High School Placement Counselor Sean Mosconi
In addition to serving as Sixth Grade English and Social Studies Teacher, for the past three years Sean Mosconi has deftly guided CAIS middle schoolers through the intense high school search process in the Bay Area and beyond, upholding our enviable tradition of fantastic high school placements. As Middle School Head Joe Williamson explains, “The process of selecting and applying to private day and boarding high schools can be a somewhat stressful experience for many families. Sean Mosconi’s experience and his calm, thoughtful approach have proven invaluable in guiding families through this process and emerging on the other side with their CAIS graduate enrolled in a high school that is truly a ‘best fit.’” While Mr. Mosconi is usually the one guiding students on how to navigate the questions in the application process, he graciously obliged as we turned the tables for a quick Q&A.
Q: What advice do you give families about how to discern a student’s “best fit” school?
A: There are many factors for families to consider when determining the potential “best fit” for their child’s high school future. In order to begin the process of thinking about the best fit, I meet with each family during the summer following 7th grade. During our meeting, I ask both the parents and students a series of questions about their academic experiences, including but not limited to, academic hopes, extracurricular interests, the type of learning environment they thrive in, and interest in continuing the Chinese language. Many 7th grade students have yet to think about what school may look like after CAIS and this is a wonderful opportunity to begin that process. From there, students are given a homework assignment—exploring potential schools by visiting their websites, looking at their curricular and extracurricular offerings, and visiting their campuses. My main advice while working through this process is for students to consider the type of environment where they have felt successful in the past as well as what type of community they would thrive in. While each Bay Area Independent High School (BAIHS) and Boarding School will offer a fantastic academic program, each is unique in its own way.
Q: What is some of the best advice that you’ve heard coming out of the Mock Interviews that parent volunteers conduct with our eighth graders each year?
A: If I were to choose one aspect of applying to high school that I would deem most challenging, I think interviewing would top my list. For most students, it is unnatural and uncomfortable. Some of the best advice that our parents shared with our students is that posture and body language make a difference. Practice making eye contact with adults when you have casual conversations! Another piece of advice that is frequently given is to practice the “humblebrag”—thinking about how to highlight your strengths in a confident way that doesn’t feel boastful.
Q: What is your own favorite high school memory and do you draw on your experiences with any anecdotes to frame for students what to expect?
A: Transitioning from middle school to high school is a huge step in the eyes of a 14 year old. A few things stood out to me as I made my transition. First, the amount of opportunities to try new things. For example, new classes, clubs, and sports teams. Second was meeting new people, and not just from my school! I grew up in the East Bay and one of my best friends from middle school ended up going to Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco. I remember throughout high school being introduced to his friend group and becoming really close with many of them. Some of them are my closest friends to this day! One thing that I like to remind the 8th grade students as notification and decision day approach, is that even though they may be going to a different school than their friends, their friendships do not have to end. Not only are they going to have the opportunity to meet a broad and diverse group of friends at their new high school, they are also going to be introduced to other high school students throughout the Bay Area.
Q: While each of the Core Values—Curiosity, Courage, Inclusion, Kindness, Perseverance—has a part to play in the high school search process, which Firedragon should be students’ Patronus (in Harry Potter parlance) throughout the process?
A: Each core value has an important role to play in the high school process, but the one that feels most prevalent is Courage. To many of our students CAIS has been their educational home for over eight years! The thought of attending a new school, with new classmates and a new campus can be overwhelming. Plus, as Middle School Head Joe Williamson likes to say, the size of their 9th grade high school class may be bigger than the entire population of the middle school! Beyond that, it is a time when students are put into positions of needing to take risks. They have to expose parts of themselves in applications, interviews, and essays that they may not discuss outside of their friend group or family. It takes an incredible amount of courage to apply to BAIHS and Boarding Schools.