July 30, 2014

The spotlight is still on summer shopping, but fall fashion is on the horizon, to, as the Princeton stores offer an array of styles and choices.

In addition, sales, promotions, and events are all a part of the seasonal shopping scenario as summer segues into fall.

For example, Rouge, the popular women’s shop on Witherspoon Street, is in the middle of a big summer sale, which will continue as long as the products are in stock. 30 percent to 80 percent discounts are offered, and will coincide with a special sidewalk sale on weekends, and will include a number of favorite denim items.

Owner Collie Jennings reports that rich colors, stand-out prints, and a nautical theme have been big sellers this summer. “Also, cashmere is a hit all seasons of the year for us, including summer, given the AC inside and cool evenings. White + Warren travel wraps and cardigans are the ‘must have’ in light cool neutrals and also rich fun colors. We will see more of this in the fall as well.”

Summer Prints

Prints and knits have also been big sellers, adds Ms. Jennings. “Easy summer dresses have been flying out of the store, including the cozy knit fabrics Tart has to offer in their collection of beautiful summer prints. And Susana Monaco’s Go-To Summer Knit Supplex dresses that are breathable and so essential for the summer travel season are always in demand.

“In addition, versatile printed caftans have been big hits for spring and summer from Camilla, an Australian designer specifically known for her beautiful Indian-influenced original prints and Swarovski crystal beading. These will stand out among any group or at a party! They even have a U-Tube video showing how to style in six different ways, which we have sent to our clients to reference.”

Accessories complete the fashion statement, and are always a highlight at Rouge. Scarves have been very hot items this summer, says Ms. Jennings. “Beautiful print scarves from famous artists and designers, such as Epice and Lily make an incredible statement on their own. Customers will actually frame some of them, as the prints are so stunning.”

Nick Hilton Princeton, the unique studio store on Witherspoon Street offers a selection of quality styling for men and women. Long known for its outstanding menswear, the store added women’s clothing in 2006. It became such a success that the studio/store expanded its space in 2013 to accommodate additional items for women as well as more room for men’s made-to-order custom clothing.

“In the men’s line, we have a custom shirt package (four for $500) going on in July and August. The men’s tailored clothing has been great this summer, especially business suits and wear-to-work sport jackets in light weights and dark-to-medium blues and grays,”says co-owner Nick Hilton. “Also, fancy sport shirts worn with dress slacks for work have been popular.”

In the women’s department, some spring designer dresses, jackets, skirts, and sportswear are still available on the clearance sale racks, reports co-owner Jennifer Hilton. Women have favored colorful prints in all categories this summer: dresses, pants, and tailored items, she adds.

Cool Illustrations

As autumn approaches, Rouge is already receiving its first fall deliveries, says Ms. Jennings. “Designers are warming up to lots of shearling accents and cozy knits with notable stitching detail. You will see rich combinations of forest green, burgundy, pearly grays, fondant (cream), and rich shades of blue and navy. Optic prints in both color and black and white will stand out among many of our designers.

“Knits and sweaters played a huge role on the runways this season — ‘The Knitting Factor’, as style.com noted,” continues Ms. Jennings. “Among our designers at Rouge, you will see luxury handknit stitches and fisherman’s cables mixed with cool illustrations of color blocking and dying techniques. And the accessories are picking up the details of shearling on boots, textured winter accessories, studs, and pony hair bags, etc. The ‘Bootie’ is a must-have in the world of fall shoes, even in rainwear, where you will see some of these details chime in.

“And denim certainly does not fall short in the movement of texture and detail,” she adds. “We are already seeing these beautiful pleating, hardwear, and flocked printing details on our floor right now from our early fall J Brand deliveries. We are receiving our first fall deliveries right now. They are certainly an eye-opener for many of our clients.”

The women’s department at Nick Hilton Princeton is big on color, notes Jennifer Hilton. “The women’s fall line continues to show color in every category, along with shape. There is a return to lightweight coats and sweater jackets in luxurious fabrics. But the big news is leather! In new weights, colors, and designs for shirts, pants, and jackets. Women’s fall merchandise is arriving daily. We are about 75 percent complete in our assortment of pre-fall Max Mara, Strenesse, and Rene Lezard lines.”

Scottish Tweeds

The men’s department is offering a pre-fall sale on outerwear and rainwear, says Mr. Hilton. “Men’s retro traditional Scottish tweeds and the return of updated traditional shaped jackets are notable for fall. We have our preview selection of tweed jackets now, but the bulk of men’s new fall merchandise will begin to arrive in early to mid-August.”

