The next year and a half is a rite of passage in parenting.  You are going to get through it and I am going to do my best to make this easy.  Your assistance and calm guidance will be invaluable for your student, so thank you in advance.

    What follows is a list of ideas, to do’s, web links, and inspirational quotes to help you guide your student along this exciting path.

     Do not set an ultimate destination. 
    Do not try to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life. 
    You're going to be a very different person in two or three years
    and that person will have her/his own ideas.
    Life is like a Hexagon - Not a straight line.
    Who is to say that Hexagon is not the ideal shape for a life?


    Help your student to visualize her/his ideal future … traveling … studying … pondering life’s mysteries … working a dream job.  The idea here is for students to follow their interests and aptitudes, dream big and work hard this year to have their academic plan somewhat developed for the maximum options next year when applying to colleges. 

    They sent written goals and that is a good starting point for the discussion at home.  They do NOT need to know their major or have a career all mapped out.  Just have some ideas: “I want to live in the mountains, study anthropology and Spanish Literature, write for the college newspaper and be on the bowling team!”     All of their decisions are good to discuss, because decision making helps students learn.


    Attending a private or highly selective college does not foretell greater satisfaction in life.

    "Instead, the game changers include establishing a deep connection with a mentor, taking on a sustained academic project and playing a significant part in a campus organization. What all of these reflect are engagement and commitment, which I’ve come to think of as overlapping muscles that college can and must be used to build. They’re part of an assertive rather than a passive disposition, and they’re key to professional success."  Frank Bruni, NYT, 8/17/2018



    * Be a resource *  Assist v Do  *  Respect Student Choice *

    *  Listening and Talking * Be Aware of Stress *

    • Don’t let “College” become another member of your family or the elephant in the room
    • Talk about it but don’t obsess over it.  Talk with your student about her/his interests, aptitudes and aspirations.  Once per week, set a time to talk about college and stick to it.  Save all questions for that time
    • Self-reflection is critical in the decision making process.  Why am I applying to college?  What special talents and interests will I bring to a new community of learners?  What do I want to get out of college?
    • Minimize stress by being organized
    • Accept that some decisions will be made by your teen
    • Remember that college is only four years of their lives - it is not the end goal of their life


    “The college process isn’t about acceptance: it’s about choice. 

    Learning how to choose is one of the great rites of passage

    on the way to autonomous adulthood. 

    A fork in the road can be a welcome opportunity to learn about oneself. 

    Decision making defines us.” 

    Kris Hintz, Private College & Career Coach


    • Reflect on what THEY want from THEIR college experience
    • Help her/him make a list of the top five to ten things (i.e., medium school, near mountain or water, good food, campus environment, athletics,   academic major).  Take this EXCEL spreadsheet and personalize it for your use
    • They do NOT need to know their major or have a career all mapped out.  Just have some ideas to assist with the search   
    • Don't have one dream school (have 8 first choices instead)

    “Students should have eight first choices.  Prioritizing before you get in closes minds.” 

    Joyce Slayton Mitchell, Author, 8 First Choices: an Expert’s Strategies for Getting Into College

    COLLEGE ENTRANCE TESTING (SAT/ACT) – Spring of Junior Year

    I encourage all students to start (and hopefully complete) their college entrance testing in spring of junior year in order to alleviate the stress of fall examinations during the college application process.

    See Drake's College & Career Website for more information 


    • Ask for others’ OPINIONS (friends or relatives at colleges)
    • Take others’ words with a grain of salt
    • Cast a broad net
    • Visit schools nearby (i.e., Sonoma State, SF State, College of Marin, Dominican, USF, St Mary’s, UC Berkeley, Santa Clara, Santa Rosa JC, UC Santa Cruz).  These early visits can help you make informed decisions about the size and location of a school
    • Plan the College Visit
    • Keep an open mind
    • Attend college rep visits in the College/Career Center
    • Remember what she DOES NOT like as well as what she DOES like
    • Keep a journal of their visits
    • Set up a spreadsheet with Headings for the seven most important criteria for college (i.e., campus size, athletics, Greek life, music, drama, organic food, research opportunities, close to home, close to the mall, etc.)

    “Do not place emphasis on a college’s name;

            instead, evaluate the academic offerings of the school and remember

                  what is most important is what you do with the four years you spend in college.” 

                            Marilyn Emerson, College Planning Services, NY


    • Develop a preliminary college list, including reaches, possible admits & safety schools
    • Naviancefor research and to compare student data to former Drake students
    • College Niche to compare student stats to the rest of the country
    • Unigo for student to student information
    • Attend the Marin County College Fair - some colleges have Virtual Tours!
    • Talk about $$ - what can our family reasonably afford?
    • Discuss finances:  The sooner the better! Review the Student Loan Calculator for estimates on potential debt, payments and salary needed to make those payments.   
    • The Student Loan Report - this site is full of useful stats and maps related to college debt.
    • Review Price, Debt at Graduation, & Graduation Stats on college Net Price Calculators
    • Consider WUE Schools, 2 and 4 year
    • Consider VERTO to start college differently, travel, discover yourself and get admitted into a terrific university
    • Notebook of ideas and random thoughts for supplemental questions
    • Facebook former Drake students for information, college lists, campus visits
    • REACH ~ POSSIBLE ADMITS ~ SAFETY SCHOOLS: 2-4 of each is good number
    • Make every school your FIRST CHOICE


