With 85% of CM grads being accepted into colleges ranked “very competitive” by Barron's the preparation in applying and being accepted into such schools as Harvard, Yale, Boston College, Fairfield, Holy Cross, and UVA comes down to the college counseling department and their unique Beyond CM curriculum.
Beyond the bustle of boys who travel the hallways of Catholic Memorial sits a student waiting to meet with his college counselor. Any boy in his position may be feeling nervous. After all, how should a high school Junior
be expected to map out the rest of his life? A door swings open to interrupt his thoughts.
“Come in,” says his counselor.
The individualized care and rigor of Catholic Memorial’s counseling staff help ease this anxiety, with 93% of this year’s seniors reporting feeling understood and supported in their postsecondary goals.
“We don’t say, ‘let’s come up with a to-do list,’” says Director of Counseling & Student Success, Jack O’Keefe. “We want students to walk alongside as a partner.”
This partnership is provided through the Beyond CM program, which is designed to shape students’ visions of who they want to be through a series of classroom sessions, family night presentations, and individual meetings.
“As a department, we do many things,” notes Assistant Director of Counseling, Rachel Schneider, “but Beyond CM is our cornerstone.”
Discerning who a student will become begins in the classroom. Four times each semester, counselors visit Junior theology classrooms to discuss their college and career path through questions such as “Who does God believe that I am?” and “How am I going to be of service to others in my life?” As part of the Beyond CM curriculum, Junior theology students are assigned a discernment paper to answer three questions from theologian and
Boston College professor Fr. Michael Himes, whose lectures and books, such as Doing the Truth In Love are
cornerstones of Theology curriculum at CM. Himes’ questions are as follows: What skills do you have that
you can get better at? What are you passionate about and find joy in doing? What does the world need you to do? Is the work a genuine expression of agape (self-gift)?
Answering these questions is no simple task, nor a common
one for any high school student.
“What makes us unique is the intentionality with which we’ve paired our program with our Theology curriculum, and in how deep we ask students to dig,” says Schneider.
“Students don’t dig that deep anywhere else,” adds Assistant Director of Counseling, Katherine Kistner. “I’ve worked with hundreds of high schools, but the outcomes of how the discernment paper allows students to clearly communicate their unique story, strengths, and aspirations is the differentiator in a CM student.”
To ensure the sustainable success of students, the counseling team created the Counselor Advisory Board, which consists of seven trusted admissions partners, all leaders in their respective colleges, who visit Baker Street biannually to advise the Beyond CM program. Together, the board and counselors evaluate the success of the program, spotlight where CM stands in comparison to other schools in how they prepare their seniors for college, and provide transparent feedback on sustaining and expanding the program. At events such as Family Nights, board members give presentations to students and their families, allowing them insight into college admissions. “What are colleges looking for?” “What should you expect from the process?” “How can you best represent yourself?” are questions board members may discuss with students.
“It’s not typical for high schools to have an advisory board,” remarks Kistner. “We are uniquely positioned to have access to these high-flying individuals working with us, our students, and our families.” This partnership also helps bridge the gap between high school and college through advising students towards rigorous academic opportunities such as Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment courses.
While Advanced Placement courses provide students an opportunity to max out their academic potential on campus, the Dual Enrollment program allows students to take college-level courses in colleges themselves. CM has partnered with Wentworth Institute of Technology and Merrimack College to connect students with college professors and the full resources of each college’s campus. “Our students this year, in their Construction Management course, were able to travel to Wentworth multiple times a semester to do hands-on work in labs,” notes Schneider. “They’re wearing hard hats, tying rebar, using labs and facilities that are beyond what our campus offers.” These advanced opportunities give students a leg-up when preparing for college, with a recent survey showing 88% of CM students strongly agreeing that their Dual Enrollment course has helped their college application by adding rigor to their transcript. “The goal,” notes the Director of Counseling & Student Success, Jack O’Keefe, “is for every student to be enrolled in Dual Enrollment or AP classes.” In fact, 88% of students in the Class of 2022 did exactly that. The fact that CM students push themselves by taking Dual Enrollment courses show college admissions officers that these applicants come with grit and determination which opens more doors to more colleges.
Encouraging these soon-to-be-grads to push themself happens through conversations between students and counselors. For Schneider, “that’s where the magic happens.” Reflecting on the impact of conversations such as these, she says, “Sometimes I ask a boy ‘Why do you like English?’ Or ‘What areas do you need to strengthen if you want to be an engineer?’ And they may have never thought about it before.” Boys, now thinking about their passions, realize hidden parts of them that they lean into in the college application process. “It could be the first time anyone’s ever asked them these questions, which is exciting but could open up a can of worms,” adds Schneider. “But they’re important, and you have to have those conversations if you’re going to pay college tuition over the next four years.”
Kistner shares insight on the individualized conversations she has with students: “Some juniors know exactly what they’re looking for the college experience, others need more support developing their vision. We want to help students understand their transformative growth here and how that will continue beyond CM.”
The growth in seniors and the subsequent maturity from this curriculum is made evident by the scholarships they receive. For example, Northeastern’s Torch Scholarship, a full-ride tuition scholarship that supports first-generation students from diverse backgrounds, which was granted to a 2021 graduate. Merit scholarships, too, are familiar to CM grads. “Merit scholarships from an admissions office” says Kistner, “are awarded to the strongest academic students in the applicant pool. Not only do we want our students to have a balanced college list, we are thoughtful in ensuring they will also be competitive for merit awards.”
At CM, a student can go anywhere to become anything such as studying environmental engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, flying planes at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida with full tuition covered by an Army ROTC scholarship, as well as playing D1 football at Villanova
The Counseling Department and their cutting-edge Beyond CM program helped 85% of the Class of ’22 gain acceptance into Barron’s “Very Competitive” college category, up from 77% in the year prior. No matter how you cut it, CM students are set apart and above—and they know it. According to an end-of-year student survey, 85% of CM students feel that their counselor’s knowledge about college matches helped shape their application list, 93% feel understood and supported in their goals, and most importantly 100% report feeling prepared and excited for their postsecondary plans.