The stores at Palmer Square offer customers a wide range of shopping choices in the unique, one-of-a-kind Palmer Square setting. “Our annual Summer Sidewalk Sale is coming up,” reports Palmer Square marketing director  Anita Fresolone. “Shops such as Kate Spade, Dandelion, and Kitchen Kapers, among many others, always have a great showing of merchandise.”

The Summer Sidewalk Sale is very popular, and will be held August 15 through the 17th continues Ms. Fresolone. “It offers three days of great deals from the stores and restaurants at Palmer Square. There is also live music. Friday, August 17, 5 to 7 p.m.: Karl Latham; Saturday, August 16, 2 to 4 p.m.: Carnaby Street Band; and Sunday, August 17, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.: The Alice Project.”

This Palmer Square shopping scenario is always a bonus for Princeton shoppers looking for quality and value.

And in fact, the entire Princeton shopping scene offers an exciting spotlight on great buys as well as summertime fun and events. This is a town where charm and convenience come together to offer customers the best there is. There is no need to head for the Big Apple — or the nearest mall. It’s all right here!


July 16, 2014

Individuals of a certain age may remember when the doctor actually came to the house. Perhaps to treat a child’s ear ache or stomach ache, a dad’s bronchitis, a mom’s bursitis, or a grandparent’s heart condition.

Indeed, once upon a time, such house calls were commonplace. Over time, however, with increased reliance on advances in technology and sophisticated medical equipment, office visits became the norm.

House calls are very rare today, but Princeton-based Dr. Pamela Barton believes strongly in the value of seeing the patient in the home environment. “What I learn from being in the home and treating the whole person and the whole family is really huge. I see the patient and the family as a unit, and I think about the whole picture. It’s important to watch and listen, and hear what the patient and family have to say.

“I have an on-going relationship with every single person involved with the care of the patient — family members, friends, care-givers — everyone. I talk with every specialist who treats the patient. I want to know that the patient is well-cared for in every way.”


“And, I am a generalist,” Dr. Barton continues. “As such, I am very comfortable consulting a specialist. I can serve as a mediator between the family members and other physicians, when necessary. The important thing is for people to have the information and understand it. It’s very important that the patient and family are aware of the implications of the disease, and understand about the medication.”

A graduate of New York Medical College in Valhalla, N.Y., Dr. Barton is board-certified in hospice and palliative medicine. She took her residency at Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington, specializing in family medicine.

In 1999, she opened her own practice, Princeton Primary Care, in Princeton, with an office on Ewing  Street. She notes that “I had always liked Princeton, and I wanted to practice here.”

Three years later, she took temporary leave to devote needed time to family and children, and then in 2006, reopened the practice, but with a different emphasis. “I decided to focus on house calls. It fit into my schedule and made sense for my family life. I see adult patients of all ages and in all types of medical conditions. They can be people with terminal diagnoses or individuals who are basically well, but prefer to have the doctor come to the house. I may just see the latter for a once-a-year check-up, or if they have the flu or some other illness. I really see a spectrum of patients and illnesses.”

She explains that she provides comprehensive medical care to patients with difficult diagnoses, such as Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia, congestive heart failure, emphysema, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, coronary and valvular heart disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), cancers and leukemias, stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, arthritis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, stroke, and delirium, among other afflictions.

“I basically treat people at home, but if they are acutely ill, and I feel that they need to go to the hospital, I will arrange that. I’ll call ER, and if they are admitted, I’ll stay in touch with the attending physician.”

Wide Spectrum

Dr. Barton explains that a great number of medical conditions can be treated at home. For example, X-ray and ultra sound equipment can be brought to the house. “Blood can be drawn, blood pressure, lungs, and heart can also be checked at the home,” notes Dr. Barton. “I basically have my office in my bag!”

Although her patients do cover a wide spectrum. Dr. Barton has a special affinity and empathy for “the frail elderly, the medically fragile, and patients at the end of life.” The majority, but not all, of these seriously ill individuals, who may be receiving palliative or hospice care, are older.

“Palliative care is oriented toward comfort,” explains Dr. Barton. “Actually, all doctors really practice palliative care. It’s basically about having comfort — from the right pillow to the right medication. It’s providing care and compassion. And palliative care is unique in that with it, we treat the family along side the patient, and partner with the family. The concept of palliative care is really becoming more intrinsic to modern medicine.”

