Counseling Help for Rising High School Seniors

Question_markThe summer is almost over and high school students’ minds are returning, perhaps reluctantly, to the school year at hand.

As independent college counselors, we’ve been getting more incoming inquiries, particularly from rising seniors or their parents, about getting the senior year right in terms of preparing for the college admission process and taking the right classes this year.

A couple of inquiries that are on point:

“Immediate questions about course selection for Senior year….what do colleges look for as far as rigor in your Senior year in HS? Our daughter is looking at competitive colleges, but concerned about GPA, Class Rank and SAT scores as emphasized on CollegeBoard website.”


“Hi, I am a rising senior in high school. I am interested in finding out more about the college admissions process. I would like assistance in the essay, interview and selection process. Please contact me to discuss.”

It’s not too late to get your ducks in a row in terms of taking the right courses in your senior year and rounding out your extracurricular experience. The counselors here at JD College Consulting have real work high school counseling experience as well as deep relationships with dozens of college admissions professionals.

Don’t’ wait until Thanksgiving to consider college options. We can get started helping you today.

5 Things to Teach High School Seniors Before College

Hello, parents of high school seniors.

It is March 20th. That means if your senior has chosen to go to college, you have 5 months to teach him a thing or two, or five, about what it is going to be like on campus without mom and the team doing the behind the scenes work. I don’t know about your child, but I run into a lot of Gen Y kids who have a lot to learn about taking care of themselves. I also run into a lot of high school seniors who think they know everything.

stresses-studentIn the event that your high school senior is not already be a high-functioning adult, here are 5 things you could work on in the coming months:

Laundry – It’s not going to do itself. Take a weekend or two in the next few months to supervise your teen doing his laundry for himself. In that way you can avoid him returning home at Thanksgiving with a huge bag of dirty clothes, suitcases full of faded multi-colored ruined stuff or a big laundry bill.

Shopping for essentials – If you drive your student to school yourself in August, or fly with her, you will probably do this then. A better idea is to do a dry run or two from home before you leave, and the bright lights of Frosh Week are in your teen’s eyes.

Shopping for food – You know that there are many considerations in food shopping, some of which your child hasn’t considered yet. Nutrition, cost, calories – a dorm food plan will take care of some of this but I don’t remember seeing an actual dorm room without some extra food supplies.

The value of money – Even if tuition, room, board and books are taken care of, your teen will have to manage day to day and entertainment expenses. We suggest sitting with your student and putting a budget on paper before she leaves. The sooner she starts thinking about how much everything costs, the better she will be able to deal with budget shortfalls.

How to get help when you need it – Teachers, parents and guidance counselors have banded together to ensure a good high school result for your teen. In college, there is much less help and support available unless a student asks for it. In addition, the early warning system for when a student is failing or falling short is much less robust. You can plan ahead with your child and develop a plan for what to do if results are as strong as expected.

The real list is longer than 5 things, and perhaps much longer depending on the child. At JD College Consulting, we do periodic group programs and individual programs  for soon to be freshmen looking to get ahead of the game. Email us for more information.

College Admission – High School Counselor vs. Independent Counselor

We hear this question all the time, from high school students and their parents. Should we rely on our high school counselor to guide us through the college admission process or hire an independent counselor?

jdcc-studentIt’s the wrong question, or rather, shouldn’t be asked at all.

High school counselors are a wonderful resource that comes at no extra cost. They have lots of experience, often years, and have worked with large numbers of students, many or most of whom went on to college. They draw on their experience to offer the best advice at their disposal. By all means, take advantage of your high school counselor to the fullest exponent possible.

In our opinion, the reason that some may view the assistance afforded by high school counselors as insufficient is that their caseload is far too high to be able to deal with special circumstances for every student one on one.

If this is the case with you or your student, a great solution may be to enlist the aid of a qualified independent counselor in addition to using your high school counselor.

The key to make it work is to choose an independent counselor that prioritizes working in a complementary manner to what guidance has already been provided by the high school counselor. Avoid big egos and firms that employ a one process fits all students methodology.  There is no need to ignore or undo what a high school counselor has already done, or is willing to do.

Contact us today to hear how independent counseling can add on to the efforts of your high school counselor to help you attain your best result in terms of college admission.

Experience Matters – Independent College Counselors

Are you the parent of a high school student who is looking to hire an independent counselor? Good for you – you are on the right track to getting your teenager into the best school possible.

college_logosLots of parents we talk to rely on referrals to find an independent counselor, which is understandable.  A recommendation from a trusted source can be very valuable, obviating the need to do a lot of research on whom to hire.

If you are going to do the research yourself to find a counselor, the good news is that the internet has a wealth of resources at your disposal. All large counseling operations and many smaller firms or even sole proprietors have websites that will tell you a lot of what you need to know.

