Linda Santoro's 19-year-old daughter, Julie, had no idea what college to attend until she had Visions, a computer program, which helped her narrow her options.
Now she is a freshman at Hood College in Frederick, a small private school for women. Her mother says the schoolis perfect for Julie, though she never would have known without the Visions program used at Severna Park High School.
Visions is an interactive computer network that helps students find the right college or university, whether it be a local two-year school or a selective institution, to match their interests.
And at Severna Park High School, parent volunteers involve the entire familyin the selection process.
"At the bottom of every parent's heart is the question, 'What will my child do after graduation?' " Santoro said Saturday during a demonstration of Visions at a national convention of high school counselors in Baltimore.
Santoro, who has worked with Visions for the two years that it has been available, said parental involvement -- which she says is a "high-interest and high anxiety" endeavor -- has made the program successful at Severna Park.
The computer program, sponsored by the Maryland Occupational Information Coordinating Council, works by helping students narrow their choices of schools down to a reasonable number and introducing them to little-known schools.
After students feed a range of data, from their SAT scores to their outside interests, into the computer, the namesof compatible schools and information about them pops onto the screen. Before Visions, such information could take weeks or months to tabulate, and students were confronted with a confusing myriad of choices and financial aid packages.
"We're always thinking about ways toexpedite things," said Richard Chase, chairman of the guidance department at Severna Park High School. "We want to get information to thekids faster.
The program starts simply enough, asking for grade-point averages and test scores. Then it moves to questions such as thesize and type of community a student would like, how big a school, what type of dorm is desirable and questions about majors.
It asks students to rate each choice, then narrows down the list of colleges by region, printing a short list of schools that have everything the students want.
But while the program is available throughout Maryland, Santoro said she is concerned that not all schools are using it properly. In Severna Park, it is networked with the computer lab, andparent volunteers work with students during specified class periods.
Other schools, she said, simply have one or two computers hooked up and offer students little guidance.