With her focus on house calls, Dr. Barton experiences the gamut of human nature, she reports. “What I love most about my job is that I get to see people caring for each other. For seriously ill or end-of-life patients to have the support of family and friends, as part of a loving group who care about them, care for them, and come to see them, means so much.

“Often, for an end-of-life patient, each day is so important. They want peace of mind; they want to know that their individual life has meaning. ‘What is the meaning of my being here?’ ‘What is the meaning of my life?’ It’s existential. They want to know if they lived a good life. Did they help people?”

Dr. Barton certainly witnesses the mysteries of life and death in her practice. And she explains that sometimes, solutions can be unexpected. “For example, I had an end-of-life patient who continued to experience severe pain although she was receiving proper amounts of medication. In this case, the patient’s pain was finally alleviated when she was able to concentrate on her life and what had been most important to her. Who and what had mattered in her life? She had especially loved flowers and traveling. So I helped her write down some of these thoughts, and the pain lessened dramatically.”

Practical Problems

“It was really a different type of will, something special, a part of herself that she could leave to others. In one case, such thoughts were eventually posted on a Facebook page.”

Dr. Barton often sees both patients and families come through difficult situations that they might have felt unable to handle. “Sometimes, it’s practical life problems,” she explains. “Figuring out how to find a solution and making something work, even by getting a more comfortable pillow or different chair for a patient. Other times, people rise to the occasion in unusual ways. There was a case of a divorced couple, and when the ex-husband became terminally ill, his former wife came to take care of him, and was so resourceful in responding to his needs.

“I think that my goal is not just to fix something, but to be part of the process,” she continues. “I think of my job as helping people cope with whatever comes their way; helping them deal with the terrible afflictions that can come to them, whether they are physical or mental problems. Sometimes, cognition is intact, but the body is breaking down. Or it can be the reverse. By making house calls, I am coming into their home environment to help them through this.”

Dr. Barton typically spends an hour with a patient, and if an individual is on hospice, she will see them once a week or more.

“I am an organizer,” she adds. “I’ll help arrange for hospice if there is a terminal diagnosis for a patient. I can arrange for the visiting nurse and health aides to come, and I stay in touch with them.  I frequently make charts to help care-givers keep track of the patient’s symptoms, medications, sleeping habits, appetite, etc. Also, sometimes the patient’s family is not nearby, but they need to know that their loved one has the best care. I try to be accessible to the family and patient at any time.”

Dr. Barton is licensed in New Jersey and New York, and divides her practice between Princeton and Manhattan. She does not take insurance, but can make special payment arrangements depending on individual patient circumstances and needs.

She is dedicated to continuing her work, exclusively focusing on house calls, and doing her best for each patient. “For me, every situation is totally different. Every patient is different. I look forward to educating patients and their families. I’ll be making videos and posting them on my website, exploring different topics, such as palliative care, pain management, care-giving, delirium, etc. — a whole range of issues. Most especially, I want to support the patient, their family and friends, and their care-givers, helping to bring peace to painful situations.”

Dr. Barton can be reached at (609) 924-0100. Website: www.doctorbarton.com.


June 25, 2014

Summertime specialties gathered right from the garden are hard to resist. They are unmatched for freshness and flavor, and more and more restaurants in the area are featuring adjacent or nearby gardens.

“The greatest benefit is to provide the freshest, best quality produce to our guests,” points out Eben Copple, executive chef at The Yardley Inn in Yardley, Pa. “Anyone who has a garden will agree that something grown to maturity and consumed quickly after harvest has much more flavor than any competing item that might be commercially available.”

Adds Stanley Novak, owner/chef of the Harvest Moon Inn in Ringoes, agrees. “The benefit for us of having our own garden includes freshness, quality, convenience, sustainability, and it’s economical. We compost everything possible throughout the year, and take out about a 55-gallon bucket every week to the compost pile. All of the landscape clippings, decorations (hay bales, pumpkins, corn stalks, old flowers, when the flower bed changes), go into the compost.”

The Terra Momo restaurants, including Mediterra and Teresa’s Caffé in Princeton and Eno Terra in Kingston, all use their 2-acre canal farm a mile south of Eno Terra, which they began to cultivate in 2009.

“We grow 300-plus varieties of vegetables, fruits, and herbs,” says executive chef Chris Albrecht of Eno Terra. “We send Terra Momo employees, including cooks and servers on tours of the farm, and some participate in planting and harvesting.”

