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Swampscott High students ringing in the new year with high early admissions to college

Swampscott High School students are getting an early jump on the college admissions process.

As of Jan. 10, 153 out of 171 students applied to at least one school, according to Emily Zotto Barnum, director of the high school’s guidance department. Nearly 55 percent of those students applied for early action, which allows them to hear back from colleges before the holidays, and 15 percent applied for early decision, which has them committed to a school by December, regardless of the financial package coming their way.

“This is a very strong senior class but we also start this process very early on,” said Barnum. “The college admission process is like having another class unto itself. It can be very stressful and is a very prevalent conversation around here. The balance is the biggest challenge and being prepared early on is the best solution.”

Barnum, who has been at the high school for a decade, said the numbers are very high this year, especially with students who applied for early action. In recent years the average was closer to 40 percent, instead of the current 55 percent, she said.

In the Swampscott senior class, 80 percent of students are planning to attend a four-year school, 10 percent are planning on going to a two-year school, and a small percentage are planning on deferring for a year, said Barnum. For the 2016-2017 school year, 38 percent of public school students statewide attended a four-year college or university, according to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“With many teenagers, the thought of college or secondary education seems abstract until senior year hits and they have to deal with it all at once,” said Barnum.

Swampscott senior Kyle Lenihan said the common application bootcamps his high school held from summer to fall made applying for early decision to Syracuse University a breeze. The soon-to-be architecture major said starting early helped him get a sense of what he wanted to do.

“I’m going to the university I’ve been wanting to go to for a long time and I feel relaxed already having these set plans,” said Lenihan. “I’m really proud of the way my high school handled it so early on. I have less stress now.”

Fellow senior Harrison Katz applied for early action to Stanford University. Starting the process early not only encouraged him to spend more time on his applications but also ensured he had two rounds of admissions — early action and general admissions, which usually have a deadline sometime in January, depending on the school.

“If your early choices don’t work out, you’ve got time to re-evaluate and create better applications for regular decision,” said Katz. “Mrs. Barnum was really helpful to me throughout the college application process and over the course of my four years at Swampscott High School. I know it probably seems obvious, but the best resource for applying to college is your guidance counselor, and a lot of people forget that.”

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