The topics below are typical of a comprehensive approach to preparing for the college search, application, and admission process. Students may require more work in one area than another, but it is important that these basic phases be covered.
Some students require special attention to topics that these general sessions will generate. Student athletes who hope to compete in college have additional concerns, as do students who find careers in the military appealing. At the same time, career plans as well as vocational interests can already be well-developed in some students. Musicians, artists, and actors who aspire to conservatory-level training and students whose specialized talents may lead them to consider engineering or architecture will likely benefit from assistance directly related to their interests.
While all of the topics shown here are available to students who commit to one of the comprehensive packages of consultations, the actual series is varied to suit individual circumstances. Each session lasts at least 50 minutes and may cover more than one of the topics outlined here. It is also true that some students need to take more time with one topic rather than another.
The First Meeting
This exploratory session works best if parents are involved, so plan for them to be there. We work through the stages of the process, discuss the calendar, talk about your interests and any pertinent family circumstances, and lay the ground work for our work together.
Preparing in the Classroom
The primary consideration for admission will be the quality of your academic preparation. There are important conversations about course choices and your performance in class. We'll talk about summer programs, academic-related travel, and even discuss what you're reading. Career plans can have implications for college choices, and your background in specific academic areas can also be a factor, not only in where you go to college, but in what you do when you graduate. Should you take physics? How about another year of a foreign language? Math every year? What about AP, IB, or other advanced courses?
Preparing Outside the Classroom
We'll discuss the role of activities outside the curriculum at school and in the community. What role does work and employment play in your preparation? What activities might make you a more compelling applicant? Where do religious and youth-group activities fit into your planning? What have your interests taught you about yourself? We'll work to build on your talents and interests.
You need to understand the national tests and how colleges use them in the admission process. You also need to think about the role that special test preparation may play. Can you get ready on your own? How about one of those high-powered test-prep courses? If a test-prep course fits your needs, when should you take one? When during the year should you take the examinations? Is there a problem in submitting a third or fourth set of test scores?
Strategies for the
SATs and ACTs
The search will be comprehensive and can take some time. You'll have to know yourself pretty well for this to be successful and we'll work on that, too. This is the part of the process where getting started early and surveying a wide range of possibilities can pay real dividends.
In the first phase of this segment of the process, we'll discuss campus location and the number of students on campus, but we'll also look for similar colleges that are likely to provide the opportunities that will help assure your success. You will generate lists and I will counter with my own ideas, and you will make contact with a range of possible target colleges. We'll discuss the impact of potential careers (medicine, research, business, engineering, teaching, the arts) on your choices. At first we will worry less about the prospects of your admission and more about appropriate types of colleges, where they are located, and what the advantages to you will be.
Be warned. Because there are excellent options that might not readily occur to you, we will push the envelope and look for opportunities beyond the obvious. (Remember, if one of the military academies is a possibility for you, there's work to be done well before you last year in high school.)
While there is overlap (and changes of direction!) that can mean considering new colleges and responding to new circumstances all along the way, the second phase of the search will come later and will involve conversations about early decision and other calendar options. (Here lies another argument for beginning in earnest no later than the spring of the 11th-grade.) This is where we begin the difficult chore of trying to anticipate what your prospects for admission to a particular college will be. New test scores arrive, grades are posted in tough courses, and, at the later point, you will have visited some campuses and heard any number of presentations from colleges.
Identifying Target Colleges
Figuring out how to pay for college is a challenge, and there are two basic procedures that we can discuss--the need-based financial aid application process (FAFSA, CSS PROFILE, supplemental forms) and the scholarship search process, where your talents, achievements, and interests come into play. Because some merit-based scholarship programs are competitive and can involve forms, essays and interviews, an early start is wise. (In fact, waiting until the 12th grade to begin looking for scholarships can mean missing important deadlines.)
Financial Aid and Scholarships
Trips to visit college campuses can be important elements of a good search. Certainly, your decisions can be better ones if they are made against a background of information gleaned first-hand. We'll discuss possible trips, taking into account where you are in your process and the amount of time you have available. Productive campus visits can be made at almost any point during the process, and some students wait until admission decisions are complete before traveling.
Planning Campus Visits
While few colleges make decisions based on interviews (and most have done away with required interviews), it's still can be a daunting event that demands preparation. You will meet graduates of colleges, you will attend official college presentations at your high school or in the community, and you might end up in challenging interview situations related to competitive scholarships. We'll rehearse basic interview techniques, hoping to leave you comfortable in what can be a very unsettling situation. What can you accomplish at one of those group meetings at your school? How should you prepare for alumni interviews? What do you say whe you have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with an admission officer?
Preparing for Interviews
You will spend time with actual applications, probably on line, and I will be there to help when it's appropriate. The application is your responsibility, but we'll discuss the presentation of application data and the practical value of resumes or lists of activities that go beyond the minimum requested on the forms. We'll rehearse how you write about yourself, and we talk about how to present yourself so that your strengths are most evident. You will put together a calendar with dates and deadlines; we'll discuss those pesky recommendation letters from you teachers and other sources of support. I'll read over your shoulder as you prepare essays and other communications, and we'll offer suggestions as you do the hard work of revising your writing until it's as good as you can make it.
Completing the Application
You will work on a general essay topic--similar to the one suggested on the Common Application--and work to make your writing as strong and as appropriate as it can be. Many applications contain at least one significant writing opportunity, and some contain several opportunities to tell your story. Scholarship applications often include even more writing samples. I will help you work toward you best writing for this important detail of the application. It is important for all of this work to be yours, but I'll be your critical reader and suggest options for improving and polishing your work.
When May of your senior year arrives, you may find yourself on one or more wait lists. We'll discuss the prospects for moving off of those lists and we'll work on updating the information you've sent to colleges. We'll also discuss strategies that will make it clear that your interest in a particular college remains high.
Responding to Waitlist Opportunities
As the dust settles, I will help you wrestle with your options. There can be disappointing (and frustrating) decisions from colleges, and there can be late changes in your plans and aspirations. I'll be here to help you through this final stage of the process.