Four-Year College Counseling Sets Students on the Right Track
By Susan Marrs
When it comes to high school, ninth-graders are finding their way. High schools that provide a highly individualized four-year college counseling program set the tone for excellence, align students with clearer expectations, and help quell college application anxieties in students’ junior and senior years. In many ways, when students start their four-year college counseling journeys in ninth grade, they are laying the groundwork for a well-adjusted, prepared, and happy high school career.
So, what does a strong four-year college counseling program look like?
College counseling for freshmen should be all about helping students identify their own love of learning. These younger high school students are still working on building and solidifying their study habits. They’re learning about the life of the school and how they want to engage in it, and they are exploring their talents, interests, and opportunities.
When the students enter their sophomore year, a successful college counseling program guides them to think carefully about extracurricular in addition to academic opportunities. College counselors work with students to help them drill down to find their purpose and champion a cause that they can pursue throughout their high school careers. An ideal counseling program encourages students in 10th grade to find ways to give back to the school and larger community, as well as to familiarize themselves with the college process by sitting in on visits with college representatives. The college counselors work with each student to help him or her develop an interest in internships, enrichment opportunities, and community service projects.
By junior year, an effective college counseling program challenges students to balance the responsibility of their academic and social lives, reflect upon their interests, and explore college opportunities that will serve them well. The college counselor should help students make realistic and balanced choices about which colleges to explore. And, as emerging academic and social leaders of the student body, juniors should be thinking ahead about how to manage their applications in an organized and timely manner.
During their senior year, students should be recognizing many lessons they have learned throughout high school, and benefiting from those lessons. At this point, they are writing college essays, they know what to wear to interviews, how to construct a resume, how to get in touch with an admissions officer, when to contact a coach, and dozens of other details. An ideal four-year college counseling program leads students through a dynamic learning process that is as much about self-discovery as it is about researching dozens of colleges and universities. Students who attend these strong programs are comfortable with where they are. And they are confident that where they are, is where they should be.
Susan Marrs is the 35-year Director of College Counseling and Assistant Head of School and The Seven Hills School in Cincinnati, Ohio. Marrs sits on the University of Michigan’s High School Counselor Advisory Board and has also served on several esteemed boards, including The Princeton Review National College Counselor Advisory Board and the Fiske Guide to College Counselors Advisory Group.