    “Weigh the pros and cons. Make your spreadsheet with all the details.  Talk to friends, family, and other students, but ultimately it is YOUR decision; not mine, not your parents’ or your significant other’s.  Go with your heart after using your head, and trust your instincts!”  Elisabeth Marksteiner, International School of Zug & Luzern


    • Take AP exams in spring (How many APs is the right amount for my student?)
    • Review 'Designing a Year in Your Life' for advice on course selections based on Challenge, Balance & Joy
    • Register with the NCAA Clearinghouse if s/he might play Division I or II athletics
    • Students should seek out teachers to write recommendations in the fall
    • Souder's Recommendation Form is due October 1st (but she prefers they bring it to the April essay workshops) 
    • Consider  Gap Year.  Attend the Gap  Year Program at Drake (Feb 25, 2019)
    • Students applying early decision MUST BE CERTAIN they want to attend; it is a binding commitment.  Early Action is not binding.  Know the definitions for these terms


    • Temper Hope with Reality:  What are my reasonable chances?
    • Compare your record: Look at published  admission standards & patterns (Naviance & College Board)
    • Assess supply and demand: Determine available space vs. size of pool, distribution, etc.
    • Discuss finances: The sooner the better!  Don’t get emotionally attached to a school that sets your family or your student up for lifelong financial ruin!!!  It is reasonable to go into debt equivalent to the student’s expected first year salary.  Have a financial aid safety school – just in case.  


    Evaluation of applications  varies by school, but most put emphasis on grades in academic classes and test scores.


    Other factors considered may include:


    • November 1 and 15-Early Decision, Early Action, Restricted Early Action

    • October 1-November 30-CSU and UC application window

    • January 1 – Most frequent regular deadline for private colleges

    • February 15- Priority deadline for FAFSA for many schools

    • April 1 – Should have admissions decision from most colleges

    • May 1 – SIR (Statement of Intent to Register) deadline. Deposit required

    Information that LISA NEUMAIER, COLLEGE/CAREER SPECIALIST, can be very helpful with:

    • Scholarships
    • Financial Aid (night in fall of senior year)
    • Financial Aid Workshops
    • Cal Grants
    • CSS Profile (required by some private schools)
    • Fee waivers for SAT/ACT & college applications
    • Financial deadlines
    • NCAA – for student athletes
    • WUE – helping you understand specifics
    • Application workshops in fall
    • Admissions rep visits in fall

    Wall Street Journal: Advice for When Your Teens Apply to College

    • Give them experience managing and meeting deadlines before senior year
    • Calculate what colleges will expect parents to pay on FinAid or Fafsa4caster
    • Have a conversation with them NOW about paying for college
    • Help plan and arrange campus visits
    • Take your cues from them, asking how you can help 
    • Avoid recycling your own college dreams with them
    • Encourage them, reminding them of their strengths and positive qualities
    • Help them brainstorm essay topics 
    • Avoid writing, rewriting or heavily editing their essay
    • Make sure they have a system to track and meet deadlines
    • Consider limiting talk about colleges to one afternoon or evening a week
    • Help them practice admissions interviews with a knowledgeable adult
    • Seize on opportunities to teach them decision-making strategies

    Myth:  There are only five good colleges and my student will never get in if she doesn't take all of the AP classes Drake offers.

    Fact: There are over 3,500 good colleges in the US; there is more than one perfect college per child.

    “It is extremely easy to get caught up in all the frenzy that college admissions have become.  It is crucial to understand that not getting accepted to your dream college does not mean that now your whole life is somehow going to be less than it would have been if you had been accepted.  A good portion of your college experience will be what you decide to make it – and that can happen wherever you go.” 

    Janet Rosier, Independent Educational Consultants

    Parting Words of Advice …

    Utilize Sheila's Website - especially In The News! and Parent Resources and the Junior & Senior Year Information sections.

    There is a right path for everyone.  It may not be the path parents took.  The path may sometimes be strange, sometimes alternative, sometimes confusing, but it will be your students own path.  Be interested; impart a little wisdom.  But remember: YOUR STUDENT WILL LEARN LESSONS ABOUT HER/HIS LIFE THE SAME WAY YOU DID: BY EXPERIENCING THEM!

    What if our family does NOTHING until senior year?  Is it too late?  It is never too late.


    Contact me, as I will help you with any questions you may have.  If I do not have the answer, I will direct you to the best source of information!


    “The teacher who is indeed wise

    does not bid you to enter the house of his wisdom

    but rather leads you to the threshold of your mind.”

    ~Kahlil Gibran


    Where You Go is Not Who You'll Be, by Frank Bruni
    Excellent Sheep, by William Deresiewicz
    The Gift of Failure, by Jessica Lahey
    How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the OVerparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success, by Julie Lythcott-Haims
    The Blessing of a B Minus, by Wendy Mogel

    Eight 1st Choices

    Tooth and Nail

    Schools that Rock

    Truth About Getting In

    Film School Book

    Colleges that Change Lives

    Get Into Any College

    Fiske Guide

    Making a Difference College Guide

    The Young Woman’s Guide to Top Colleges



    Last Updated by Sheila R Souder on 2/4/2020