Principal guides students toward college choices
Oct. 14, 2004
David Anderson
Staff Writer

While many high schools employ a counselor for students preparing their college applications, Beddow High School's tiny size requires administrators to don second hats as college counselors.

Trudy Beddow is principal of the private Accokeek high school bearing her name, which has 40 students in grades seven through 12. Beddow and Pat Gryce, the school's administrative assistant, shepherd juniors and seniors through the process of taking SATs, filling out college applications, writing essays and the rest of the many application tasks.

"All of our students who graduate so far have gotten into the school of their choice, although not necessarily my choice," Beddow said Tuesday.

The high school has a 100 percent graduation rate.

Beddow has known many of the students since they started at age two in her Montessori schools. In addition to the Accokeek high school, she operates elementary schools in Fort Washington and Waldorf.

On Tuesday afternoon, members of the junior class -- all nine students -- spoke about their progress thus far. There is no senior class this year. All nine juniors said they want to attend college and are confident about getting in.

"It's not worrying about whether we get into college, but whether we get into the college we want," said Terri Nicely, 16, of Fort Washington.

One student had already taken the SAT; others will take it in early November and December. Some students have also visited schools such as Cornell and Howard universities.

Beddow said the teens must complete a standard "non-sectarian, college preparatory" curriculum.

The curriculum includes five "major" courses: math, English, lab science, history and foreign languages. There are also "minor" courses such as journalism, creative writing, art, drama and physical education.

"College is going to be a breeze after this," said Joseph Flowers, 16, of Oxon Hill.

Beddow said she works to ease students' fears over the importance of SAT scores, and emphasizes getting good grades and writing a stellar application essay.

"You have to reveal yourself in the essay, not just say, 'I'm a good kid,'" she told the juniors. "By illuminating examples from your life you reveal your character, and that's what colleges look for."

Beddow guides the students through each stage of writing the essay.

She also reviews applications before students mail them, and counsels them on choosing a college that matches their academic skills and their parents' finances.

"[Students] know what's expected of them, and they do rise to meet the challenge," Beddow said.

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