Recent grads seek community, comfort at college


Malka Himelhoch, a recent graduate of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville will attend Princeton University in the fall.

Why did she set her sights on the Ivy League? Princeton “had the Jewish community that felt the most comfortable,” she says.

Tali Kosowsky, who just graduated from the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in Rockville, chose the University of Maryland at College Park for the same reason: “the amazing Jewish community.”

For students at the area’s two largest coed Jewish day schools, Jewish community is very important in the college search. Michelle Jacobs, director of college counseling at Berman, says that her students are looking for “campuses they can identify with religiously.”

But what other factors are important to these students in choosing a school?

Susan Rexford, director of college guidance at CESJDS, says that students are looking for a school that is “a fit on many different levels. The academic fit has to be first,” she explains, but students also need to find a place where they fit socially. “I think that’s where the Jewish piece comes in with our students.”

Many students see the campus Jewish community as a “connecting point” and it’s important to find a place where “the level of observance is comfortable for them,” Rexford says.

Although academics and social are generally the top priorities, there are other elements that influence the decision such as cost and distance from home, according to Rexford.

Jacobs agrees and said that her priority at Berman is “helping students get into the colleges that are most appropriate for them.”

CESJDS had 18 acceptances to the top 15 schools in the country, as ranked by U.S News & World Report. Berman had six.  The two day schools had graduating classes of 79 and 45 respectively.

Rexford says, “There is always a certain number of our students who want to apply and will be competitive at the top schools in our country,” in the same way that there are always students who want to go to sports schools or small schools.

Himelhoch, who is heading to Princeton, said that although it’s “really fun” to be going to an Ivy League school, she chose Princeton “because it had everything I was looking for.”

Berman is sending 24 students to University of Maryland at College Park and CESJDS is sending 21 graduates there.

Typically, between 20 and 25 percent of a CESJDS class attends U-Md. and that trend holds up this year. More than half of Berman’s class of 2016 will attend College Park. Jacobs says U-Md. is “more popular than ever because of its location, breadth of degree programs, cost and religious community.”

Kosowsky, who will attend U-Md., thinks such a high number chose the school because “it’s so close” to home and most students have “friends and family who had very positive experiences there.”

The average Berman student applies to three or four schools and the average CESJDS student applies to between and eight, according to the day schools; Berman students were accepted to 28 schools and CESJDS students were accepted to 97 schools; CESJDS students will be attending 40 different schools in the fall and Berman students will be attending 13.

Wherever they are headed, students in the class of 2016 have many opportunities in store. Kosowsky is “excited to be in a big college with so many opportunities” and Himelhoch is looking forward to meeting “new interesting people” who are “passionate about the same things that I am.”

Rana Bickel is WJW intern.



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