During freshman year, the College Counseling Office takes a back seat to the important work occurring between new students and their teachers and advisors. These mentors focus on making sure students transition to Thacher successfully, setting them up for the kind of self-discovery and growth that can be hampered by immediately introducing the pressure of college admissions. That being said, advisors are well aware of general college admission requirements and that a student’
s performance, starting freshman year, will be considered.
College Counseling Introduction
In September, the sophomore class has its first meeting with the College Counseling Office, which focuses on: freshman year performance and its role in the college application process; current academic standing and students’ trajectory through senior year; making the most of Thacher’s offerings, every day; and forging strong connections with faculty who may ultimately write letters of recommendation.
SAT and ACT Testing
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, sophomores take a “practice” PSAT (precursor to the SAT) and a “practice” ACT. With these results in hand, parents can identify a test prep program for their student. The College Counseling Office can provide families with a list of test prep options that Thacher students have used in the past.
Individual College Search
In mid-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 go on college visits—and focuses on refining the list of colleges that students should research, as well as confirming testing strategies, senior year course loads, and summer plans.
Every junior enrolls in “College Class” during the spring trimester. College counselors lead these weekly sessions, focusing on college lists, the Common Application, Naviance, application essays, teacher recommendations, financial aid applications, and interviews. This acquaints students with the process, so that when they embark on the real thing as seniors they are well prepared.
By the start of their junior year, students have a testing plan in place for either the SAT or ACT. In the spring, they’ll also sit for SAT Subject Tests and AP exams.
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 of the application. They also confirm testing plans and develop a strategy that may include early decision, early action, rolling, or regular decision applications. Follow-up meetings throughout the fall are dependent on each student’s needs. Before winter break, every student meets with their counselor to finalize 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.
Every senior’s schedule includes weekly College Class, which begins in the fall and concludes just before winter break. In small groups, students work through one segment of the application process each week, including the forms, recommendation requests, essays, interviews, fees, sending official test reports to colleges, and financial aid forms.
College essays are an important part of the application process; students often find them the most challenging. Beginning junior year, college counselors help students brainstorm and refine topics. Experience has taught us that thoughtful, authentic, teenage voices are the most compelling and that over-worked, “professional” pieces are a huge red flag for colleges.
Today, not many schools provide interview opportunities. If a student requests and is offered an interview at or near Thacher, the College Counseling staff helps coordinate the meeting and provide transportation if needed.
In the majority of cases, parents manage financial aid applications. The College Counseling Office has a program in place to help them. Applying for aid is an annual event and, once in college, students are responsible for triggering the application process and making sure all necessary documents are in place. It’
s important to note that Thacher’
s application for financial aid differs significantly from the college process, as can the financial aid awards. Families are encouraged to plan ahead for this process.