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Five cadets posing in front of the school wearing their chosen college t-shirts.

College Preparation

Hargrave is, first and foremost, a college preparatory boarding school. Our objective is to develop our students into leaders of character prepared for lifelong success. A route to personal success often starts with attending a college, university, or United States Service Academy. Our daily schedule and course offerings closely mirror the student experience at most colleges and universities.

Our college counselor will chart an individual course for each student to ensure opportunities are available upon graduation. That unique path is determined based on the student’s academic performance, desire, and goals. Whether it be an NCAA Division I university or a small college that provides a specific curriculum, our program will facilitate achieving the student’s future objectives.

Over the past three years, our graduates have earned 395 acceptances (and counting!) to over 200 different colleges and universities. Additionally, in the last three years, we have had multiple young men earn appointments to the United States Military Academy and the United States Naval Academy. At the end of the day, the best thing we can do from a College Counseling standpoint at Hargrave is to give our students options. With our 100% college acceptance for graduating Seniors over the last decade, we are doing exactly that!

From the College Counselor

The college application and selection process is daunting for many families. However, at Hargrave, we do our part to make the process easier to understand, hopefully eliminating most of the stress involved. During freshman year, we encourage our young men to utilize the internet to formulate a list of 25-30 potential colleges to begin the foundation of their college search. Most young men entering high school don’t know what they want to study in college, which is perfectly fine! We help our students understand GPA requirements, SAT/ACT requirements, student body size, location, athletic offerings, etc. The primary purpose is to remind our young men that everything matters once you start high school, from academics to athletics, to community service and beyond.

As our young men transition into their sophomore and junior years, if their interests change, so will their college list. The most significant step in the process during this time is to improve their PSAT score as they take the PSAT/NMSQT as both sophomores and juniors. Scoring well on these standardized tests can put your young man in the running for great scholarship opportunities. At the beginning of junior year, we encourage our students to whittle down their college list from 25-30 schools to approximately 15 schools. This is not a requirement but a suggestion to help hone in on which school is truly the best fit. It’s often during these years that young men are figuring out who they are and what they want; this will influence their college choice as they discover more about themselves and how that affects their future decisions.

Additionally, during junior year, it is vital to the college process that our young men understand the importance of doing well academically. The last grades listed on the application will be grades from junior year; colleges only receive senior course grades on a final or midyear transcript. During the spring of junior year, students can take our SAT Prep course, which focuses on taking simulated practice tests and writing college application essays using prompts from the Common Application. In addition to learning more about the college application process, students will learn how to communicate with admissions counselors. Ideally, our juniors will visit at least one college campus during Spring Break and schedule several college visits during the summer leading into their senior year. The May SAT is administered on campus at Hargrave and is mandatory for all juniors. This test session is extremely important because it creates a baseline in standardized testing for our young men. Our students are encouraged to take the SAT or ACT at least twice.

As our young men enter their senior year, having taken the SAT and hopefully having visited 4-5 college campuses, now is the time to start submitting applications. The general suggestion is to apply to 4-7 schools with the following breakdown: Two dream/reach schools, four realistic schools, one safety/likely school. Based on the research our young men have done since their freshman year, they can categorize the schools they plan to apply to into these three categories. Essentially, over the course of their high school career, they will start with a list of 25-30 schools and ultimately apply to no more than seven. During the fall of their senior year, our young men will be required to take the October SAT and possibly the December ACT. As we all know, the college landscape is ever-changing. As the process has evolved, so have our practices. We encourage students to apply “early action” so they are more competitive and have their decisions earlier. Additionally, we support test optional submissions as a standardized test may not be the best reflection of the student’s ability. We recognize that we regularly must adapt our practices to best support our students.

During the fall, our senior class spends a great deal of time with the College Counselor to help determine which schools to apply to and which will be the best fit. Although many different personality tests can take a student’s answers, plug them into an algorithm and tell them which school to go to, our approach at Hargrave is to learn this information through one-on-one conversation. Since Hargrave is a small, all-boys, military boarding school, transitioning from here to a large state school may not make sense for everyone; for others, a bigger school may be the best fit. Ultimately, several factors go into finding the right college, and the best way to figure out which fit is right is simply to engage in productive conversations.

Once admitted to a college or university, we work with our young men on finding scholarship opportunities through individual schools and national scholarships like ROTC (Air Force, Army, Navy & Marines) to help defray some of the costs of college. Additionally, we can offer assistance with filling out FAFSA information once the FAFSA application opens in October. It is very important that families work to complete the FAFSA as early as possible once it opens, because some state schools provide grants on a first come, first served basis. Early application and FAFSA completion allow the opportunity to receive non-need-based grants and scholarships.

It is important to remember that everything matters. We encourage our students to get involved and stay involved, so they have a well-rounded application and resume moving forward. Additionally, students must stay focused and not let “senioritis” creep in. Colleges will request mid-year grades and final transcripts, which can influence their acceptance decision. It is important to finish strong and walk across the stage at graduation, knowing that you’ve done the best you can and found the right fit for the next four years, which ultimately impacts the next 40 years!