Walnut Hill School for the Arts

College Counseling

high school seniors wearing college t-shirts

Walnut Hill School for the Arts has a tradition of successfully placing students in many of the most prestigious and selective colleges and conservatories in the United States and abroad. Every arts discipline at Walnut Hill requires specialized preparation throughout the college search and application process, and our team is exceptionally equipped to offer support and guidance to each student who comes through our program.

At Walnut Hill, we view the college counseling process as one that is rich in opportunities for students to learn about themselves, to develop critical life skills, and to find an environment in which they will thrive academically, artistically, and personally. The college process, to us, is a “match to be made, not a prize to be won,” and we encourage students to shift their focus from finding the “best college” to discovering “the best college for them.”

Walnut Hill is proud to be a member in good standing of the National Association of College Admissions Counseling and the Boston Independent School College Counseling Association.

The Path from the Hill

Freshman and Sophomore Years

Freshman and sophomore years are a period of time when we encourage our students to focus on the adjustment to high school and to set themselves up for success. It’s important for students to challenge themselves and to do well in their classes by developing strong study habits. We encourage most students to take one class in each of the core academic subjects (English, math, lab science, history, and world language) every year to give them plenty of options for the future. We also tell students to get to know their teachers and to get involved on campus, not because it will “look good to colleges” but because they have an authentic interest in a particular activity. We offer the PSAT test for sophomores if they want to take it, though we don’t require it until junior year.

Junior Year

Juniors at Walnut Hill take the PSAT in October and are assigned a college counselor midway through the year. Their college counselor will be their guide throughout the college/conservatory application process and will connect regularly with them about future plans and next steps. We use a system called Naviance to collect recommendation letters from faculty, make notes on the application process, and more. The process is very student-centered, and tailored to each student’s unique goals--whether the individual wants to pursue colleges, conservatories, companies, or gap years. We collaborate with the Humanities Department to offer essay-writing workshops, and we hold workshops throughout the spring on topics including the Common Application, résumé building, and creating an arts supplement. Students must take the SAT and/or ACT by the time they leave for the summer (some may also need to take SAT II exams), and students whose first language is not English must also take the TOEFL.

Senior Year

Seniors at Walnut Hill meet individually with their college counselor about once every three weeks to ensure success throughout the process. Each fall, the College Counseling Office hosts about 100 colleges, universities, conservatories, and gap year programs here on campus so that students can learn about the breadth of experiences available to them. Counselors work with the arts and academic faculty and communicate extensively with parents. Most students retake standardized tests in the fall, and many also have pre-screening requirements in advance of actual auditions. Auditions, trial lessons, portfolio reviews, and interviews take place, typically, beginning in December and last, sometimes, through the beginning of March. After all of the hard work of applying and auditioning is over, college counselors work with seniors to discuss their options and help them to make the best decision about life after Walnut Hill.

While at Walnut Hill, I was a ballet major and entirely committed to achieving my dream of making a career out of dancing. Little did I know that my plans would be sidelined due to chronic injuries that made ballet an unrealistic pursuit. It is because of Walnut Hill, and its emphasis on holistic creativity, artistry, learning, reasoning and human connection, that I was able to transition smoothly into an academic and life path focused on using dance as a means of empowerment and social change around the world. I wouldn’t be where I am today (currently at a music center in Ghana, West Africa!) if I hadn’t had the opportunity to learn and grow as an artist and person at Walnut Hill."

- Dana Vanderburgh '13

Nadine Abigana

Nadine Abigana

Associate Director of College Counseling
Roberta Benson Owen

Roberta Benson Owen

College Counseling Assistant
Sarah Lovely

Sarah Lovely

Director of College Counseling