How CA takes the stress out of college applications

Mona and John Ferrugia sent both their sons to Colorado Academy. Jonathan Ferrugia graduated in 2004, and Justin Ferrugia graduated in 2019. Recently, Mona Ferrugia reflected on the process of choosing a college at CA—twice—over a period of 15 years. 

The Ferrugia family at Justin’s Commencement Dinner, June 2019

You have had a long journey at CA!

Yes, our first son, Jonathan, came to CA in the Ninth Grade, transferring from Ricks Center for Gifted Children. In March of Jonathan’s Freshman year at CA, our second son, Justin, was born, so I was driving my teenage son to high school with a baby in a car seat! (Laughing) When Jonathan applied to college, the opening line of his essay was “I am a recovering only child.” At that point he had a three-year-old little brother!

When did Justin come to CA?

Justin started at Bromwell, our local public elementary school, but we knew we wanted to come back to CA because of the wonderful experience we had with Jonathan, so by the Fifth Grade, he changed schools.

Why were you so committed to CA?

We already knew that CA was a fantastic school, and Justin would get an excellent education. But one of the most important factors was the knowledge that, at the end of the road at CA, he would be guided by the counselors in the College Office. We had been through that process with Jonathan, and we had learned so much.

What had you learned?

First off, we were just relieved that CA had college counseling resources on campus, because we were overwhelmed by the task of choosing a college. It was confusing, nerve-wracking, stressful, and we didn’t even know how to begin, much less finish successfully. We had also heard many stories about the challenges of hiring outside consultants, and that worried us.

When it came time to apply to colleges, Jonathan met with his CA counselor, who helped him focus on who he is, reflect on his values, and create a list of colleges that could be a good fit for him. We are both graduates of University of Missouri in Columbia, near our hometown. CA’s college counselors helped Jonathan realize his potential to attend schools we had not even considered.

What did that tell you?

It told us that the counselor really knew Jonathan well—maybe better than we did! With her extensive experience, she suggested those colleges to him, because she knew they were in the range of the possible. We started to breathe out and trust CA’s college process, because the school was just as invested in Jonathan’s success as we were.

What was your experience when you visited schools?

The CA College Office is so well known. The counselors have developed long-term relationships with College Admissions Deans, and the CA counselors are highly respected.

So after breathing out, how did the whole college application process change?

It took the pressure off the relationship with Jonathan. We weren’t editing his essay, monitoring whether he was doing his application, and nagging him. It was clear that the College Office would not let anything fall through the cracks, so we had the opportunity to support him emotionally from the sidelines.

Justin Ferrugia playing Jean Valjean in Les Misérables

Fifteen years after going through this process the first time, you did it again in 2018-2019 with Justin!

We so appreciate the gift of coming full circle that life has given us. This time, we could stand back from the start and know that Justin would find the college and community that was right for him. Much of the college process had changed in 15 years, but what had not changed was the way CA’s college counselors knew our child and guided him down the path to his future.

It was a huge gift to come back to CA—this time without a baby—and become more involved. And every time I would lead an admission tour around campus, I would stop by the College Office and say, “This is one of the many reasons you come to CA. This office will make applying to college less stressful for you. Relax, enjoy your child, and just let these counselors do their job.”

Interestingly, both your sons ended up at the same college.

We actually went out of our way to tell Justin he should go wherever he wanted. We even put away all Jonathan’s college-branded gear when Justin was growing up! If you look at the list of schools where CA students go, you see the variety. And behind the many different choices that students make are counselors who know that every student is different. They ask, “What is the best place for this individual child?” The focus for CA and the College Office is making sure every child finds a place where they fit.

Jonathan Ferrugia graduated from Yale in 2008. Justin Ferrugia began college at Yale in Fall 2019.