Many Paths to Success: Shipley’s Unique Approach to College Counseling

Holly Caldwell
Selecting a primary school for your child is perhaps one of the most painstaking decisions a parent or guardian can make. Once those little Acorns enter their junior year of high school and take their place as the incoming Mighty Oaks, that decision made years ago becomes even more meaningful—and with good reason. Our society has traditionally placed a high value on offering the best opportunities to the next generation. But what if these preconceived notions of what is “best” have been skewed? What if we shifted the lens and considered the “best” option the one that would cater to the needs of the student, specifically engineered for their success? This is precisely what Shipley’s College Counseling Program sets out to achieve with every student.
Shipley prides itself on offering a college counseling process that is completely individualized. Having personal insight into an individual is invaluable when it comes to writing a powerful college admissions essay, or advising students on what colleges would suit them best. Working in conjunction with the tenets of Shipley’s SEED curriculum (Social, Emotional, Ethical Development), college counselors help coach students to effectively articulate their personal stories as they apply to schools. Shipley’s multi-faceted approach to college counseling is unparalleled in that it dedicates an actual class to the process. It encapsulates the School’s academic, social, and emotional capstone experience. Associate Director of College Counseling Sarah Sterling explains that, “As students learn more about who they are and the people they are becoming, they begin to understand their strengths, as well as areas for improvement.”
As part of this process, Ms. Sterling points out, “students often come to learn that college is not  one-size-fits-all and end up concluding that the 10–15 colleges most people can tick off the top of their heads might not be the best fit for them.” There are over 3,000 four-year colleges and universities in the United States, but many people tend to focus their attention on a list of 10–15 well-known schools. 

While such schools undoubtedly have well-deserved reputations and legacies, it may surprise you that the US News & World Report Best Colleges Ranking is based entirely on self-reported, non-vetted data, and opinion surveys by faculty and administration. Contrary to popular belief, the Report’s methods and results have been critiqued for years—by both higher education experts and faculty members who teach at some of the highest-ranking institutions.
Such reports simply do not give the entire picture when it comes to evaluating the quality of academics or the undergraduate student experience at any given institution. As Director of College Counseling Donielle Couture highlights, “there are many fantastic colleges and universities in the United States that aren’t on the ‘top-10’ list that many people have in their minds. At Shipley, it is our goal to achieve the best fit for each student, not check off names on a list.” 

Yet there is one type of list that Shipley’s College Counseling Program highly values—it's the one that they help students create as they discover which colleges will best serve them as individuals. By working closely with their counselors and carefully selecting colleges that are a good fit, Shipley graduates attend a wide array of institutions and enjoy a low transfer rate among them. 

Working within Shipley’s unique approach of balancing well-being and achievement in the pursuit of educational excellence, the college counseling team is confident there are myriad pathways to success.
The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.