The Yardley Inn has two garden sites, notes Chef Copple. “One is a small herb garden across the street from the Inn, and another much larger plot is a mile north on River Road. We have two and a half acres in total.”

Primary Goal

“The primary goal with the garden this year is to supply the restaurant’s needs completely for three items: mixed greens, green beans, and tomatoes. We grow much more than just these three items, however. Some of our produce includes asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, rhubarb, French breakfast and ping pong radishes, golden beets, sugar snap peas, salt and pepper cucumbers, jalapeno peppers, raspberries, blackberries, and blue berries.”

A variety of herbs, including oregano, sage, thyme, parsley, chives, cilantro, basil, rosemary, and garlic chives, are also grown.

The Harvest Moon Inn’s 14-year-old garden includes a half acre fenced area on the property, plus a raised bed only steps from the kitchen door, says Mr. Novak. “I also use herb plants as landscaping around the building. The herbs include lavender, mint, basil, thyme, tarragon, sage, rosemary, chervil, parsley, and oregano.”

“We have a wide variety of greens, including lettuce, arugula, micro greens, Swiss chard, and spinach. We also grow approximately 30 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, also peppers, green beans, wax beans, snow peas, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, rhubarb, bok choy, broccoli, egg plant, and asparagus.”

In addition, the garden includes yellow and red raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, and grapes, as well as flowers for cut flower arrangements, and cake decorations.

Mr. Novak enjoys planting and tending the garden himself, he adds. “It is considered my ‘therapy’ from being in the kitchen all the time. I like being outside with nature and watching everything develop. I start the majority of my plants from seed, and I consider them ‘my babies!’”

Team of Three

Chef Copple of The Yardley Inn has turned over the tilling, planting, weeding, and harvesting to a team of three, including a master gardener. The larger garden is fenced to protect from deer, but there are occasional problems with other pests, he reports. “Last year, the staff woke up early every day for about two weeks, and turned over the leaves of the raspberry plants to find and get rid of some little invasive beetles. Pretty time-consuming work, but we don’t use pesticides, so it’s the only way to do things.”

All the restaurants include products on their menu from local farmers in addition to items from their own gardens. “Products that take more land to grow, like sweet corn, watermelons, and cantaloupes, we source from Sweet Valley Farm, only a couple of miles from the restaurant,” says Mr. Novak of the Harvest Moon Inn.

And, adds Chef Copple: “This extends to protein as well from time to time. We are unable to use local farms exclusively due to the size of our operation and the desires of our guests, but I strive to reach that goal.”

Menus are continually evolving as the seasons change, and having the gardens is a tremendous advantage in providing delicious new tastes for diners. “Our menu changes quite often, notes Chef Albrecht. “As crops become ripe or fresh, we transition into the next one.”

Summer Menu

“Our menu is always based around vegetables,” points out Mr. Novak. “We change the menu seasonally, and the summer menu always incorporates summer fruits and vegetables.”

Many customers appreciate knowing that the restaurants have their own gardens, and they often like to take a look and even stroll through them, he adds. Chef Novak also says he can’t resist sampling the garden harvest when he is tending it. “Picking cherry tomatoes and green beans from the garden — sometimes, pick one, eat two!”

Mr. Copple takes great pleasure in simply walking through the garden on a summer afternoon. “Being able to walk across the street for our herbs allows me to use them at their most flavorful and aromatic. Cilantro straight from the ground tastes completely unlike the herb at the supermarket.

“Also, he continues, “one of the secondary benefits of the garden is that we have access to things not easily available through commercial means. An example would be very small beans, picked before they would be considered ready by someone else, or the tendrils off the tops of the snap pea plants. I love checking on the progress of ripening, sampling here and there. It keeps me in touch with the growing cycle, seasonality, and the truth of our food. I think it’s easy for most people to forget about what it takes to produce food. I want to understand more about the process.”

“We mention to almost all of our guests that we have a garden, and it is written on our menu,” adds Mr. Albrecht. “What we enjoy most about the farm is providing the learning experience — seeing and tasting plants right at the farm — for all our guests, the cooks, and managers.”

Patrons of these restaurants have a treat in store when they can order items on the menu that have been grown right on the property. No wonder summer dining is special!


