Charleston Day School

Charleston Day School

High School Counseling

Making Informed Decisions

Charleston Day School offers a comprehensive High School Counseling Program designed to walk its families through each step of the selection process. During the summer before the eighth grade year, the Director of High School Placement meets individually with each family. With the help of their advisors, students take a personal inventory of their strengths, interests and goals. Charleston Day graduates excel in local public and independent schools as well as a variety of boarding schools.

girl student laptop work

Contact the Director of High School Placement, Andy Willits,  for further information regarding Charleston Day School’s High School Counseling Program.

A Personal Approach

Charleston Day School’s approach to preparing students for high school is not only focused, including mock interviews, test practice, school visitations and applications, the process is also highly personalized. “Leaving parents and students to fill out paperwork on their own isn’t the Charleston Day approach,” says high school counselor Andy Willits. “We support them, educate them, and help them through the process so we can create great options for high school.”

The process begins at the end of the seventh grade year with a “Preparing for High School” meeting with Willits, the parents of rising eighth graders and the students themselves. After they fill out a form indicating their preliminary high school choices, Willits meets with each family over the summer to discuss school options. By August, he reaches out to those schools to get the students on their radar early. It’s that legwork and relationship-building that helps Charleston Day School eighth graders find the right fit for high school.

And the choices are many. Boarding school or local? Private or public? Does the student prefer a small school, an intimate environment, supportive like Charleston Day? Or do they want some place large and diverse like Academic Magnet or Wando? Perhaps they want to embark on a family tradition of attending a specific boarding school. Based on a student’s goals, values and qualities, Willits will discuss the characteristics of the high schools of interest. He may even recommend some summer “homework” for students, researching schools that may be a good fit.

With so many choices, Willits works diligently to understand the subtle differences between schools, especially boarding schools. Because of high interest (7-11 CDS students per year), each September many of these schools attend a Boarding School Night at Charleston Day to meet with prospective families. In 2019, students chose to attend Asheville School, Episcopal High School, McCallie School, Taft School and Woodberry Forest School. Past graduates have attended Andover, Baylor, Brooks, Choate, Christ School, Culver Academy, Ethel Walker, Exeter, Foxcroft, Kent, Mercersburg, Millbrook, St. Andrew’s, St. George’s, St. John’s and Saint Mary’s.

“It’s important that the high schools trust our sincerity in what
a Charleston Day diploma means,” says Willits. “A CDS graduate is advanced academically in comparison to most students coming out of the eighth grade, particularly in the subjects of math and language arts. Our students are well prepared for the challenges that lie ahead—not only in arithmetic, writing and reading, but in community engagement. Charleston Day students will look you in the eye and shake your hand, be able to talk well about their skills and qualifications and how they can contribute to the school, and they are adept at speaking to a variety of audiences or individuals, no matter what the age.”

Relationships Are Paramount

The relationships with high schools are important, but equally important are those with students and their parents. “There are a lot of hard conversations during this process,” says Willits, “so families have to be able to trust me. I have to be able to say, ‘ I’m not sure this is the right fit for you’ or ‘Have you considered this option?’”

In order to personalize the high school process for students, Willits makes an effort to get to know them. In addition to serving as the high school counselor, he is a homeroom teacher, an advisor, and teaches two sections of 8th grade language arts in which he guides students through the process of writing their personal speech and becoming junior docents at the Gibbes Museum of Art. Willits also helps plan and chaperones their field trips and attends many student musicals, plays and programs.

Willits’ dedication to each student and the high school preparation process ensures they will thrive once they leave our gates, and year after year, they return to let him know that all the hard work was worth it. In fact, on average 98% of CDS eighth graders are admitted to their secondary school of choice. Now that’s success we can measure.

Mr. Willits’ Advice to Students

  • Be observant. You’ll have many opportunities to visit schools based on your siblings or friends. Look around.
  • Be yourself. Your decision should be based on what’s best for you. Start the dialogue now with your parents. Will it be your decision
    or one you make together?
  • Academically, stay strong or show improvement. If your grades are excellent, keep up the great work. But if there is room for improvement, make your best effort to improve.
  • Be a good person. Be helpful. Get involved. If you see someone having a hard time socializing, be that person that goes over and talks with them. Make a difference. Character matters.

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