By Sarah Soule
I am frequently asked how my position as the Director of College Counseling at the Vermont Commons School differs from my work as an independent educational consultant whereby I advise families about the college counseling process. In reality, there is no difference. In both instances, my commitment is to assist each student I work with in finding the best possible match between a student’s personal goals as based on their educational needs and desires and their academic profile. The students I work with, both in my consulting practice, as well as at Vermont Commons School, are all seeking to find institutions where they will find challenging academics, engaging professors, appealing surroundings, and interesting fellow students.
I began working in the field of college admissions 31 years ago, and have found over the course of my professional career that in order for a student to find success at the collegiate level, they must enroll in a college that is the right match for them. I have realized that the most informed decisions come after visiting a campus personally. There is abundant data available via the web, college guidebooks, and definitive how-to lists and even guidebooks that suggest that they contain the best colleges. My firm belief is that these are all good resources and can be taken into consideration, but the most informed decisions come from visiting campuses whenever possible. Then, and only then, can you truly tell if it is the best match for a given student.
I spend considerable time each year visiting campuses and meeting with college admissions representatives from across the country in order to best learn about a myriad of institutions. I’ve sat in on admissions committees while representatives have reviewed actual application files, toured countless campuses, and learned the ins and outs of each college and university.
The knowledge gained from a personal visit to an institution, combined with a working knowledge of the statistics and data about admissions enrollment information, and an understanding of a student’s specific talents, academic profile, and desires, will lead to finding the most appropriate match in creating a college listing as a student begins to contemplate where they will apply for admission. Area students who attend Vermont Commons, Rice Memorial High School, and Champlain Valley Union School are fortunate to have use of Naviance, an online tool that provides a wealth of information that is customized to each student’s personal profile.
The winter and spring of the junior year is an ideal time to begin touring campuses and to meet with admissions officers. Locally, CVU will be hosting a college fair in April where colleges from across the northeast and beyond will be in attendance to meet with area students and parents. Juniors should be contemplating their summer plans and looking ahead to senior year and should plan trips to tour campuses. Enjoy the visits and, parents, now is the time to let your child take the lead. Enjoy the journey with them!
Sarah Soule is the Director of College Counseling at the Vermont Commons School in South Burlington. She has 31 years of experience in college and independent school admission. She is quoted in the Princeton Review’s The Portable Guidance Counselor and recently appeared on FOX 44 in a segment on college admissions and financial aid. She resides in Shelburne.