College Counseling in Private High Schools

College Counseling in Private High Schools
Private high schools offer strong college counseling programs which are ongoing and fully integrated into the daily activities.

"Which colleges should I apply to, Mom?" That is a question which is going to be very much on your child's mind as she begins her junior year. Of course, you have been worrying about which college she should go to almost since she was a toddler. But now this important question is very much on her radar. Fortunately for both of you this is another instance where sending your child to private school will give her an advantage over most public high schools. Why? Because college counseling is not a function and job responsibility which private schools take lightly. Nor are private schools likely to cut staff in this area. Remember when you were choosing a private school for your child? You reviewed the colleges where various schools' graduates had been accepted and/or were attending. You remember thinking that the colleges listed for the graduates of the school where you decided to send your child were pretty much the kind of tertiary level institutions you had in mind for her anyway.

This short video illustrates the private school counseling experience from a student's perspective.

There are several advantages a private school can offer over most public schools. For example, small class sizes and individual attention are givens. Sports programs and extracurricular activities also make the list. But what about college advising? In the first place getting a solid college preparation is probably one of the reasons you sent your child to private school. You read the course catalog and approved of the breadth and depth of the school's academic offerings. But what about the skilled guidance and expertise a private high school guidance counselor can offer? I think all of us parents would agree that meeting 1 on 1 with a guidance counselor to plan the college application process is a must. That's part of the package too.

Let's explore how private high schools handle college counseling.

Dedicated resources for college counseling

Take The Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, for example. I quote their College Advising page so you can see how many resources are available to you and your child in an average sized private high school with grades 9 through 12. Five staffers have about 160 12th graders to handle. Contrast that with some public high schools where the ratio of guidance counselor to students is 1 professional to 700+ students.

The George Berman Center for College Advising

The George Berman Center for College Advising is located on the first floor of the Academic Center. It offers an inviting, spacious research room, an extensive college resource library, and a large conference room.

Hill's College Advising Office consists of Director of College Advising Craig Allen; Associate Director of College Advising Christina Cerenzia; Associate Director of College Advising David McMillin; College Adviser Beth Allain, and Secretary to the Director Sue Rooney.

As stated in the School's Strategic Plan, "All students will be taught the skills and core knowledge measured by SAT-I, SAT-II, and AP tests. Hill students will master the skills of learning, the knowledge on which future learning is based, and the ability to demonstrate those skills en route to college admissions."

Throughout the college admission process, Hill's college advisers help students develop self-assessment and decision-making techniques; these skills enable our young men and women to make particularly informed choices concerning their college careers. In consultation with the college advisers, each student develops a compatible list of colleges to research; attends college meetings and workshops; arranges interviews and college visits; and obtains and completes a reasonable number of applications. Indeed, the skills learned during their college search will remain with our students throughout their lives.

To reach the College Advising Office by phone, call 610-326-1000, ext. 7276.

Here is what Middlesex School, Concord, Massachusetts, has to say about college counseling:

"Navigating the college admissions process can seem complex for students and families. To facilitate a smooth passage, we pair each student with a highly experienced college counselor, a personal guide who will work closely with the student and family. Through this partnership we are able to tailor the college process to the specific needs, abilities, and interests of each student."

Miss Porter's School, Farmington, Connecticut describes its college counseling program as follows:

"The college search and selection process is an integral part of the student experience at Porter's, and college advisors at Porter’s serve multiple roles. First, they are a resource for the information and advice students and their families need to understand and navigate the increasingly complex college admission process. Second, they serve as a link to the college community, working closely with college admission officers to help them interpret our students’ experiences and accomplishments in the context of Porter's rigorous academic program and rich extracurricular life. Finally, and most importantly, they are enthusiastic advocates for students and Porter’s, and aim to provide a constant source of encouragement and support as students prepare for the next exciting phase in their academic career."

As you can see from these three private schools, college advising is integrated into their programs. Your child will meet regularly with a counselor during her high school years to develop her college plans. You will be kept in the loop.

Here's another example of how college counseling works.

How many schools should I apply to?

"The typical advice, and I agree with it, is to apply to 6 or 7 schools"...Dr. Allen Grove, College Admissions Guide,

The second point to note is that private schools hire qualified professionals to be their college advisers. These men and women know their colleges. They focus on getting results for you and your child. Realistic results. Yes, I know you think your child will have everything Harvard or Princeton are looking for. But when your child's college adviser tells you that the top five colleges are a reach, trust her. She will recommend that your child applies to a couple of colleges which are safe and match schools as well as trying for the highly competitive ones - those which are a reach. My eldest daughter went to Harvard. Of course, I am thrilled she did. But I can tell you honestly that she would have been just as happy and gotten just as good an education - perhaps better - at several other institutions I can think of.

College advising is a continuous process.

"According to the American School Counselor Association, the average ratio of American public high school students per guidance counselor is 476 to 1.

Additionally, according to the ASCA, guidance counselors spend an average of just 38 minutes discussing each individual student’s college search and application process each admissions cycle.".....The Daily Pennsylvanian

The third point is that college advising in most private schools is not going to be confined to a single brief meeting with your child. The process starts when she arrives at the school and intensifies as she gets closer to the various decision points in her junior and senior years. Selecting the right courses and preparing for college applications and senior year exams is not left to chance. The college advisers develop a plan for each student and keep tabs on their progress. Private school college advisers take a lot of little steps over the 3 or 4 years students are under their supervision to accomplish the mutually agreed upon goals.

The bottom line is that college advising is something which most private high schools do well. It is part of their commitment to you and your child. Indeed it is an important component of their mission in most cases. You will, of course, still have to do your own diligence and ensure that your requirements are being met. You will also be responsible for visiting colleges, meeting admissions deadlines as well as planning for that substantial expense.

Questions? Contact us on Twitter. @privateschoolreview

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