One thing I’d like to highlight that is worth considering is the work experience of the counselor who is actually going to be working with you and your teen student.

You may not be aware of the following fact: many independent counselors’ relevant work experience is limited to having worked in the admissions department of a single college. That would be great if that counselor worked at the college that is your child’s first choice, but the vast majority of the time, that is not going to be the case.

At JD College Consulting, our founder, Jonathan DeSimone, has over 16 years of high school counseling experience, has worked extensively with over a hundred different colleges, and has deep contacts at dozens of them. In addition, we only hire affiliate counselors who have a similar background in high school counseling with practical experience working with multiple schools.

Experience counts when selecting a college counselor. Need help with any aspect of the college admissions process? Email us. We are here to help.

When to Start Planning for the College Admission Process

The following post originally appeared at


Parents and high school students frequently ask, “When should we start planning for the college admission process?”  Not surprisingly, our answer is the sooner, the better.

Let’s take a look at what students and parents should be doing, in an optimal case, each year of high school to prepare for college admission.

As a freshman

In 9th grade, the focus should be on academics and building a solid GPA. Begin charting a 4-year plan for future courses, including Honors and AP courses. Your high school counselor can help make sure that the courses you take will get you on the right road to a solid college and major.

Freshman year is a great time to start considering extracurricular activities. If you are unsure, talk to a counselor about which ones fit your interests and stand out on a college application.

As a sophomore

10th grade is all about continuing academic success, including preparing for the PSAT.

As you are talking to friends and family, begin making mental or written notes about colleges or universities you hear about, or visit with them when they come to your high school.

If you can, start discussing possible majors with your counselor. Discuss which courses for the next two years will be optimal, and begin to build a list of which schools might be appropriate.

As a junior

11th grade is the last full year of grades that colleges see. Take the most challenging courses you can this year. Honors and AP level courses are preferred in multiple academic classes if possible.

Develop a testing plan with your counselor:

  • PSAT administration happens in October, and National Merit Scholarships are tied to these scores
  • Are you going to take SAT or ACT?, and when
  • AP tests will be taken in May
  • SAT subject tests should be taken if corresponding honors courses were taken (for admission to most selective schools)

Start you college visits over Spring Break and continue through summer. Work with your counselor to make sure you aren’t missing any local college fairs, and confirm that schools you may visit are appropriate given your grades and interests.

It is also not too early to start looking into college financial aid and FAFSA. Most counselors will have a wealth of knowledge about options.

As a senior

It is important in 12th grade to finish strong academically. Most colleges will see and rely on 1st Marking Period grades, but offers can be rescinded if grades slip, even in the final marking period.

Work with your counselor to ensure that you secure strong teacher recommendations, on time. Continue to look at scholarship and financial aid options.

And finally, your most important job in senior year other that getting good grades is completing the college application process – thoroughly and on time. Your counselor can help with the nuts and bolts of completing the applications, meeting relevant deadlines, how to showcase extracurricular activities and writing compelling essays.  It is important to keep in mind that the college preparation to application process takes four years, not a couple of weeks.

The roadmap above has you relying heavily on the support and resources of your high school guidance counselor.  The timeline that your counselor uses may be different that that above, or more critically, she may not have enough time to work one on one with you at each step.  If the latter is the case, we encourage parents and students to seek out a qualified independent counselor to assist with the process, in addition to the support you get from your school.   A partnership with a counselor can be invaluable every step of the way.


Upcoming Event: FREE College Planning Seminar in Skillman NJ

***This event has been postponed until next month due to an unforeseen issue with the venue***

If you have a child who is a high school sophomore or junior, the college search process may already be stressing you out. Worse yet, you may not have started planning your child’s post high school future.

Are you sure the School Counselor will have enough time to accurately assess your students’ options?

Get a head start on college planning.  Attend a free seminar, “First Steps to College Planning” on January 24th to learn how to evaluate college choices, tackle the basics of the application process early, and to learn what you can do now to help increase your child’s chances of gaining acceptance at the best school for his or her needs.

JD College Consulting is an independent college counseling service that works together with high school students and parents to obtain real results.

Come learn how JD College Consulting can assist you and your student throughout the entire college search process.

Date: January 24, 2013

Time:  6:30 – 8:00 pm

Where: Otto Kaufman Community Center, 356 Skillman Road, Skillman NJ 08558


Reservations are strongly recommended. Please let us know if you would like to attend.

Do High School Senior Grades Matter?

Many parents at this time of year worry about the same thing – their high school senior kids slacking off before they reach the finish line.  “Senioritis” is alive and well.  If your child has not yet been accepted to college, senior grades are obviously important.  Keep in mind, though, that despite what you may have heard, senior grades matter even if your son or daughter has already been accepted.

