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New Program Helps Students Navigate College Application Process

Riverhead guidance director Charles Gassar said new technology is a "spectacular achievement."

Getting into college just got easier, at least in the Riverhead Central School District.

At Tuesday's board of education meeting, guidance director Charles Gassar gave a demonstation of the Naviance program, which helps streamline the college application process and ensure students and guidance counselors keep track of critical deadlines.

Gassar, who gave an overview of the guidance department, said the Naviance program, which is in its first year in the Riverhead school district, is a "spectacular achievement for students and parents."

And the price is right: At a cost of approximately $1 per student, for $330, the whole senior class can avail themselves of the experience.

Naviance, Gassar said, is a web-based software program that allows guidance counselors to be in "real time synch" and enables students and parents to create profiles for college searches.

The paperless program, which Gassar said was instituted in the school district with a pilot program two years ago, keeps track of students' interests and accomplishments from the start of their high school career.

"We want them to build that resume," he said."It's a continuing process, not something they put together senior year."

The program allows students and parents to log on 24/7 and conduct college searches; students are able to input their specific top requirements for a college and see the college acceptance histories and inventories of previous students. They are also able to prioritize their college choices so that information is available at a glance.

In addition, students are able to fill out and send their college applications and supplemental documents electronically.

Gassar gave a demonstration of the program, which also provides scholarship information in one centralized location. "It's one-stop shopping for scholarships," Gassar said.

Teachers in the district, Gassar said, have been "fantastic" about embracing the new software. "It's made life easier on all levels," he said. "This has been a win-win for Riverhead."

In order to introduce students and parents to the software, Gassar said he and others met with current seniors last winter and tutored them on how to set up their accounts. Letters were sent out to parents, who were invited to attend presentations on Naviance.

Board of Education President Ann Cotten-DeGrasse said while she can see how the program is wonderful for highly motivated students, she wondered if a guidance counselor could use the system to track the progress of a less enthusiastic student.

Gassar explained that every week, a report is generated for guidance counselors to see how students are progressing and if a checklist of required tasks has not been completed in time by students.

Although the program is only in its first year, Gassar said the goal is to integrate the software into the high school experience so that by the time thye enter ninth grade, students have their Naviance accounts set up.

In other guidance news, Gassar said this year for the first time, a guidance counselor was dedicated solely to the ninth grade, to help students transition from middle school.

In addition, a new program allows students with an 85 average or higher to attend classes at Suffolk County Community College for credit; approximately 25 students participated in the program this year. The program is invaluable, Gassar said, because credits are available at a third of the normal cost to high school students.

Also of note, Gassar said Riverhead is one of the only schools locally to offer in-school PSAT exams; the test is given for free in school on a Wednesday, not a weekend, as in other districts; over 500 students participated this year.

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