Maine South graduates are most likely college-bound
Updated: July 8, 2012 8:30AM
Leia Asimacopoulous has her path to higher education clearly marked following her graduation from Maine South High School in Park Ridge.
“I’m going to double-major in math and physics, and minor in Asian languages and literature, focusing on Chinese and Arabic,” the Loyola University-bound student said as she prepared to take part in Maine South’s Senior Honors program May 30. “After that, I’ll hopefully be getting a Ph.D. in astrophysics.”
Setting ambitious goals is not unusual among Maine South’s student body. And pursuing a higher education after high school is practically a given.
According to Stephanie Maksymiu, Maine South’s college and career counselor, 92 percent of the class of 2011 planned to attend college after graduation. Though numbers are not final for the class of 2012, Maksymiu’s estimate based on surveys answered by students puts the percentage at about 91 percent.
Maine Township High School District 207’s 2010 Graduate Report, which includes the latest data available for all three high schools, states that the district’s college-bound rate was 88 percent for the class of 2010. Maine East High School’s college attendance rate in 2010 was 75 percent; and Maine West High School’s rate of college-bound seniors was 88 percent.
In 2010 the national average of high-school graduates attending college was 68 percent, according to the district.
Maine South’s graduation rate remains the highest in the district and was 93 percent in 2011, according to the Illinois State Report Card.
For Maine South senior Patrick Wohl, who is looking forward to attending George Washington University in Washington, D.C., the fact that a majority of his peers are choosing to continue their education after high school is “a testament to how well Maine South prepares us, especially this year. I think our class succeeded in getting into a lot of good schools.”
According to survey results printed in the school newspaper, Southwords, the college to be attended by the largest number of Maine South 2012 seniors is Oakton Community College, followed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Loyola University, DePaul University and Illinois State University.
Students plan to attend schools in 27 other states, as well, with two students headed to Harvard, one to Yale and one to Princeton.
For graduate Erin Bauer, who plans to major in English with an emphasis on creative writing at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, Maine South places clear expectations upon students for what they should be doing after high school.
“I think there’s a very high expectation to go on to a well-known university or college,” she said. “It’s really expressed a lot through the teachers’ questions, and your expectations of yourself and others, of where you’ll be going (to college).”
Austin Bryniarski, who will be attending Yale University in the fall, said Maine South students have consistently set a high bar in terms of higher education that others feel the need to meet.
“Because of the great opportunities we are given in both academics and extracurriculars, we really have the opportunity to be successful,” he said.
“I think we value the higher education that college offers, but I don’t think we’re pressured,” added Cassandra Doody, who will be attending Drake University in Des Moines in the fall.
District 207 Superintendent Ken Wallace said furthering one’s education is a district-wide expectation, but even more so among Maine South families.
“I think it’s a community expectation, from parents across the community, that their children go to college,” Wallace said. “I think the kids grow up knowing that’s the normal progression that happens.”
There is also a “global pattern” of college attendance rates rising during the past three to four decades, Wallace added.
Trends show that Maine South’s college attendance rate steadily increased between 1998 and 2005 before declining slightly and then rising again between 2009 and 2010. The rate of students choosing college did not dip below 90 percent during that time, though it has decreased about 6 percent since 2010.
“To me, our students’ post-high-school plans have remained very consistent, especially in the numbers of students who attend two-year colleges,” Maksymiu said.
But in 2011 something new happened: There was a drop in the number of students heading straight for four-year colleges as more chose the two-year-college route instead. Data shows that nearly 71 percent of the class of 2011 indicated plans to attend a four-year school, a 5-percent decrease from the previous year.
“In my opinion, the drop in four-year college was inevitable because the issues facing our economy didn’t get resolved,” Maksymiu said. “I expect that our numbers of students attending two-year schools will remain constant because a good number of students who used to attend the four-year schools will probably now start at our community colleges and transfer later.”
Maksymiu believes the poor economy “is making college more difficult.”
“I have had many more parents and students come to speak to me about community and college scholarships, merit scholarships and financial aid,” she said.
Still, many students at Maine South continue to attend college out-of-state and, sometimes, in other countries. James Thompson is one member of the class of 2012 who is going abroad to further his education. He will be attending the University of Leeds in England, a British school on par with American Ivy League universities where he plans to study aerospace engineering.
Thompson has found that Maine South’s faculty clearly encourages students to attend four-year universities after graduation.
“In a way they over-prepare you,” he said, explaining that advanced-placement courses are stressed and educators “always want you to be in the most-challenging course possible.”
Wallace believes District 207, through college and career counselors who work closely with students, excels in helping students explore multiple paths once they get to college.
“We think our students are prepared to go and succeed in multiple ways at college, whether they know what they want to do or are still figuring out what they want to do,” he said.
And though Park Ridge’s affluence may play a role in its high college-attendance rate, for Wallace it is more about what the schools offer students.
“We’re really helping students dream and reach the dream in terms of what they want to do and where they want to be in the future,” he said.
“As a school community we do share the goal of wanting to make sure every student who wants to attend college has access to that option,” she said.
Up next for District 207 is determining how many students actually complete college once they get there and how many change colleges or universities. The district has entered into an agreement with a national organization that keeps records of college enrollment across the country.