with colleges through admissions officers

May 26, 2017 — by Alexandra Li and Victor Liu

For the past few years, SHS students have benefitted from higher rates of acceptance into USC at approximately 30 percent, averaging around 15 students enrolling every year

Each April, several dozen SHS seniors receive a thick, enclosed box in the mail with bolded gold letters spelling out “Welcome to the Trojan Family.” This year 22 percent of the 145 Saratoga applicants to the University of California (USC) were accepted, 4 percent higher than USC’s 18 percent average.

For the past few years, SHS students have benefitted from higher rates of acceptance into USC at approximately 30 percent, averaging around 15 students enrolling every year.

According to assistant principal Brian Safine, the school also holds one of the highest public school acceptance rates into USC, boasting rates on average 10 percent higher than the university’s overall acceptance rate of 18 percent.

By contrast, Monta Vista High School has averaged an acceptance rate of 17 percent to USC over the last two years, while Lynbrook’s average over the past two years sits at 22 percent.

Because of its proximity to home and the diverse range of programs, USC is high on many students’ rankings.

The fact that students can double major there, or in some cases have a major and a minor really appeals to the multi-interest nature of our students,” Safine said. “I think some of our students have also heard about the strong alumni network that USC offers, and that appeals to them as well.”

Current USC freshman and SHS alumna Giulia Corno chose USC because it offered a dual degree program in both neuroscience and political science.

When asked why the school seems to have so much success getting students into the school, she said, “I think Saratoga students just fit a lot of what USC is looking for in a student: driven and smart. I do think that the Bay Area, especially Saratoga, tends to encourage those traits. Students are given more opportunities to put their minds and their drive to work.”

In addition to USC’s popularity among SHS students, with 164 students applying in 2015, school officials have maintained a close relationship with USC’s regional admissions officer. Amidst the flurry of around 50 teams representing different college that arrive every year, USC has constantly been present for the upperclassmen to learn more about, sending the same admissions officer annually.

“Whereas sometimes we see different people every year from certain universities, USC has sent us the same person the last several years, so she’s gotten to know our staff and our students,” Safine said. “She's also been really responsive over email, so I think the consistency of communications has allowed us to develop a relationship with her.”

Aside from USC, other schools also send admissions representatives to meet with Saratoga students individually. They reach out to guidance officer Bonnie Sheikh in hopes of attracting more students to the school.

Saratoga High’s 15 percent acceptance rate to the University of Chicago, which is 7 percent higher that the school’s overall admissions rate of 8 percent, may also be attributed to the regular yearly visits of the same admissions officer. UChicago’s admissions officers have also given presentations to the Saratoga guidance counselors regarding their side of the college applications process and have also held discussions with students.

“Schools like UChicago are going to come back to Saratoga year after year because they know that kids here are smarter,” said 2016 alumna Helen Chen, who attends the university. “It doesn't make sense for schools like UChicago to send representatives to a rural Texas school who may only have one kid attend UChicago every 10 years.”

Sheikh has noted how reaching out to representatives from different schools during sessions can be the first step in forming a connection with a school.

“Students are often timid to reach out to admissions officers,” Sheikh said. “But I’ve found that they’re really responsive and willing to help, especially if you have a reasonable questions.”

According to Safine, high schools can develop these connections with colleges through different ways. Saratoga’s four guidance counselors are able to visit many colleges across the country, both locally and ones where they have to fly in. In some cases, colleges will actually cover the cost of travel for counselors.

In addition, colleges host conferences with many of the local schools, which gives guidance staff a chance to meet people from colleges and universities as well.

“When they’re here visiting, we try as hard as we can to put a name to a face,” Safine said. “It’s always nice to get to know the institutions where our students spend the next four years of their educational journey.”