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Archive for April, 2014

Thurgood Marshall Academy Ranked as the #3 High School in the District of Columbia by US News & World Report

April 23, 2014

Thurgood Marshall Academy was ranked as the #3 high school in the District of Columbia by US News & World Report. Ranked behind two admission only magnet schools, Thurgood Marshall Academy is the only charter school to be included on the ranking list in the District. The school is ranked 1,368 nationwide. Us News & World Report ranks schools based on academic indicators including college readiness; reading and math proficiency; and student-teacher ratio.

Thurgood Marshall Academy’s US News & World Report profile is located here

A full list of the best high schools in the District of Columbia is located here

Journey to College Acceptance: The Waiting Game is Over!

For this week’s installment of our series “Journey to College Acceptance,” we checked in with senior Stewart Gray to hear about his latest college acceptances and his progress towards making the daunting decision of choosing a college to attend next fall.

In the fall and winter, Stewart applied to a total of 19 different colleges: University of California (UC) – Berkeley, UC-Irvine, UC-San Diego, UC-Santa Barbra, Carnegie Mellon University, Cornell University, University of the District of Columbia, Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Harvey Mudd College, University of Maryland – College Park, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, Pomona College, Rice University, University of Southern California, Stanford University, University of Texas – Austin, and Yale University.

So far, Stewart has been accepted to 13 of the schools to which he applied, including Yale University, Stanford University, and Northwestern University, with waitlist placements at Harvard University and Harvey Mudd College.

Here, Stewart reflects on his college acceptances, and shares some of the criteria he’s looking at to make his final decision.

Which college are you most surprised at gaining acceptance?

I am surprised by all of them as they are among the top institutions in the country and the world. In particular, Stanford had a 5% acceptance rate – the most selective of academic institutions in the US, and Yale had one of the lowest acceptances within the Ivy League!

Do you have a top choice among the schools that have accepted you?

Making a decision of which school to attend has been a little stressful considering the pressure I’ve received from others, but it’s a good decision to be making! I am currently leaning towards Stanford, but I like to believe that college is what one makes it, therefore making it improbable to make the wrong choice.

What factors are you looking to help you determine your decision?

I am trying to gain as much information about both schools before making a decision. Location is a factor for two reasons: opportunities and distance. San Francisco is a little over an hour from Palo Alto, and New York is also a train ride away from New Haven – so they are equal in that regard. However, I’m not sure if I will have the financial means to travel from California to DC or Maryland more than once a year. By comparison, train tickets to and from Connecticut are cheaper.

Congratulations Stewart Gray! You have not only made the Thurgood Marshall Academy family extremely proud, but your family and yourself. Continue to inspire your fellow students and your community!

Journey to College Acceptance: Interview with Mr. Sanjay Mitchell, Director of College and Alumni Programs at Thurgood Marshall Academy

For the second installment of our series, Journey to College Acceptance, we talked with Mr. Sanjay Mitchell, the Director of College and Alumni Programs at Thurgood Marshall Academy, to gain his perspective on the current college landscape. We will be talking with Mr. Mitchell about what students should look for in a college or university; challenges they may face in the research and application process; and his own personal thoughts on where Stewart Gray should attend in this fall. For students and parents, keep this advice in mind and share with any friends or family members who are currently involved in this process!

SUNY Albany alumni Mr. Mitchell representing his alma mater!

How long have you worked at TMA in your current role?

I have worked at TMA since the beginning of the 2009 school year. I chose to work at TMA after spending five years in the Undergraduate Admissions; I wanted to work more directly with students. Admissions provided me the vehicle to really assist students with their dreams of getting into college, but working on this end really gave me the opportunity to work more directly with students from earlier on to ensure their college and future success.

What are the challenges that minority and/or low income students need to be aware of when applying for colleges?

Money! Money will be the biggest challenge this population needs to overcome. Although there are many fee waivers available for things like application fees, testing registrations, score reports, etc., you only receive a few. For example: students only receive two SAT fee waivers, and will only be able to send free electronic score reports to four colleges. So if you are planning to apply to more than four schools, be prepared to pay around $12 for each school after the initial four.

If you decide to take the ACT, you have to know the schools you are planning to send your scores to at the time of the test to receive the free score reports submission.

You also have to be aware of the admission deposit fees, which can range anywhere from $0 to $850 depending on the school. Many schools and programs can help defray most of the cost, but you also have to prepare and have a contingency plan in place for those scenarios where you are unable to receive a waiver.

What makes TMA’s college counseling different than other schools?

What really makes us different is that we have invested in a college counselor. It is important to note that as the college counselor, my primary focus is college counseling, not discipline, not scheduling, not testing, but primarily college counseling access and information. I am also on staff here, so teachers, administrators, and family can access me as they would any other staff member in the building.

Also, we have a senior seminar college which pretty much makes the entire college and financial aid application process a part of the senior curriculum. Seniors have full time access to the college counselor and learn to develop and build relationship with the college counselor through these classes.

I should also say that everyone is invested in the college going culture here at TMA. It is exemplified through our aesthetics, our classroom structure, and our projects and grading requirements; it is part of our culture.

What do you look for in a college from the perspective of an adviser?