June 11, 2014

Graduation season is upon us, and for many high school students, the next step in their academic life will be college. In Princeton High School’s class of 2014, more than 93 percent will attendcollege. A proud moment and an outstanding achievement.

Gaining admission to college is extremely competitive today, especially because of the higher number of applications colleges receive. More and more students are applying to eight or even more colleges. Thousands and thousands of applications typically come into admissions offices, and they are from highly qualified students whose credentials often include 10 or more AP (advanced placement) courses, straight A grades, and the highest SAT scores, as well as those who are valedictorians, varsity athletes, editors of the school paper, and dedicated volunteers in the community.

Even students of this caliber are not always accepted at the first college of their choice. On the other hand, college and guidance counselors point out, there will be another college to match that student’s goals and interests, where he or she will thrive.

As Princeton High School guidance counselor Kyle Campisi notes: “Many colleges are reporting that they are receiving more applications than ever, and they do not have enough seats for all the qualified students. However, when these students do not get accepted into their top choice schools, they often discover the many other outstanding institutions.”

Application Process

Adds Patti Lieberman, PHS college counselor: “There is not one over-riding factor to get into college. Just as every applicant is unique, each college has its various standards for admission. We encourage our students to challenge themselves appropriately, get involved in those activities that they are passionate about, work hard, and have fun. It’s important to know what is important to you, as there is a college for everyone.”

What does it take to get that coveted letter of acceptance and how does one prepare in high school to navigate the college application process successfully?

In addition to Ms. Lieberman and Ms. Campisi, four students have shared their thoughts and their personal experiences in obtaining their desired college outcome. Working hard for good grades, taking AP courses, having a carefully organized plan and schedule, and focusing on courses and activities especially meaningful to the student are among the criteria this group of students identifies as factors in their success.

Three of the students, PHS Class of 2013, have now completed their freshman year at college, and look back on how high school prepared them. The other student is a current senior, about to graduate and embark on her college career.

“PHS prepared me well for college,” reports Rebecca Freda, who will be a sophomore at Boston College in the fall. She is currently in Dublin, Ireland, participating in an eight-week college intern program.

“I was prepared for the work load,” she continues. “However, the type of work I have had to do in college has been different than that in high school. There is much more reading and fewer small assignments. Instead, there are only a few larger assignments or tests. For example, I took an economics class in college where the grade consisted of three tests, and a political science course where the majority of our grade came from our performance on the final exam and the research paper.”

Deeper Understanding

Bryan Hill, also PHS Class of 2013, believes that he was well-prepared for his freshman year at Rutgers University. “I felt that PHS did a great job. The majority of kids enrolled at PHS are very strong students. Being in that environment just pushes you to do the best you can. With that, in combination with excellent teachers, it was easy to succeed.”

“The biggest thing I had to adjust to were classes where the final grade rests on two exams and a project. That was a little overwhelming for me. I had to learn how to be more effective studying, and shift from straight memorization to a deeper understanding of the material.”

Nicole (Nicky) Kratzer, PHS 2013, now a student at Elon University in North Carolina, also points to the challenging high school environment. “I think the expectations that PHS teachers and staff have of students really helped me excel and prepared me for college. I realized that it was not much harder than high school. I did not have a lot more work, and I was able to balance my school work with extra curricular activities. This is because in high school, there was always so much to do and so much on my plate, that from an early age, I had to learn good time management and how to prioritize certain things.”

Time management, setting priorities, and a definite plan and schedule were other factors nearly all the students targeted.

“A schedule was crucial for my success in my time at PHS,” says Bryan Hill. “Between studying and extra curricular activities, it became very easy to fall behind without an organized schedule. In fact, from learning how to do this at PHS, I was able to create and religiously maintain a schedule in college, to which I can attribute my success.”

“I am definitely the type of person who likes to be organized and have a set schedule,” points out Ms. Kratzer. “Every day, I would go to school, then go to practice, come home, eat dinner, and then do homework. I think that it was good that PHS used our sophomore year as the time when we should complete our community service requirement, so that when things got a little bit busier our junior and senior years, that component of our graduation requirement was already fulfilled.”

Available Time

And adds Rebecca Freda: “In high school, it was important to stay active. When I was doing multiple things, I did the best. This probably came from the structure it provided to my life. When I did not have a lot of down time, I knew I had to be productive with the time I had. It may seem silly, but I always put an emphasis on sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep was really important so that I had energy, and did not fall behind on my work.”

