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Bell ringing marks college acceptance at Aspen High School

Apr 2, 2015

Books on the college search line counselor Kathy Klug's shelves. She works with Aspen High School students on choosing the right school.
Credit Marci Krivonen

Students at Aspen High School are ringing a bell in the school commons quite often this spring. The ringing signals the next step in the student’s journey toward college. As Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen reports, the tradition was started by college counselor Kathy Klug.

This is the week students begin to hear from the schools they applied to, according to college counselor Kathy Klug. When it’s good news, the students ring the silver bell near Klug’s office.

"You hear it throughout the school," she says. "This is the celebratory bell. When kids apply to college we want to send out the best with their application, and so we send out our wishes and this is symbolic of that sending. And then when they get in, they ring the bell in celebration."

High School senior Isabella Courtenay Morris rings the bell near the college counselor's office at Aspen High School. She's hoping to go to Brown University.
Credit Marci Krivonen

High school senior Isabella Courtenay Morris  says it’s a stressful time.

"Definitely everyone was on edge, especially this past week because all of the colleges were sending out their admission letters. There were some tears shed, good and bad."

She’s more relaxed after receiving acceptance letters from six schools. Still, she hasn’t heard from her favorite.

"I’ve always loved Brown University and I’ve always wanted to go there. That’s my dream school."

She wants to study journalism or foreign affairs. She’s a desirable applicant. She competes in three sports, volunteers with The Buddy Program, holds a 4.34 grade point average, and…

"I’m also an eighth grade girls mentor, so I help the girls who are coming from eighth grade and transitioning into high school."

Reporter: "Those are things that schools value when they’re looking for new students?"

Courtenay Morris: "I guess so. It’s worked so far."

College counselor Kathy Klug says it’s increasingly challenging for students to gain admission to schools.

"In Colorado, our own state university and flagship, the University of Colorado Boulder, you have to have a 3.5 (grade point avg.) and a 25 on a test out of 36 to be admitted. That’s their median, their average. So, everything’s competitive."

Klug and her colleagues developed a program to better equip students for the college search. It’s called “Discovery” class and every eleventh grader takes it. It’s about self discovery.

"What makes me tick and what motivates me? What makes me fulfilled as a scholar, athlete and as a person? And, how do I contribute? The kids translate that into how will I contribute."

The idea is to get the kids to articulate what they’d like in their future and then pinpoint which colleges will get them there.

"For 18 weeks they take this class and they get from ‘I don’t know’ to ‘I’m pretty clear on two or three things that have to be on my campus.’ It empowers the students to make this decision," says Klug.

Inside Klug’s office, high school senior Connor Peirce is seated between Klug and his mother.

Peirce is dressed for lacrosse practice. He just discovered he’s been accepted to Loyola Marymount University but he’s unsure whether it’s the right choice.

"I have no idea. It’s between Loyola Marymount, Chapman and the University of San Diego," he says.

...all California schools.

"I really like the beach and they all have great club lacrosse and hockey teams and great philosophy programs."

He will travel to the schools for campus tours before making a selection.

Unlike many schools, most high school seniors at Aspen High head to college, usually more than 90 percent of the senior class. Klug says its due, in part, to the Discovery class.

"We believe that with the class and empowering them, they see the future differently than other kids who have never been exposed to it."

There isn’t a state requirement that all schools have college counselors. In small rural schools, classroom teachers are often the ones helping with college and scholarship applications. Klug says she’s working on taking the Discovery program beyond Aspen.