Additionally, in the winter/spring of this year we engage the students in diagnostic work for standardized tests required by colleges. (Please note, that Covid resulted in test-optional policies at the great majority of the schools to which Thacher students apply. However, we do want to make sure everyone has engaged in testing should policies evolve by the time the students apply.)
Two testing paths are available when applying to college: the SAT or the ACT. Schools accept both without bias. To help determine the right choice for each student, 10th graders take the PSAT (precursor to the SAT) and the Pre-ACT. With these results in hand and some preliminary advice from our office, families can determine the next best steps for students which can include test prep. To help with the latter, the College Counseling Office provides families with a list of test prep options that Thacher students have used in the past.
The testing agencies for the SAT and ACT do offer fee waivers. Students can inquire with the College Office about their eligibility (national income guidelines) when their first testing date is determined. Also, recipients of Financial Aid are eligible to receive support for test prep. Our Director of Financial Aid in the Admission Office will email eligible students and parents information about this at the end of 10th grade. We ask students and parents to follow up regarding both of these opportunities if interested.
Third Year Students
By the start of junior year, students have a testing plan in place for either the SAT or ACT. Counselors will track their progress through the spring and offer any additional guidance required.
Individual College Search
In late January, college counselors meet individually with students to discuss goals, aspirations, educational backgrounds, and family histories. This helps counselors recommend schools that students and their families should explore. Another meeting takes place after Spring Break—a time that some families use to visit colleges. This second meeting focuses on generating a list of colleges that students will research through the summer, as well as confirming testing strategies. A third meeting takes place in late May and June to confirm senior year course loads, teacher recommendations, and to discuss college related tasks for the summer. With the rise in Early Applications due in October and November the summer is a critical time for college research, work on applications, and essays.
Additionally, every 11th grader enrolls in College Class during the spring trimester. College counselors lead these weekly sessions, focusing on developing a thoughtful college list, setting up a Common Application account, initiating work on college essays, understanding the importance of teacher recommendations, financial aid applications, etc. These sessions acquaint students with the application process, vocabulary, and details so that when they embark on the real deal senior year, they are confident and well prepared.
Fourth Year Students
When students arrive on campus in the fall, the College Counseling staff schedules individual meetings to catch up on summer activities, fine tune college lists, and discuss all details/deadlines of the applications. They confirm a plan of action for the fall and confirm a strategy that may include Early Decision, Early Action, Rolling or Regular Decision applications. Follow-up meetings are dependent on each student’s needs. In December, with early results in, every student meets with their counselor to review and reassess the college list. Individual meetings continue through the winter and spring to address issues that may arise and to help students weigh their options when admission decisions are released in April.
Every senior’s schedule includes weekly College Class, which begins in the fall and concludes a week after Winter Break. In small groups with counselors, students work through each segment of the application process - completing all forms and recommendation requests, writing essays, discussing interviews, sending official test reports to colleges, and confirming their family’s progress on the financial documents.
College essays have a unique audience and require students to shift from analytical writing to personal prose. Junior year workshops help students begin to practice this style of writing. Senior year involves lots of feedback and refining of topics. Experience has taught us that finding one’s voice takes time. And thoughtful, authentic, teenage voices are the most compelling in the selection process. Over-worked, professionally coached or edited pieces are a huge red flag for college admission officers.
Today, just a tiny group of schools provide interview opportunities, most typically after a student applies. It is every student’s responsibility to confirm if the schools they are applying to require or encourage an interview. If an interview is required or offered at or near Thacher, the College Counseling staff helps coordinate the meeting and arranges transportation if needed.
Given the confidential nature of family finances, each student’s parents manage all financial aid applications. Of course, the College Counseling Office has a program in place to help, starting with informational meetings in the spring of sophomore year. Applying for aid is an annual event, and once in college, students are responsible for initiating the application process and making sure all necessary documents are in place. So our goal is to establish a helpful foundation for this responsibility.
It’s very important to note that Thacher’s application for financial aid differs from the college process, and financial aid awards provided by colleges/universities can be significantly different and often not as generous. Therefore, families are encouraged to plan ahead for this process