Stephanie Hauer, PHS Class of 2014 and getting ready to graduate, says that she has not had a specific plan, but “My numerous daily activities dictated and limited my available time to do school work, prepare for standardized testing, and write application essays. I feel what has helped me most in my college preparation was pursuing a highly rigorous academic curriculum.”

Ms. Hauer’s current courses include multivariable calculus and linear algebra, AP English IV, AP government and politics, accelerated physics, advanced French VI, architecture, and peer group leadership.

Counselors Patti Lieberman and Kyle Campisi meet individually with juniors and seniors for college planning and preparation, and to help find the colleges that match those factors that are most important to the students and meet their needs. They help the students establish a plan and time-line specifically for the college application process, as well as for their high school courses and activities. The counselors encourage students to start the application procedure in August of their junior year, and keep an organized calendar of dates for completing items on their list.

“We encourage students to share this calendar with parents to help alleviate stress,” note Ms. Lieberman and Ms. Campisi. “We run small and large group presentations, focusing on topics such as application time-lines, organization, the ‘how to’s, basic parts of an application, letters of recommendation, mailing procedures, college visits, testing, financial aid, NCAA requirements, etc.

“We also teach seminars about how to use Naviance, our college and career readiness software program. We run evening programs and morning coffee talks for junior and senior parents with the college counselor. College Application Help Group runs all fall on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday during daily break. We also send out frequent email and phone ñblast reminders. As a guidance department and school community, we stress wellness and time management.”


As to the number of colleges students apply to these days, “Eight seems to be the ‘new average’,” report Ms. Lieberman and Ms. Campisi. “However, a few students keep it simple and apply to one school that has an Early Action or Rolling Admissions, such as Rutgers University, earn their acceptance as early as October, and are done with the application process.”

The students appreciate the help and guidance of the counselors during what can be a challenging and stressful experience, says Bryan Hill. “The guidance department at PHS was top-notch in my opinion. They were always friendly and so helpful. I enjoyed the times I had to go into that office, whether it was for a quick question or something more serious.”

“The college counselor gave me a list of some schools I might like based on the schools I had already visited and what I told her I was looking for,” adds Rebecca Freda. “My guidance counselor was also helpful. I could go to her for advice and support. During the year, the guidance department hosts representatives from different colleges, and this was helpful in getting a general idea of what the college was like.”

Nicky Kratzer points out that “The counselors are very helpful in the sense that they have been through the process for many years and know how it works. With so many different variables, such as size, class type, location, and cost, the counselors help narrow down the options.”

PHS senior Stephanie Hauer acknowledges the counselors’ help, while adding “Students at Princeton High School are expected to navigate the college process fairly independently. The school uses a computer program, Naviance, which shows each student how their GPA, SAT, and ACT scores compare to the accepted students at every college.” As far as the college application itself, the essays stand out as a source of anxiety for many of the students. The need to set themselves apart from so many other qualified students is clearly a daunting challenge.

Unique Essay

“The college essay admittedly gave me some anxiety,” recalls Bryan HIll. “I ended up creating 10 different drafts before I felt comfortable with the work. Luckily, I started in the summer!”

Adds Ms. Freda: “The common application essay along with the supplemental essays were important. There was pressure to have a unique essay that would stand out.”

Ms. Hauer agrees. “The college essays are tremendously important, as they provided an opportunity for colleges to learn information about students that the colleges would not otherwise obtain from any other medium. Also, many colleges use the essays to help determine acceptance to scholars programs. I was concerned about the essays because I understood their significance, and I recognized that my skills in math and science are much stronger than my writing skills, so I felt added pressure while writing my essays.”

Many high school students find that the biggest challenges confront them during their junior year, when they are often facing the SAT and ACT exams. Along with the college essays, these exams are another source of worry.

“Junior year is incredibly stressful for a number of reasons,” explains Stephanie Hauer. “While I took multiple accelerated classes and three AP classes during my sophomore year, I took even more AP classes during my junior year. In addition, junior year is the year that most students take the many standardized tests required for acceptance to college. During my junior year, I took the PSAT, ACT, SAT, SAT II (also known as the SAT subject tests; most colleges require a minimum of two SAT II scores in addition to the SAT scores), and multiple AP exams. Many students take these exams multiple times.

“Also, junior year is the year that most students spend a lot of time traveling for college visits to help determine to which schools they would like to apply.”

