A strong college counselor stands out as the best possible source of suggestions on specific colleges and universities that you child should consider. Those at the top of their field, like Fieldston’s Laura Clark, know both your child and the college landscape. You typically hear from your child’s counselor for the first time in the early winter or spring of his junior year when most high schools sponsor a college night for parents. At these events, counselors and sometimes invited experts share information.
Strong college counselors also set up individual family meetings, as a follow-up to college night (especially at affluent suburban or independent schools). A preliminary list of colleges and universities usually follows a few weeks after the individual meeting. Pay close attention to suggestions from a counselor with a solid track record, as her input reflects the caliber of schools at which she thinks your child has a competitive chance and where she will actively support your child’s application.
Counselors have varying levels of resources at their disposal and possess a range of skills and experience with the college admissions process. Those in the public school system, for example, have not generally visited as many out-of-state campuses as some of their independent school counterparts have. Fieldston’s Laura Clark, who worked in admissions at Princeton before she went into college counseling, observed that many public school counselors focused on state schools: “They knew the parameters and the knew they could get kids in there. Sometimes their schools even had budgetary incentives,” such as California in the late 1980s, where schools received extra funding for students whom they directed to the “UC” state system. Ask your child’s counselor about the campuses she has visited and the basis for her recommendations to determine how much confidence you can place in them. A college counselor who knows both your child and the higher education world will be able to explain in detail why she has selected the colleges and universities that she has for your child.
Please contact me if you and your child would like support putting together an individually tailored college list.