Juniors (Class of 2014) the time is now!

By Sarah Soule

In mid-January, the academic year will be halfway through and it is time for juniors to fully engage in the process of ‘life after high school’ with earnest. Area juniors will graduate from high school in eighteen months and while that may seem like a long ways off, the reality is that it is much closer than one might imagine.

I urge students to request a copy of their school transcript which is a complete listing of their coursework. The transcript begins in 9th grade and continues through the present day. The transcript, along with the school profile, is what colleges will review, along with letters of recommendation and standardized test scores (if required) when a student ultimately applies for admission. Most juniors have taken either or both the PSAT and PLAN tests which are preliminary tests for the SAT and ACT. Juniors should review these results with their college counselor and begin considering when to take which standardized tests in the spring and fall of 2013 in preparation for the college application process.

Students who attend Vermont Commons, Rice, and CVU are fortunate to have the use of Naviance, a comprehensive online college counseling suite that is highly personalized to each student. Naviance provides each student with their own private account that includes individualized information such as standardized test scores and a current grade point average. This information is then available to compare a student’s individual data to past applicants who have applied to the same colleges and universities via the scattergrams from their high school. The scattergrams are incredibly helpful as students consider potential colleges and universities in relation to their personal profile. Via Naviance, students can create, update, and navigate their college lists and request transcripts when they apply to college in their senior year.

We’re fortunate in Vermont to have a variety of colleges that offer ample academic opportunities for students. The Consortium of Vermont Colleges, www.vtcolleges.org,  is a great starting point for researching higher educational opportunities within the Green Mountain State. Another valuable resource is VSAC, www.vsac.org.

The Consortium, in conjunction with Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, is hosting a workshop on planning for college and an introduction to the overall search process on

Saturday, March 16th at St. Michael’s College. www.services.vsac.org/wps/wcm/connect/vsac/VSAC/General/Calendar+of+Events/College+Pathways/  College Pathways is a “must do” for area juniors and sophomores, and their parents.

As juniors embark on their college search, it is encouraging to know that there are a multitude of institutions across the country. It’s also important for students and parents to enter the process with an open mind. I’ve worked in the field of college counseling for over thirty years and suggest that families not limit their choices only to those colleges and universities with which they are familiar. This can be limiting and might leave out some wonderful options that could be just the right fit!  There are a myriad of choices available that will suit each student’s needs and interests as based on their academic profile. The process of finding the right match takes time and the time to start is now. Create a list and carefully review each college’s literature, website, and then visit the campuses. That is why it makes sense to start using Naviance now as a junior and explore your options. Work closely with your college counselor, who can offer seasoned advice and has knowledge about the opportunities available. Mark your calendar to attend College Pathways, you will be glad you did!

Parents sit down with your child and discuss criteria that are important to him or her as they contemplate higher education, such as size, location, and programs offered. The time you spend with your child as they begin to navigate the path to college is the start of a great journey. Realize that this is your child’s path and let them explore, but recognize that your steady hand and that of a knowledgeable college counselor will help guide the way to a successful college search process.

Sarah Soule is the Director of College Counseling at the Vermont Commons School in South Burlington. Prior to working at Vermont Commons, she served for 20 years as a senior member of the admissions staff at Champlain College in Burlington. She was recently quoted in the book, The Portable Guidance Counselor, published nationally by the Princeton Review. She works individually with students consulting on the college counseling process.

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