College Counseling

Summary of Program

At VES, we view college counseling as a four year process. Here even our youngest students are informed about relevant topics in the realm of college admissions; this helps them make academic and extracurricular decisions that keep doors open as they grow and discover the best options for their journey beyond our campus.

The VES faculty, advisors, and College Counseling Office all work together to prepare our students for the college admissions process. Please see the below summaries of the way college counseling is approached in each grade level—  the links will take you to a more detailed discussion of specific topics addressed each year. 

Freshman Year | Sophomore Year | Junior Year | Senior Year

Freshman Year: Finding Your Niche and Carving it Out
The ninth grade marks a huge transition for students, and throwing thoughts about college into the mix so early may seem to be too much, too soon. But as many of our students have their early thoughts set on highly selective colleges, it is important that they understand the expectations they will need to meet in order to be competitive at those schools. The focus, then, is 1) providing basic information about what colleges will be looking for when they apply in three years, and 2) then helping students to recognize and capitalize on their own unique strengths early in their high school career.

Topics Addressed by the College Counseling Office in 9th Grade:

  • (Early in the year) Discuss transcript (every year matters!) with full class; touch on importance of building teacher relationships.
  • Provide info about the EXPLORE test; which 9th graders take test in February or March.
  • Return/discuss EXPLORE scores. Discuss finding ways to use summers to pursue their interests.

Topics Addressed through 9th Grade, Toward Full Stature Meetings:

  • Learning Style Inventory-- results shared with advisors and students’ teachers.
  • Goal-setting and Time Management—discussions and activities throughout the year.
  • Engaging in Your Interests and Getting Involved.

Topics Addressed in Advisory Groups/Digital Portfolio Process:

  • Goal-setting (throughout the year)
  • Time management (throughout the year)
  • Follow-up with learning style inventory/engaging your interests
  • Choosing classes wisely (students select their classes for the following year with their advisor)

Sophomore Year: Building Relationships:
In the 10th grade we help students focus on better understanding themselves as they reach out and work with others, be they teammates, classmates, or teachers. Further, as students better understand their own unique talents and interests, we can help them to connect with professionals throughout the community and our alumni base who can provide opportunities for students to explore their talents.

Topics Addressed by the College Counseling Office in 10th Grade:

  • College goals and building relationships with teachers:
  • Discuss/share mock teacher recommendations with full class
  • Explain/provide prep materials for the PSAT (Oct) and PLAN (Feb or March)
  • Return/discuss PSAT and PLAN scores (in English class)
  • Meet with full class to revisit transcript before selecting junior year classes
  • Sign students up with Naviance in the spring, before selecting classes
  • Internet College Scavenger Hunt

Topics Addressed in Class Meetings:

  • “Do What You Are” Survey (on Naviance) and Workshop
  • Career Interest Survey (on Naviance) and Workshop

Topics Addressed in Advisory Groups:

  • Goal-setting
  • Time management
  • Follow-up with “Do What You Are” & Career Interest survey
  • Choosing classes wisely in the spring

Junior Year: Charting the Course
The 11th grade has always been an intense year, and college counseling has been carefully planned throughout this grade. After juniors return from the winter holiday, they begin weekly “College Counseling Seminars,” which they will attend in lieu of their study hall on Thursdays, and in those sessions they work through most of the nuts and bolts of college admissions (topics include: exploring Naviance, factors in the admissions process, researching schools, making the first list, college visits, interviews, essay brainstorming, asking for teacher recs the right way, and many more). The college counselor also meets individually with each junior at least twice in the winter and spring for a personalized discussion; the college counselor is always available for additional meetings should students (or parents) want to discuss options/issues further.

By the time juniors go home for the summer as rising seniors, they each have a thoughtful college list that needs to be narrowed down a bit, and an assignment to write the first draft of their essay and fill out the Common Application over the summer. Juniors/rising seniors are encouraged to contact the college counselor often over the summer to discuss their college visits and essay ideas.

Topics Addressed by the College Counseling Office in 11th Grade:

  • PSAT – for National Merit Scholarships (pre-test (October) and results (December) discussions)
  • Weekly College Counseling Seminar begins in January à end of school year
  • Take SAT in January and ACT in April; most students take the SAT again in May.
  • Help each student with SAT/ACT test prep options & overall testing plan

Topics Addressed in Class Meetings:

  • (Pre-January SAT): A representative from Sylvan Learning Center discusses standardized testing strategies.
  • Leadership skills (finding your leadership style and using it)
  • Resume – begin building the resume that students will use in the admissions process next year. Meeting time to work on creating the resume.

Topics Addressed in Advisory Groups:

  • Resume worksheet; discussions/ personal strengths as part of Digital Portfolio
  • Continued goal setting, time management, exploration of interests etc.

Senior Year: Walking the Walk
Now it is game time! Our seniors should be well prepared for the college admissions process that stands ahead, and students’ advisors and parents will be kept in the loop by using Naviance to better understand their advisees’ plans, when deadlines will create the most stress, and which schools are foundation schools, reaches, etc. After the applications are in, the focus shifts to helping students succeed once they get to college— practical life skills and discussing why completing their undergraduate work in four years really matters in the grand scheme of things.

College Counseling Topics in the Senior Year:

  • Senior Class Essay Retreat with college counseling office and the English Department on the Sweet Briar campus in mid-September
  • Sept. ACT and/or Oct SAT for students still testing; the SAT is also offered on campus in Nov. and Dec.
  • Optional evening essay workshops
  • Lots of 1-on-1 time… getting the applications completed!
  • Recent alumni panel discussions about the college admissions process and how they made their decisions (December)
  • Financial aid night, right after vacation (January)—also open to underclassmen and their families.

Topics Addressed in Class Meetings:

  • Meeting One: transcripts again… 1st semester senior year = THE most important
  • (After Christmas Break) LIFE SKILLS! (bank accounts, handling the college party scene, taking care of themselves!)
  • (April) Making the big decision… weighing the options.

Topics Addressed in Advisory Groups:

  • Advisors check in with Naviance to understand their advisees’ application timeline and be aware of when their advisees will need the most support.
  • Advisors keep the college counseling office posted about their senior advisees’ thoughts, concerns, and struggles in regard to the college process so that we can support the students in the best way possible.

Honor. Rigor. Community. Relationships. Individual Attention.

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