The Next Generation

A look at how local high schools are preparing Louisiana’s future workforce for college.

New Orleans natives know that where you went to high school can be equally as important as where you attended college. Who hasn’t been asked during a job interview about their high school affiliation? In the competitive world of high school admissions, there are many factors to consider when choosing a high school. One of the main factors is how does a high school prepare its students for a higher education and life after high school?

We prepare our boys to succeed beyond high school and to lead productive and meaningful lives,” says Pierre DeGruy, director of communications for Jesuit High School. “In addition to being a college preparatory school, we want to bring forth the young man that God created. We want them to be compassionate, know right from wrong and be a man for others, as well as academically prepared. Our curriculum and courses are structured to develop disciplined habits, to stimulate critical thinking and to develop the skills necessary for the expression of that thinking.”

The International High School of New Orleans, St. Martin’s Episcopal School, Brother Martin High School, St. Mary’s Dominican High School, Jesuit High School, Archbishop Rummel High School, Archbishop Chapelle High School and Mount Carmel Academy each begin preparing their students early for college, starting in eighth and ninth grades, and each of these schools offer college preparatory classes and honors or AP (advanced placement) classes.

“Preparation for college at our school begins upon acceptance into Mount Carmel,” says the school’s principal, Beth Ann Simno. “Incoming students participate in the Cub-Connection program to become familiar with the campus and learn about study skills, time management and leadership skills. From the first day of eighth grade to the last day of senior year, students are challenged to excel in academics and to explore their interests in co-curricular programs. Preparation for college is essential, but the greatest preparation students receive is not only learning how to be educated to make a living, but also and most importantly, learning how to live a good life in service to others.”

“Beginning in the ninth grade, students are invited to consult with the college counselor during the class registration process.  College counseling intensifies in the junior year with family meetings and the college search process.”  -Rob Norton, director of marketing and communications at St. Martin’s Episcopal School

Archbishop Chapelle High School’s director of communications, Rachel Fryer, says that Chapelle students start preparing for college in eighth and ninth grade. “Students take algebra I, English I, and world geography that count towards their TOPS and college GPA,” she says. “Chapelle is unique because every student is not required to start at the same level; each student’s schedule is attuned to her individual needs.”

In order to be eligible to be admitted into college these days, all students are required to complete certain classes. These classes include: at least four English courses, including English I – IV; four math courses, including algebra I and II, geometry, and advanced math; four science courses, including physical science, biology, chemistry and either environmental science or physics; four social studies courses, including world history, American history, civics/free enterprise, and either another a world history or U.S. history or government and politics class; at least two years of a consecutive foreign language, either French, Spanish or Latin; and at least one credit of a fine arts or performance art class, which includes band, chorus, studio art, or fine arts survey.

Another essential component to successfully preparing students for higher education is making sure they have the tools they need to take the ACT and SAT standardized tests, which are required for admittance into every college. Each of the mentioned high schools either builds standardized test preparation into their daily curriculum or offers prep classes during or after school or on weekends.

“We offer after-school courses for the PSAT and ACT tests,” says Wendy Grubb, St. Mary’s Dominican High School’s chair of the Guidance Department and college advisor. “The faculty also do in-class preparation for the ACT test. Our whole curriculum is focused on college preparation. We offer 11 AP courses as well as 30 honors courses; however, even our regular level courses are college preparatory.”

In addition to Dominican High School, Jesuit High School, Archbishop Chapelle, Brother Martin High School and Mount Carmel Academy also offer after-school prep classes in addition to standardized test preparation during the regular school day. Rummel High School and International High School have built test prep activities into daily classes and St. Martin’s Episcopal School offers free test prep courses to all juniors during the day with an independent consultant from Power Courses.

“Our students receive daily instruction for college standardized testing,” says Lynette Lopez, enrollment counselor at International High School of New Orleans. “We build ACT prep into the curriculum, and our students take mock ACT tests twice a year.”

