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College Application 101: Trumbull High Offers Guidance To Parents, Students

School Superintendent Gary Cialfi hosts a forum at Trumbull High School
School Superintendent Gary Cialfi hosts a forum at Trumbull High School Photo Credit: Contributed

TRUMBULL, Conn. — School Superintendent Gary Cialfi hosted a forum for Trumbull High School students and their parents last week to help them better understand what colleges seek in their incoming students.

Eight students were presenters — four recent THS graduates and four seniors.

All said Trumbull High is a great academic resource, and all took advantage of and applaud its wide range of extra-curricular activities — including athletics, student government, music, and programs and course-related “extras” such as We The People and Model UN.

Tom Tesoro, vice president for human resources at Standard Auto Parts — and Trumbull’s “First Man” — led off, offering a summary of what employers want in workers.

His company scans a resume for 30 seconds, looking for three skills: the ability to work well on a team, to communicate clearly, and to think critically and solve problems, Tesoro said. An applicant’s grades are more important than where he earned them: “Did you apply yourself?” he said.

Robert Hannafin, dean of the Graduate School of Education at Fairfield University, “demystified what colleges are looking for,” citing five essential attributes — curiosity, well-roundedness, an interest in social justice, a comfort with ambiguity, and a soul — a “self-awareness.” And he underscored the importance of being able to write clearly, critically and creatively.

Eric August, a Trumbull High social studies teacher, introduced Kathy O’Brien, the lone parent on the panel.

She has one student in college and another at THS. She termed the guidance counselors “tremendous assets,” and encouraged parents to create a calendar of events to make certain they are prepared for each task in the long college application process.

The recent graduates talked about their choices. One has given up her dream of being an astronaut and is committed to giving back through Air Force ROTC and civil engineering. Two are contemplating the law or government as a career, with one saying she has a “passion for advocacy and justice” that she discovered as a THS junior. The fourth, who is studying molecular and cell biology, is a typical freshman, engaged in the here and now while harboring uncertainty about post-college plans.

August introduced the Guidance Department administrators to parents. Chairwoman Cathy Hilser talked about their focus on helping “launch students on their next step,” and encouraged parents to keep posted on events important to students who are applying to college.

Among the current Trumbull High students, all seniors, one has been involved in politics “for as long as I can remember,” and will pursue that as a career.

A second has a similar interest, and sees the law as his career. The third, probably like many in her class, seemed uncertain, with environmental engineering and law school among her interests.

The fourth was uniquely focused: He captained THS’s lacrosse team and plans to attend a college where he can continue to play. He has also enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserves and will leave school early for boot camp.

The Trumbull Board of Education, Trumbull Business-Education Initiative and Trumbull Academic Challenge for Excellence Foundation sponsored the evening of College Application 101.

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