From my perspective, I look for a college that will have an open and welcoming environment for my students. I want to ensure that students are going to be successful and this is demonstrated through the types of support services they offer to students of color and first generation students. I look for the success rate for students of color, demonstrated by statistics such as graduation rates or job placement. Anecdotally, I look to see if students generally happy to be a part of their community. I also am focused on how committed a college or university to providing financial assistance to students as well.

What are the top 5 things you tell seniors to look for in making a decision regarding where to apply and which school they should choose?

The top 5 things that I tell the seniors to look for are, in no particular order:

1. Fit – Is this school a good fit for you? Is it where you would like to live for the next 4 years?

2. Academic Qualifications – I encourage students to challenge themselves by applying to schools that are above your GPA & SAT ranges, but do so within reasons. However, don’t set yourself up for failure by applying to schools that may be too far above your academic rigor. On the other hand, don’t fill your application list with all schools that you have far superseded the academic requirements. Challenge yourself, but also be reasonable with that challenge.

3. Financial Aid (once admitted, not before) – can you afford to attend for four years. Remember, the cost of attendance is not just one year; you have to factor in what it will look like all four years of study. If you are comfortable with the financial package offered then go for it, but if you have reservations/hesitations, then I recommend that the school be on your short list.

4. Location – Although most students will say that they do not care where they attend school, many will go away and realize that New York is too far away from home in Washington, DC or Maryland is too close to Washington, DC so they either get home sick or spend their days and time day dreaming about being farther away from home. Therefore, I encourage students to really know where they would like to go and assess how they felt being away from home for a summer program or vacations, etc. This will help in ensuring that a student has a great college experience.

5. Major/Career interests – this usually stays low in my top 5, but is still important to consider. Students change their majors on average 3 times before graduating college, so it is not necessary to be wedded to any particular college based on your major or program of interests. Of course, if you are steadfast and committed to that major, then this should be important in considering a school, but if you can be easily swayed into something else, then it is best to choose a college that has a wide variety of majors and programs that you can choose from or allows you to enjoy them all.

What is it about Stewart Gray that you think will lead him to be successful?

The buzz word going around is grit. Stewart has grit, he is steadfast, curious, ambitious, and as cliché as it sounds, he works hard. He is very diligent and he is constantly in competition with himself. Stewart would take the time to write a strong personal statement or essay and it would be spectacular; however, Stewart would not just rest on this, he would still take the time to rewrite and edit always trying to make sure that he presents himself well and puts his best foot forward. In my opinion, those are the keys to success; the ability to always want to strive to be better than the person you were a day, a week, or even a year ago.

Out of the top schools Stewart applied to, do you secretly have a favorite one in mind that will best suit him? Why?

My standard counselor response is: I want Stewart to go to a school that would be the best fit for him and a school that will allow him to grow intellectually, compliment his unique talents, and provide a superb college experience. My off the record response would be either Stanford University or Yale University – Stanford because he has already identified this as the ideal campus life for him since he participated in a college program the summer before his senior year and Yale, well, because I think he would fit in well and it would be an excellent preparation for life.

Students are sure to be anxious and nervous while waiting to hear back about college acceptances. What advice would you give to help calm their nerves?

At this time, you have done all that you can do and provided all the information you can possibly provide in order to have a full evaluation of your application. Remain confident and optimistic that you will get into a college, so don’t be disappointed about not hearing a decision as of yet. Furthermore, you will get into the college that is best suited for you. Just have faith and hold on.

Senior Stewart Gray Accepted Yale, Stanford Universities

March 31, 2014 (WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School celebrated the news that senior Stewart Gray was accepted to Yale University, the first Ivy League acceptance for a student in the school’s thirteen year history.

Stewart also received acceptance letters from several schools, including Stanford University, Rice University, Pomona College and Northwestern University. “I’m very surprised about the good news,” says Stewart. “Now, I have thirty days to weigh the pros and cons of each and make my final decision.”

Stewart, who is the valedictorian of the Class of 2014, is also a finalist for the Gates Millennium Scholarship, a last dollar award that will follow him throughout his undergraduate, graduate, and professional school studies. “We couldn’t be prouder of Stewart,” said Emma Levine, Thurgood Marshall Academy’s Alumni Program Manager. “He has demonstrated that despite remarkable odds against him, college is obtainable, the Ivy League is a reality, and no dream is too big.”

Executive Director Alexandra Pardo, notes that “Stewart’s last four years of hard work show all students at Thurgood Marshall Academy just how much work ethic and perseverance can pay off.” His acceptance also continues Thurgood Marshall Academy’s tradition of 100% college acceptance for the ninth consecutive year.

Thurgood Marshall Academy students come from roughly 60 different middle schools mostly in wards 7 and 8. They enter the 9th grade with math and reading skills at the 5th and 6th grade level. Yet by the time they graduate from TMA, they have all been accepted to colleges and universities, and 65% graduate college within five years.

This is the largest senior class to date, with 82 students. Each senior takes a Senior Seminar course, led by the school’s full-time, on-site college counseling staff, to guide them through the college acceptance process.

“Thurgood Marshall Academy students continually raise the bar of excellence for Southeast Washington,” said Sanjay Mitchell, Director of College and Alumni Support. “Our students are changing the mindset of how competitive schools view students of color, especially those living in ward 8.”