According to Simno, Mount Carmel Academy schedules eighth-grade students into a half-credit Dynamics of Effective Study class, and sophomores are scheduled into a half-credit test prep class in addition to having the opportunity to participate in a PSAT class.

In order to be fully prepared for college, high school students need to take the required classes and standardized tests and learn all they can about any college in which they are interested in order to make an informed decision. This task can be accomplished by attending college fairs, meeting college representatives at their high schools and visiting college campuses.

Dominican High School, Archbishop Chapelle High School, Jesuit High School, Brother Martin High School, Mount Carmel Academy, St. Martin’s Episcopal School and Rummel High School invite individual college representatives to visit their campuses throughout the school year and to meet with interested students.  In addition to the on-campus college visits, Jesuit High School and Brother Martin host a college fair at their schools, and the International High School of New Orleans requires students in their junior year to take four class field trips during the year to college campuses across the state.

“All grade levels are invited to attend our college fair, which is held during the school day,” says Kelly Wild, college counselor at Brother Martin High School. These colleges that attend are representative of both Louisiana schools and colleges from other states, both private and public. We usually have between 70 and 80 college representatives at our college fair, and we also have college representatives visit on-campus during the school year.”

In addition to college prep classes, Archbishop Rummel High School offers a pre-professional program for students interested in pursuing a college degree in law, engineering and the biomedical industry.

“Three years ago we decided to offer freshmen a chance to become acquainted with certain professional fields,” says Travis Olivier, school counselor at Archbishop Rummel High School. “This program lets the boys participate in the early stages of what they will experience in college in the three different fields. Students can take one class in their chosen field each year until graduation. So we have four levels a student can take before he graduates.”

Proper counseling is another important factor for students when it comes to college readiness. All of the high schools mentioned have grade-level counselors, as well as counselors that specialize in college preparation and the application process.  

According to Grubb, Dominican High School believes it is imperative that high school counselors keep abreast of the requirements for colleges as well as scholarship opportunities for their students. Keeping students and parents in the loop about TOPS requirements is also important.

“All grade levels are invited to attend our college fair, which is held during the school day.” -Kelly Wild, college counselor at Brother Martin High School

“We provide individualized counseling in many areas, including course selection, advisory and college counseling,” says Rob Norton, director of marketing and communications at St. Martin’s Episcopal School. “Beginning in the ninth grade, students are invited to consult with the college counselor during the class registration process.  College counseling intensifies in the junior year with family meetings and the college search process.”

All of this effort by local schools seems to be paying off. Jesuit High School, Dominican High School, Brother Martin High School, Archbishop Chapelle High School, International High School of New Orleans, and Mount Carmel Academy had a 100 percent college acceptance rate for the class of 2015. St. Martin’s Episcopal School had a 98 percent college acceptance rate — with one student enlisting in the United States Air Force — and Archbishop Rummel High School had a 90 percent college acceptance rate to four-year colleges and 10 percent acceptance rate to two-year colleges.

Students from the mentioned high schools have been accepted and attend colleges across the country, from coast to coast, but most of the schools say that the majority of their seniors opt to attend college in-state.

“We have students who attend Harvard, USC, Vanderbilt, Fordham, and many other prestigious colleges and universities around the country, but Jesuit High School is the largest feeder high school to LSU in the entire state,” DeGruy says. “Our boys are prepared for any level of higher education.”

In Orleans Parish, the percentage of high school graduates enrolling in college in 2014 was 72 percent. Statewide, Louisiana saw a 6 percent improvement in college enrollment rates out of high school over 2013, representing an all-time high for the state.

“The numbers are positive but not surprising,” says State Superintendent John White on the Louisiana Department of Education website. “We have raised expectations through more challenging standards, the ACT, Advanced Placement, dual enrollment courses, and Jump Start. Our state should heed these results: we cannot afford to go backwards.” 



Categories: Education, The Magazine