Thursday, August 1, 2013

Welcome back for the 2013-14 school year!

At the risk of being fairly redundant, the bulk of this post is the school counseling department's contribution to the school's summer newsletter. Think of this post, then, as a sneak preview.
That said, here is one exciting development not contained therein:
Homeroom assignments will be different this year. Rather than staying in first period for a designated time to take attendance and review morning announcements, students will go to a grade-level specific homeroom. These advisory groups are intended to reflect the visible and invisible diversity of our school's population, to allow students the opportunity to better know peers with whom they may not share classes. The advisory groups will also give students the opportunity to have regular conversations with a teacher who does not have academic authority over them. This will give students the chance to develop deeper and more meaningful relationships with caring staff while they are at school.

Without further ado...

Welcome back to school, from the School Counseling Department!
We do not have any staff changes from last year, but Mr. Goldman will have a full-time intern, Ms. VanBuskirk, from Loyola University Maryland, during the fall semester. Students should continue to see, and parents should continue to call, Ms. Billingslea, the School Counseling secretary, to schedule appointments, as she has access to all of our calendars.
If you have not yet seen it, please check out (and subscribe to) our blog at Also, if you are on twitter, follow us at These are two resources where you will hear about opportunities and insight as you navigate the high school experience.
All stakeholders – teachers, parents and students of all grade levels – are asked to complete our annual needs assessment survey at so that we can get a sense of how we are doing and how we can improve the services that we provide. This year, we will work even harder to bring our comprehensive school counseling program to the breadth and quality that is recommended by the American School Counselor Association, and we can’t do that without your input as a community.
On July 9, the Board of Education of Baltimore County voted to approve a five-year contract with a new college and career planning service called Naviance. If you have any friends who have attended Owings Mills High School in the past ten years, ask them how much they love this website. All students and parents will have access to this site, and there is even a mobile app. We have not yet had formal training, but you can anticipate seeing and using this site in the very near future. Naviance will replace, and vastly improve upon, the services and resources that were provided in ConnectEDU.
This year, we will begin offering a weekly open group counseling service called “Transition Tuesdays.” Students who are experiencing some type of transition like loss of a loved one, concerns about changes in their lives, or other issues that they would like to discuss without missing class time are invited to a weekly group during their assigned lunch shift on Tuesdays. Like any group, it is important to maintain the confidentiality of the participants for trust to be possible.
Last year, we started the #PHSfit College of the Day project, when a different college within six hours’ drive was featured on twitter and the morning announcements. This year, we will move to a different career each day, and also plan to post the career’s description on the blog.
If you haven't already heard, families who qualify for free and reduced lunch are eligible for a reduced rate on high-speed internet access from Comcast. Call 855-846-8376 or visit for more information.

This is a critical time in a student’s life. Without a comfortable and successful start to high school, students find it challenging to get re-centered at a later point. Remember that the college admissions process starts on the first day of ninth grade, as each quarterly grade affects your final grades, and colleges will see those final grades from freshman year. Each final grade you earn freshman year has the same impact on your GPA as each final grade you earn junior or senior year. Success tends to have a snowball effect. In addition, it is really important to get involved in a few activities that interest you. You don’t need to spread yourself too thin, but the point is to find people who share your values and priorities, and joining a club with like-minded people will help you make and strengthen connections with your peers in high school. It is recommended that you stay after school, either for coach class or with a club, at least twice each week. We also recommend that you spend at least 20 minutes on each academic subject each evening. This time can be spent doing the assigned daily or long-term homework, rewriting class notes, studying those notes, and pre-reading course material so you’re ready to participate in class the next day.
All students in grade 9 will be given the Accuplacer, which is a precursor to the PSAT. More information will come in September. The test will be given on October 16, and students who are late to school will not be permitted into the test.
In the winter, students will begin to craft their four-year plans with their school counselor, as part of the course advising process.

Sophomore year is a time to hit your stride. If your freshman year grades are below a 2.0 average, you’d need sophomore year grades above a 3.0 to just break even at a 2.5 GPA. The higher GPA you have, the more options you’ll have for after high school. Sophomore year is the time to start visiting a few colleges so that you can develop a sense of priorities when you begin the planning process with your school counselor. Pick one or two of the activities you joined freshman year and start to pursue leadership opportunities within those organizations. Or start a new organization! October 16 of sophomore year is when you’ll take the PSAT at no cost to you, and your score will give you some early indication of your readiness for college and AP courses.  We will discuss your scores in December.
Later in the winter, when sophomores meet with their school counselors for course advising, we will update your four-year plans.

In the past, we have conducted college planning sessions upon request. This year, we will do more than that. Each junior is going to be assigned a pre-scheduled time, either 1:30 or 2:00, to meet with his or her school counselor, during the 2nd quarter. Parents are invited, but not required, to attend this session. Your school counselor will give you a copy of your high school transcript, listen to your priorities (so be sure you’ve started thinking about it) for post-high school planning, and give you some feedback and tips so that you can be proactive about finding the right academic fit after you graduate.
On October 16, you’ll take the PSAT, which is your last unofficial exposure to college admissions testing, so be sure that you take advantage of this opportunity for meaningful feedback, and use that feedback as you prepare for the SAT and ACT, which really starts for you in January.
Baltimore County Public Schools anticipates another school-day SAT like we had last year, but we do not yet have details about how it will be implemented this year. You will be notified when more information comes to light.

Welcome to the busiest year of your life so far. In addition to your regular course load, you will spend this year applying to post-secondary programs and scholarships, and you should take advantage of as much down time as you have to both proactively complete these tasks and rest to recharge your batteries. Before school starts is an ideal opportunity to work on your college essays. If you have not already done so, finalize your list of colleges, which should be between five and ten. Activate your account at and/or and be sure that you are registered for your second SAT or your first ACT. The school counseling department will meet with you in your English 12 classes to orient you to the new Naviance platform for requesting high school transcripts. Be sure to give your teachers and school counselor at least two weeks’ notice, with proper documentation for requesting letters of recommendation and for processing transcripts. Scholarship opportunities are regularly updated at and you should also use twitter to participate in the weekly #CollegeCash tweet chat about financial aid.