Summer school for A students

At high-achieving New Trier High on Chicago’s North Shore, top students take required classes in summer school, so they can make time for electives and Advanced Placement courses in the regular school year, buffing their transcripts for ultra-competitive colleges.

“One of the questions the colleges ask us is, ‘Has the student taken the strongest program available?’ ” said James Conroy, a post-high school counselor at New Trier. “And that’s a question you need to answer. Summer school has become part of this constant positioning. It’s a treadmill you’re on and if you don’t do what everyone else does, you’ll be left behind. At least that’s the perception.”

Of course, New Trier’s never been a mellow place. When I went to Highland Park High, New Trier was our arch-rival. We always said New Trier had more suicides.

While students sweat to qualify for top colleges, mid-rank schools are wooing guidance counselors with ski trips and facials, reports the New York Times. Victor L. Davolt, admissions director at Regis University in Denver, is a gracious host to high school guidance counselors.

He flies them in from around the country to meet the faculty, review the curriculum and, well, go skiing on the world-famous slopes of Vail, try snowmobiling or spend some time at a spa getting a facial or massage — all courtesy of the university, of course.

Counselors also get tickets to a professional hockey game and rooms at a luxury hotel. The hope is they’ll encourage more of their students to apply to the university.

About Joanne


  1. What’s wrong with facials and skiing? My high school’s guidance councilor smoked pot with the students and spouted Shakespeare in iambic pentameter in psychology class.

  2. Oh yeah. Forgot to mention that I think the position of guidance councilor is useless…

  3. lindenen says:

    I did that back in high school. Lots of people did it. I took gym during the summer, so that I could do Spanish and Latin. I even took Latin II during the summer so I could get to the higher levels. I loved Latin.

  4. Richard Brandshaft says:

    “What’s wrong with facials and skiing?” Nothing. But in these circumstances, it’s called “bribery.” It raises a fuss when a defense contractor does something similar for a General. (It would raise even more of a fuss if the General got a facial. Just thought I’d throw that in before someone else did.)

    Sometimes there is a fine line between business curtsey and bribery. This is well over the line.

    I remember one meeting between defense contractor employees (of which I was one at the time) and Air Force people. The meeting ran over lunch, so the company had a buffet of salads bought in. Sheepishly, the company rep explained that they had to charge the Air Force people a few dollars for lunch. My first thought was that it was silly. My second thought was that it was the right thing to do. There is always trouble drawing the line. In this case, it’s better draw it firmly on the white side of the gray area.

  5. Michael says:

    The position of guidance counselor isn’t useless, but I can think of some guidance counselors who are.

  6. Whenever I hear them mentioned, I immediately think of Matt Groening’s School is Hell: “Hey, if you know so much about great schools, great jobs, and how to get ahead and be succesful, why the hell did you wind up becoming a HIGH SCHOOL GUIDANCE COUNSELOR?!”


  1. Not much has changed

    Joanne Jacobs references a NYT article about my high school. I remember taking Chemistry in summer school, and the only thing that I remember from it was Avogadro’s number — six point two three times ten to the negative twenty third.