It should come as no surprise that this time of year is incredibly busy for college admissions counselors across the world - and BASIS Independent Silicon Valley's counseling department is no exception. For students, what feels like a mammoth outcome of the last decade plus of their young lives comes to light, and for counselors like Mr. Bojko, their incredible dedication really pays off as students start to look, with clarity unlike any prior, on what the next few years will look like for them.

All things considered, I was happy to catch Mr. Bojko for 15 minutes this week to get an update on college acceptances thus far and pick his brain on what makes the way BASIS Independent Silicon Valley does college counseling so unique. Mostly here for the college acceptances update? Jump to the bottom of the post.

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AH: First, for the bigger-picture questions. Why college counseling?

TB: I finished graduate school in 2001, moved to Japan and got a job working for the Princeton Review, mostly with graduate school admissions. I wasn’t sure how I would like it, honestly, but it ended up being loads of fun. I loved getting immediate access to how people thought about themselves and their lives, especially because in Japanese culture such outward self-reflection is so unusual. Before Japan, I had worked in schools and I eventually started missing the school environment where I would know kids for years and not months, following them through their academic journey. That’s when I moved into college counseling.

So, why BASIS Independent Silicon Valley?

There was a lot that drew me to BASIS Independent Silicon Valley (and BASIS Curriculum Schools in general). The dedicated College Counseling class makes a HUGE difference for students and for counselors in their ability to connect and do the best job they can. Also, the students themselves here are so motivated and intelligent – it is a dream. Before I even started though, I loved my interview with BISV and really liked the administration.

What are some college counseling myths you find yourself having to bust regularly?

The first and biggest myth is that there are only 9 amazing colleges in the U.S. The most competitive or famous schools are not universally the best for every student.

The other myth - or at least surprise for students - is that there is an incredible amount of difficult writing in the college admissions process. No matter how many AP Language or AP Literature classes they have, students have typically never written about themselves in the ways that they have to for college admissions. They’re not used to that level of refined thinking about themselves. And for BISV students (who are high achieving but modest), writing so directly and favorably about oneself is difficult.

When I’ve read about college admissions trends in the news in recent years or examined statistics, I often wonder if I would be able to gain admission to my alma mater if i were to apply again today. Is there any truth to that?

Well, the application pool - at not even just top, but at schools in the top few overall ‘tiers’ - is increasing on average between 6 and 11% year over year. So it probably is true that lot of people wouldn’t be able to gain admission to those schools they graduated from. Schools that many applicants might have once thought of as safety or back are now much more competitive. So many schools see so many qualified applicants, that admissions decisions for many applicants becomes random, and admissions and officers are pretty blunt about that, too. For the most competitive colleges, admissions officers don’t always have clear reasons for admitting one student and denying another. Many will even say, “we could create several incoming classes out of one applicant pool and we would be equally thrilled with all of them.” This can be maddening for parents and students to accept.

This makes me wonder if there is a college admissions bubble. Have students, parents, teachers, schools, tutors, figured out the “recipe” for admissions and that is what is leading to such an increase in qualified applicants?

There is no recipe for any one school in any one year. College admissions officers will all share that they have changing institutional priorities. Beyond this, most would probably say, “we don’t admit individual students; we curate classes.”

Speaking of myths - I try to move people away from the notion of a recipe or a “key” for admissions. Rather than looking at my job as getting students into certain colleges, to guide them so they end up with many options to choose from. I also encourage them to keep an open mind about more schools so they don’t later regret not considering looking into a school that might not have initially been on their radar.

What is your perspective on our students going to school outside the U.S.?

This year I really pushed the U.K. and I will continue to do that as long as I am in college admissions here in Silicon Valley. Schools in the U.K. are appealing because they are 3 years instead of 4 for undergrad and students directly enroll in their major. This is a good option for a lot of our kids, who have a clear and precise idea of what they would like to study.

What is your perspective on going into application season with a specific major versus the “undeclared” approach?

In some cases – like engineering you need to apply to a specific school within a university so applying undeclared isn’t an option. I would be thrilled if more students were open to the idea of undeclared, but it’s not my position to force them to do so.

action shot_3.28.jpgHow do you really get to know the kids? What are some of your tactics?

