National Survey on Student Engagement

Palo Alto High School's Sandra Cernobori is our Counselor of the Month


College Advisor Sandra Cernobori was sitting at her desk in the College and Career Center of Palo Alto High School in Palo Alto, California, when a parent came in to talk to one of her colleagues. She was not a parent at the school, but had some questions about college admission. A few minutes into the conversation, the visitor said to Cernobori’s fellow advisor, “Let me go get my son, I want him to hear this.” Whereupon she brought into the office her 18-month-old child. Yes, you read that correctly, her 18-month-old child.

Welcome to the world of college advising in the heart of Silicon Valley where the college learning curve -- and the pressure -- starts early for some.  Founded in 1894, Palo Alto High School, known as Paly, is nationally known for its academically rigorous environment. Its campus, which serves more than 1900 students, sits across the street from Stanford University. “Our students are often from families that are highly educated or highly value education, so expectations are high,” says Cernobori. “But we also have families where the parents have not attended four-year colleges.”

How Do College Students Learn?

One of the most important things to evaluate about prospective schools is their academic life. After all, you will be spending a lot of time in the classrooms of the college where you eventually enroll. There are lots of ways to do this: you can investigate majors, sit in on classes, check out the faculty on, and even arrange meetings with teachers while you're visiting campus.  Another research tool for applicants is the National Survey on Student Engagement, a survey of students at hundreds of colleges that examines their participation in the classroom and academic life -- including how many hours a week they study, whether or not they participate in internships, and even how many books a year they read and whether they contribute to classroom discussions.  The results are provided to the participating colleges, which may or may not publish them. But check and see if the colleges to which you're applying make their results available. It's a great way to see if that school is a good fit for how you learn. The 2011 NSSE Survey is now available.