The goal of College Counseling at Desert Academy is to empower students by providing them with the information and support necessary to make independent and informed decisions in the college application process, with an emphasis on seeking out and identifying colleges that are the best possible fit for each student’s academic profile and personality. This is a student-led process in which students are approached as individuals and their choices are respected. As this is a student-centered process, students are expected to take control of, and responsibility for, their college search and applications. Researching schools and their admissions requirements, tracking deadlines, filling out forms, and writing the required essays—all of these tasks are ultimately the student’s responsibility to initiate and complete. During this process the role of the College Counselor is to provide guidance, support, counsel, and information relevant to each student’s individual search, as well as to give parents the tools necessary to similarly support their child.
While we begin the formal college counseling process in the Junior year, we believe that preparation and the development of necessary skills for both college and the application process begins as soon as a student steps through our doors. Students of all grade levels, and their parents, are encouraged to contact the college counselor. The formal process, however, generally starts with a College Information Night in February of each year, targeted at 11th graders and their parents, during which the available college counseling services and the college application process are described in detail.
We have time set aside during the regular school week (approximately two hours per week for second semester Juniors and first semester Seniors) for both group and individual college planning and placement meetings. During these meetings, students work, with the help of a college counselor, on researching and identifying “fit” in developing an appropriate list of colleges to which they intend to apply, writing their college essay(s), finding financial aid and scholarship opportunities, and keeping organized throughout the process.
We also provide ACT preparation classes during school hours in the spring semester of the Junior year.
We track our students’ college lists, recommendations, and applications using Naviance, a web-based college database for schools, students, and parents. We provide access to Naviance for all students and parents, and we do a training during our College Information Night.
In addition to our internal efforts, we also welcome representatives of over 30 colleges and universities into our school each year to present to our students. We also host a range of events throughout the year which bring in outside speakers to address both students and parents on the subjects of financial aid, the college admission process, and college interview protocol.
The general schedule for college counseling beginning in 9th grade is as follows:
9th Grade: Students take the ERB and ITBS exams. Students consult with members of the administration and their advisors to ensure that their academic schedules meet college requirements. The College Counselor addresses incoming 9th graders to emphasize the importance of the high school transcript in the college application process.
10th Grade: Students take the PLAN (pre ACT) test. We recommend that they also take the PSAT since the results indicate their strengths and weaknesses and allow them time to improve their scores when they retake the PSAT as juniors. Students continue to be advised and monitored in their academic progress.
11th Grade: Students take the PSAT. An ACT preparation course is offered for all Juniors in the the spring. Students take the ACT with the option of the SAT I and SAT II Subject Area Tests if the colleges they are applying to require them. Juniors are actively encouraged to attend presentations by visiting representatives. Students and parents attend College Night and the college financial aid workshop. Students begin to create their “college lists” in the spring semester, and individual college counseling meetings with both students and parents begin. Students are encouraged to attend the two major NM college fairs and Desert-sponsored college counseling events. They are also encouraged and assisted in planning college visits during spring break and the summer.
12th Grade: Students re-take the ACT and the SAT exams and take/retake the SAT II Subject Area Tests if necessary. Students and parents meet with the College Counselor. Students continue work on revising their college list, writing and revising their essays, and organizing and tracking their application requirements. Students meet visiting college admissions officers, and attend the two major NM college fairs as well as various Desert-sponsored college counseling events. The college research and selection process comes to a close, and the application process starts. Students also research and apply for scholarship opportunities. Parents begin filling out the CSS and the FAFSA (after January 1).
College Search/Application Resources:
Naviance – https://connection.naviance.com/desertacademy
Common Application – http://www.commonapp.org
Colleges That Change Lives – http://www.ctcl.org/
NY Times: The Choice Blog – http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/
FAFSA – http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/
Fastweb – http://www.fastweb.com/
Financial Aid Facts – http://www.finaidfacts.org/scholarships.htm
CSS Profile – http://www.collegeboard.com/student/pay/scholarships-and-aid/8374.html
For any questions or concerns regarding college counseling, please contact our College Counselor, Jennifer Dryfoos, College Counselor (firstname.lastname@example.org) , 505-992-8284, ext. 28 for more information.