I cannot stress how wonderful the Senior Year is at our school and the ability to have a full class dedicated to college counseling. My approach is to give them guidance but also try to stay out of their way. They are so incredibly intelligent – I help them channel that and they appreciate being able to use time in ways they think is effective. They are at an age where they enjoy being young adults and in control of themselves. We get a lot of serious work done on applications but I also try to find ways of inspiring them with material that has no direct connection to college counseling. They really like things coming out of left field that provoke them to think, the opportunity to simply enjoy an idea, like talking about Roald Dahl’s video on the creative process. I also meet them a lot one-on-one and really like that I have the flexibility – and so do they – to meet like this at our school to get work done but also just relax and enjoy ourselves. One of my students is a chess master and we play backgammon quite a bit - playing with him is good for my game. My style of college counseling is a different way of relating to students that is probably unusual compared to what they are used to in a school.

What is the best way for a student to determine the right fit?

Visit a college when it is in session, and don’t, of course, just rely on reputation. Visits can be a little misleading over the summer; students really have to see what life is like in full swing. To get started, though, I recommend the Fiske Guide to Colleges – if anyone is going to buy a guide, that is the one. They go out of their way to capture the culture on college campuses.

What defines a “BASIS Independent student” for a college admissions officer?

It is obvious by looking at a transcript that BASIS Independent students take a rigorous, varied, course load. Even the STEM-oriented among them have a depth of humanities classes. To your earlier question on ‘why BASIS Independent Silicon Valley,’ something else that attracted me to the school was the Senior Year and Senior Project in particular. Colleges really like the Senior Project. The Advanced Placement courses are intense – but they are intense for a lot of students at a lot of schools - and the way BASIS Curriculum Schools structure the Senior Year shows that APs are not the end-all be-all of a high school program. The Senior Year here – with Capstone Courses and Senior Projects- prepares students much better than only an AP curriculum ever could.

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Many thanks to Mr. Bojko for his time. As of this week, the 20 BISV seniors have been admitted the following colleges and universities. More will be coming in within the next month, so stay tuned! 

The University of Alabama at Birmingham (Honors Program )

The University of Alabama (University Honors Program)

Amherst College

Barnard College

Baylor University (Art & Sciences)

Boston University

Bowdoin College

California Northstate University

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

University of California, Berkeley

University of California, Davis

University of California, Davis (Engineering)

University of California, Davis (College of Letters & Science)

University of California, Irvine

University of California, Irvine (Engineering)

University of California, Irvine (School of Biological Sciences)

University of California, Los Angeles

University of California, Los Angeles (School of Eng. & App. Sciences)

University of California, Los Angeles (College of Letters & Science)

University of California, Merced

University of California, Riverside

University of California, San Diego

University of California, San Diego (Engineering)

University of California, San Diego (Thurgood Marshall College)

University of California, San Diego (Warren College)

University of California, Santa Barbara

University of California, Santa Barbara (College of Letters & Science)

University of California, Santa Cruz

Carnegie Mellon University

Case Western Reserve University

University of Central Florida (Burnett Honors College)

University of Chicago

University of Connecticut (Health Center)

Drexel University ( Pennoni Honors College)

Duke University

Emory University

Florida Atlantic University (Harriet Wilkes Honors College)

Florida State University (College of Arts & Sciences)

Fordham University

Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgetown University

Hofstra University (School of Engineering and Applied Science)

University of Houston (The Honors College)

University of Illinois at Chicago

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University (Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences)

King's College London

University of Michigan

Middlebury College

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

University of Missouri Kansas City

New Jersey Institute of Technology (Albert Dorman Honors College)

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Northeastern University

The University of Oklahoma

Pennsylvania State University - All Campuses (College of Science)

University of Pittsburgh (University Honors College)

Purdue University

Purdue University (College of Engineering)

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Rice University (School of Natural Sciences)

University of Rochester (Rochester Early Medical Scholars Program)

Rosemont College

Rutgers University-Newark (College of Arts & Sciences)

University of San Francisco

San Jose State University

Santa Clara University

Santa Clara University (School of Engineering)

Scripps College

University of South Alabama (Early Acceptance Program (M.D.))

University of South Florida, Tampa

University of Southern California (College of Letters, Arts, & Sciences)

Stanford University (School of Humanities & Sciences)

Temple University

The University of Texas, Austin

University of Toledo (Honors Program)

Union College (New York)

The University of Edinburgh

University of St Andrews

Vanderbilt University

Virginia Commonwealth University (Honors College)

University of Virginia

Washington and Jefferson College

Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis (Arts and Sciences)

University of Washington

Williams College

University of Wisconsin, Madison

 

As the year comes to an end, we will continue to highlight our seniors on our blog, so please be sure to subscribe for updates (below).

Alexandra Hancock was the founding Director of Student Enrollment at BASIS Independent Brooklyn and now oversees marketing and communications for BASIS Independent Schools.