In a report earlier this year, NACAC reported that in 2009, 21 percent of colleges reported that they had revoked the acceptance letter of at lease one student. In 65% of those cases, the reason cited by the college was poor senior grades.

If that’s not enough to convince students to push hard for good senior grades, remember the very simple fact that every student’s high school transcript is part of their permanent academic record.  Who else may look at senior grades as a basis for making a decision?

  • Financial Aid offices
  • Scholarship boards
  • Graduate Schools
  • Employers

If the progression of a student’s grades from junior to senior year shows a clear choice to slack off during senior year, decision makers might question when else the student might choose to put in less that his best effort.

Simply telling your child to work harder might not have the desired effect.  At JD College Consulting, we can help you put together a plan, working together with you and your child, to make sure that a case of senioritis does not derail an otherwise promising college acceptance scenario.






Upcoming Event: FREE College Planning Seminar in Flemington NJ

If you have a child who is a high school sophomore or junior, the college search process may already be stressing you out.

Are you sure the School Counselor will have enough time to accurately assess your students’ options?

Get a head start on college planning.  Attend a free seminar, “First Steps to College Planning” on December 5th to learn how to evaluate college choices, tackle the basics of the application process early, and to learn what you can do now to help increase your child’s chances of gaining acceptance at the best school for his or her needs.

JD College Consulting is an independent college counseling service that works together with high school students and parents to obtain real results.

Come learn how JD College Consulting can assist you and your student throughout the entire college search process.

Date: December 5, 2012

Time:  6:30 – 8:00 pm

Where: 5 Walter E. Foran Blvd., Ste. 2010, Flemington NJ


Reservations are required. Please let us know if you would like to attend.

Why Hire an Independent College Counselor?

If you are reading this, you are probably wondering whether you should hire an independent college counselor to help guide you and your child through the college application process.  While relying on a combination of your high school counselor and do-it-yourself is a decent option, hiring a professional may be a better one.  Let’s walk through the reasons.

Your high school counselor doesn’t have enough time

The average caseload for a high school counselor in the in U.S. is 250 – 500 students.  Let’s say the average is 375.  If the average high school counselor spends 8 full hours per day counseling (they don’t), that comes out to 3.8 hours per student per year.  Your child probably needs more time and attention than that.

You and your child have big college goals

If your child wants to attend a school that may be a stretch for her, you are going to need a perfect application and some behind the scenes help.  A professional counselor can give valuable advice and maximize your child’s chances of getting full consideration.

The cost is low

In most areas you can get a good college counseling package deal for $2,000 – 3,000.  That may seem like a lot of money, but compared to the $200,000 or so that it costs for a 4-year education at a private school, it is really quite reasonable.  The cost of making a mistake can be much higher.

Your high school counselor doesn’t have enough experience

Not every high school counselor has a lot of experience.  If your child is assigned to a newer counselor, he might need extra help or a mentor with deeper experience

Your high school counselor doesn’t have the right contacts

If your child really wants to get into a particular school, you might need someone with deep contacts at that university, or a lot of experience with that school’s admission process, to seal the deal.  Experienced counselors generally have numerous contacts at many schools around the country.

Your high school counselor doesn’t understand or appreciate your child’s extracurricular activities

Musical abilities, athletics, and other extra curricular activities carry different weight at different schools.  Going the private counseling route, you can choose a counselor who knows how to market your child’s unique ability.

You didn’t go to college

Many parents who didn’t attend college themselves can be very intimidated by the application/admission process.  Knowing that you hired an expert to help guide you can make up for most of the knowledge that you lack.

Reduce stress

The college application process is stressful for parents and students.  Having an experienced partner who can create an action plan for your family can lower the stress level immensely.

You have choices

You probably can’t change the high school counselor assigned to your child.  Your choice of independent counselor is almost limitless.  You can choose one with the personality, experience and contacts that best suit you and your child.

Independent counselors do not grow their business if they are not successful

This may be the most important one thing to keep in mind.  Independent counselors are very dependent on positive word of mouth and referrals.  They will get neither if they do not produce results for parents and students.

Counselor test drives are free 

Ask your friends and neighbors if they know any counselors, or do a Google search. Contact a few and see for yourself whether they make you feel more confident about your child’s chances in the admission process.

Making an investment now to have an expert on your team can pay dividends for the rest of your child’s life.

At JD College Consulting, we offer time, experience and knowledge that go beyond that of the high school counselor.  At the same time we work together with high school counselors to support the student from early high school to college application to admission.

While our program does not guarantee admission to the college of your choice, it can help maximize your chances.