Stressful Semesters

Nicky Kratzer has a slightly different take. “I think it is really hard to say which year of high school is the most stressful. I don’t really think that one year is more stressful as a whole, but I think the spring of my junior year and the fall of my senior year were the two most stressful semesters. Junior year was hard because it was really important to do well in school and get good grades, but there was also the additional pressure of taking the standardized tests.

“But in the fall of my senior year, there was also the added stress of completing the actual college applications and writing all of the college essays, in addition to keeping my grades up and taking the ACT one last time. I took the SAT and ACT multiple times, but did not do as well as I should have when comparing it to my GPA and such because I was very nervous, and did not do well with the long standardized tests. This worried me a lot because I had heard that SAT and ACT scores were one of the most important parts of the college application.”

Adds Rebecca Freda: “I had heard that senior year was supposed to be easy, but I found it to be just as difficult as junior year. At the same time, everyone’s experience may be different, depending on the classes they take each year. And, while I did put a lot of time and effort into the SATs, what worried me most was keeping my grades up senior year.

“The first half of senior year was the most stressful because that was when college applications were due. The best advice I could give an incoming high school senior would be to start their college applications in the summer and make sure to get them done ahead of time because once school starts, the time will slip by, and all too soon, the deadlines for applications will arrive.”

The need to set themselves apart — whether by their essay, GPA, SAT scores, extra-curricular activities, community service, or special talent — was another challenging focus for the students.

“In most cases, the courses and grades are the most important factor,” note Ms. Lieberman and Ms. Campisi. “Your most selective schools want everything: the highest grades with the most rigorous courses, strong standardized tests, and evidence of school and community involvement, and something that distinguishes you from all the other strong applicants. On the other hand, there are some schools, particularly in the United Kingdom, where standardized testing (SATs, SAT IIs, and AP scores) is the most important factor to be a competitive applicant. In contrast, there are schools in the United States that are now test-optional, and students can choose not to submit standardized testing. And, having a special talent — something that is distinguishing and extraordinary, such as a highly recruited athlete — is a big factor for many schools.


“Many colleges like to see that students are passionate about something (extra curricular activities, sports, club membership, cultural interests, community service, religious organizations, employment, etc.). It is not necessarily about having a laundry list of activities, but the depth of involvement in those passions. Leadership and longevity in those activities are additional factors that may distinguish a student.”

Ms. Hauer agrees with the importance of such activities and interests. “Colleges look for students who have multiple interests outside of the classroom and who have exhibited leadership and independence. Also, admissions offices use involvement in extra curricular activities as criteria to identify which applicants stand out among the many with strong academic and test score qualifications. Additionally, many application essay questions require an applicant to have engaged in extra curricular activities in order to respond to the questions successfully.”

Ms. Hauer’s own catalogue of activities, interests, accomplishments, and awards is impressive. Among them are  the 2014 PHS Gold Key Award, 2013 AP Scholar with Distinction, 2013 National Merit Scholarship Commended Student, 2013 U.S. Lacrosse Academic All-American, Rochester Institute of Technology-Creativity and Innovation Award;

Also, selected as a PHS Peer Group Leader, teacher’s assistant at The Jewish Center of Princeton for students in kindergarten through third grade, Member of Tichon Ve’od, a community service-based program serving the Tri-state area, co-captain of the PHS varsity girls basketball team, president of PHS French Club, founder and president of the PHS Food Blog, and coach for Princeton girls lacrosse, for girls in kindergarten through eighth grade. These are just some of Ms. Hauer’s achievements.

Her excellent academic record, multiple awards, participation in sports, community service, and cultural activities no doubt contributed to her acceptance at the University of Virginia, which she will attend in the fall.

“I am very excited about attending the University of Virginia,” she says. “I had many choices, but Virginia really rose to the top. I plan on majoring in mathematics, and Virginia has a financial mathematics concentration that really appeals to me. I am looking forward to exploring many new academic subjects, joining new organizations, meeting students and professors, and making new friends.”

So, the adventure begins. With advice from the college and guidance counselors and the students themselves, upcoming college students can gain insight and perspective into what lies ahead and how best to plan for it.

Counselors Patti Lieberman and Kyle Campisi offer a final thought. “We are here to support our students through the college process in various ways. We encourage them not to get over-involved, to stay balanced, to get enough sleep, to eat well, to focus on enjoying their moments while planning for the future, not to get so caught up in the ‘brand’ names, find the fit, and to do those activities that they love and are passionate about. Remember, there is a college for everyone.”