Nearly 50 Years of Imparting Wisdom and Collegiate Advice

Rich Borsch has been Fenwick’s lead college counselor for 47 years. What changes has he seen over five decades?

By Mark Vruno

Let the matriculation process commence for the Class of 2019! Now is the frenetic season for Fenwick’s college-counseling duo of Rich Borsch and Laura Docherty. Busy is an under-statement. Between early application and essay preparations leading up to January 1st, the two guidance gurus are up to their elbows in paper and student e-documentation.

It’s an annual rite at Fenwick and at high schools across the country, but few counselors have been immersed in the process as long as Mr. Borsch, who wouldn’t want it any other way. This school year marks his 51st at Fenwick, and he has been a college counselor for all but the first four.

In a typical, six-week period this fall – comprising 30 school days – representatives from 77 different colleges and universities, including the University of Chicago, Northwestern and Yale, came to Fenwick. A representative sampling of 11 other visiting schools (by date) during that time frame:

  • Lafayette College (Easton, PA)
  • Central Michigan University
  • Butler University
  • University of Notre Dame
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Tulane University
  • Juniata College (Huntingdon, PA)
  • Villanova University
  • Providence College
  • Boston College
  • University of Cincinnati

“These schools came from all areas of the country,” Borsch reports. “Ten of the top 50 colleges and universities were here; seven from the Big Ten came. We try to give our students exposure to all kinds of college options: from huge schools like Indiana University, with 43,000 students enrolled in the Bloomington campus, to tiny King’s College in Manhattan, New York, which has only 500 students.”

For Borsch, who says he loves working with the kids, it’s all about the right fit for each student. “We try to pick schools based on their individual needs,” he explains, which can be time-consuming. Graduates from the Friars’ Class of 2018 are attending 109 different colleges or universities in 32 states, Washington, DC and overseas in Scotland.

The University of St. Andrews was founded in Scotland in 1413.

“When I started doing this in the early 1970s, that number was 60 [schools],” Borsch notes. “We’ve had kids go away to Canada, Ireland and Italy, too.” Such international institutions as Trinity College Dublin and the University of St. Andrews (Scotland) “weren’t even a thought a generation ago,” he says.

TOP FIVE COLLEGES FOR THE CLASS OF ’18

  1. 37 Friars are studying at the University of Illinois (Urbana)

  2. 16 Friars are at Loyola University Chicago

  3. 15 are at Marquette University (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)

  4. 12 are at Indiana University (Bloomington, IN)

  5. 11 are at the University of Notre Dame (Indiana)

Besides the expanded geographic range of college choice, what other changes has Borsch seen during his 47 years of student-college matchmaking? “It certainly has evolved,” he observes. One big difference is the number of Fenwick students going out of state for school. “In 1975, about 70% of our students stayed within Illinois. By 2016, that number had dropped to 22%,” he reports. Thirty-two percent of the Class of ’18 (98 students) stayed in state.

Lately, there has been a trend toward test-optional college admissions — and not judging prospective students based on a three-hour exam. “The University of Chicago is one of hundreds of schools doing this now,” Borsch confirms. “But the fact remains that 75% [of schools] still require either the ACT or SAT, so our students will continue to be prepared. Fenwick is the only school I know of where freshmen take the PSAT exam,” Borsch adds.

Snapshot of Rich Borsch

Mr. Borsch is in his 51st year at Fenwick.
  • Graduate of Leo High School, Chicago.

  • B.A. in English and history from DePaul University, Chicago

  • M.A. in counseling and psychological services, St. Mary’s University of Minnesota

  • Fenwick High School, Oak Park, IL, 1968 – Present (started as English Teacher)

  • Head Coach of the Friars’ freshman football team for 41 years (through 2015)

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Fenwick Senior Is One of Two Students from Illinois to Receive Prestigious Jefferson Scholarship from UVA

Chris Sedlacek joins the ‘Jeff’ Class of 2022 at the University of Virginia and is set to enjoy his ‘full ride’ in Charlottesville.

By Mark Vruno

Early last month, we reported that Christopher Sedlacek ’18 was among the finalists in the running for the University of Virginia’s prestigious Jefferson Scholarship. Fenwick is proud to announce that Chris has become the second Jefferson Scholar in Fenwick’s rich, 89-year history! Seven years ago, the award was presented to math whiz kid Patrick McQuade ’11, who today is enrolled in a Material Sciences PhD program at Stanford University in Northern California.

Awarded on the basis of merit, the Jefferson Scholarship aims to attract well-rounded students who exemplify three qualities that define the life and legacy of the university’s founder Thomas Jefferson: leadership, scholarship and citizenship. Candidates undergo a highly competitive selection process and, if chosen, receive full financial support for four years of study.

“For one high school to have two students recognized in one of the country’s most respected scholarship competitions is a remarkable occurrence, particularly in a relatively short period of time,” notes Richard Borsch, Associate Principal and Director of Student Services at Fenwick.

Accepting a four-year college scholarship valued at nearly $300,000 may seem like a no-brainer to most people, but Sedlacek actually had to contemplate his decision before saying “yes” to Virginia’s generous offer.

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His Jefferson Scholarship is “more than monetary,” insists Sedlacek (donning his UVA swag), who came to Fenwick from Park Junior High School in La Grange Park, IL.

“For me the attraction was more than monetary, more than a tuition check,” explains Sedlacek, whose collegiate short-list included the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and the Villanova University School of Business in addition to the University of Virginia. He applied and was accepted to other Big Ten schools, too, including the University of Illinois and the University of Wisconsin.

He cites numerous enrichment activities, including networking and internship opportunities, that are a part of the Jefferson Scholarship. “There also are two study-abroad opportunities, leadership workshops and institutes, and small, seminar classes with professors that are only open to ‘Jeff’ Scholars,” notes Sedlacek, who came to Fenwick from Park Junior High in La Grange Park, IL. One college team-building activity to which he looks forward is a camping trip with fellow Jefferson Scholars.

Sedlacek may declare a finance major at UVA, but he also is interested in becoming an Echols Scholar, which could facilitate a cross-disciplinary double major. “I’m very intrigued by the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy,” he shares.

All of these value-added opportunities sealed the deal, much to the relief of his parents, Matthew and Kerri Sedlacek of La Grange, IL. (The couple’s younger son, Joe, is a sophomore at Fenwick.) Matt is a senior VP of U.S. commercial sales for computer data storage firm Dell EMC, where he has worked for the past 17 years. “My Mom and Dad were nice about it,” Chris adds with a smile. “They told me not to feel obligated to accept the scholarship from UVA – that if I really wanted to go to Michigan or Villanova, we’d figure out a way to make it work. But I know it [my acceptance] is a huge relief for them financially because the scholarship covers all four years.” That amounts to $62,000 annually (out-of-state) at UVA. In addition to tuition, the annual stipend also includes fees, books, supplies, room, board and personal expenses.

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A copy of the acceptance letter (above) that Chris received from Jimmy Wright (below), who has presided over the Jefferson Scholarship Foundation for the past 34 years.

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