A Comprehensive College Counseling Program

College counseling has long been an essential resource for high school students. These programs offer valuable insight and guidance to students, helping them to make informed decisions about their post-secondary education. While many schools spend their time focusing on seniors applying to college, we have found a four-year comprehensive model to be most effective. We believe that the complex application process in the United States requires a multitiered approach, giving our students the necessary guidance and resources to ensure that they are successful in the college admission process and beyond. Our four-year college counseling curriculum, implemented in 2021, delivers clear, step-by-step information and skills to help students learn whatever is necessary for the stage they are in. It was designed as an intentional approach to college applications, and to help students identify their abilities, interests, and achievements. 


SEM’s ninth-grade students identify their interests and are encouraged to get involved in community service, join clubs and athletics. Through a success-skills module, students understand the connection between rigorous coursework and their postsecondary plans. 


Sophomores identify their strengths, set academic goals, and begin to build a resume. They are presented with ways to conduct a successful college search and the different aspects that determine ‘college fit’. Furthermore, in the fall, students are introduced to standardized testing and meet individually with their counselor to review their PSAT results. FOCUS Our Junior College Seminar meets once per cycle during the second trimester. Students complete personality and career inventories, research majors, build and enhance activities lists, explore scholarships, and write a resume. We spend a good deal of time brainstorming and writing their personal statements, and begin to build their college lists. Students then meet individually with their counselor throughout the third trimester to polish their essays and create a balanced college list. 


A Common App workshop is held in August for rising seniors to begin the first official steps in the college application process. They meet as a class once per cycle for their Senior College Seminar course during the first trimester. We finalize their resume and update their activities lists on the Common App. We practice college interviews, review the financial aid process and how to fill out the FAFSA and CSS forms, finalize their college lists and continue with essays and scholarship searches. Students must regularly meet with their counselor for assistance in the final steps of the application and submission process. 

Our four-year college counseling program helps our students make informed decisions about their future while providing them with the guidance and support they need to succeed. The Class of 2023 includes budding scientists, graphic artists, thespians, political enthusiasts, global activists, future teachers, lawyers, and medical professionals. They have received acceptances from many fine institutions and intend on studying all over the world. Some of their acceptances include Brown University, University at Buffalo, Canisius College, College of Charleston, Columbia University, Fordham University, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, Loyola University Chicago, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Pennsylvania State University, University of Pittsburgh, Skidmore College and SUNY Buffalo State, Fredonia, New Paltz, and Purchase. This model has proven effective for our students here at SEM, relieving much of the stress and anxiety associated with college applications and thoroughly preparing them for the process. We look forward to seeing the full benefits as the Class of 2024 completes the first full cycle of our unique program! 

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About the Author

Ann is the Director of College Counseling at SEM.