Hi Cyndy! We’re so grateful for the chance to share with our readers the incredible college counseling work you do with students. As a founding member of the Oaks Christian Online staff, the program is immensely indebted to you in this area.
Would you share with us first:
What is college counseling?
Why would a family or partner school need these services?
What’s unique about the way college counseling works at Oaks Christian Online?
College Counseling is working with students and families to navigate the college exploration, application, and admission process. It entails helping students understand what colleges are looking for, what their college options are (there are over 2,800 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S.) and how they can best prepare and present themselves successfully on their applications.
What is unique about the college counseling program at Oaks Online is the commitment the school has made to this process for our students. As a college preparatory program, Oaks Christian Online is committed to ensuring our students have access to information and guidance to enable them to attend a college or university upon high school graduation. This is fulfilled by investing in a staff of full-time highly qualified College Counselors who actively participate in professional development and routinely visit college campuses in order to stay current so they can advise students regarding the best college options for them.
Additionally, Oaks Christian Online provides classes for enrolled full-time students to help them through the college process beginning spring of their freshman (9th grade) year.
What are the college counseling courses and how do they lead students through the college selection and admission process?
College Counseling 1: “What Colleges Want” provides a very basic overview of the college application process and what is of the utmost importance to colleges in the admission process. This information is invaluable at this time in a high school students’ life because there is a great deal of time to plan curriculum and activities to help them be successful.
College Counseling 2: “Understanding My College Choices” compares the different types of colleges available to students. Most students do not understand the differences between colleges and this course helps them to learn them and to determine what college they prefer. This course is most beneficial the fall of 10th grade as it gives students a great deal of time research their college options.
College Counseling 3 (part 1 and part 2) “Test Prep” is provided for students in the spring of 10th grade and fall of 11th grade; it covers ACT or SAT test prep through Method Test Prep. Each part is 10 weeks long and has included lessons and practice tests.
College Counseling 4 “Creating My Application Strategy” is taken in the spring of 11th grade and helps the student finalize the list of colleges they will be applying to. This course instructs and prepares them for each of the aspects of a college application and how they can most effectively present themselves on their applications.
College Counseling 5 “College Application Writing” works with the students to create their personal statements and short answer questions that are required on the college applications. This class is most effective take the summer after 11th grade.
College Counseling 6 “Finishing Strong” works with the 12th grade students to complete their college applications. It takes them through step by step through the application and supporting documentation needed.
College Counseling 7 “Paying for College” is the final class which helps students understand the different aspects of the college finance process and what types of financial aid and scholarships may be available to them.
All of the courses (with the exception of the Test Prep Class) include weekly Live Classes where additional information and discussions are provided. Students and parents can also request individual appointments with the instructor to go over questions they may have about their student’s individual concerns.
The college counseling program has a holistic approach to helping students choose colleges—it really considers the whole student. Can you tell us about that?
Our program emphasizes “right fit” above all else. Though it may make a college guidance program seem more impressive to have more highly selective or prestigious schools on their list of college acceptances, OC Online is looking to help students and families determine what college will provide the best overall experience for the student. This includes not only the right academic rigor or major program but also the social needs of the student. Also, a major consideration is what the student is passionate about and how to find a place where they can continue to pursue those passions in college. Moral character development and spiritual growth are features to be looked at in college life and financial considerations for the family is also to be considered. Finally, students and families should consider how well a college is preparing their students for life after college graduation both in terms of growth and maturity as well as future career aspirations.
A lot of families and schools experience a ton of uncertainty and stress around college admittance today. Why is this and what can be done about it?
The prevailing feeling regarding college admission is that it is so competitive and hard to get into college. This is completely false; 80% of colleges admit more than 70% of their applicants and there are more freshman spots than students to fill them. What has happened is a small percentage of colleges get the most applications (about 100-150 colleges of the 2800 4-year colleges out there!) created the illusion that very few students get in.
The solution is doing your research to discover what colleges are a good fit and not just applying to “name brand “colleges. Students should be applying to between 6-10 schools and those should represent a “balanced list”. By balanced we mean 1 or 2 colleges that are considered reach schools (admit 30% or less of their applicants) 3 or more target schools (admit 60% or less of their applicants) and 3 or more anchor schools (schools that admit 65% or more of their applicants).
In addition to uncertainty and stress, there is also a lot of misinformation and misperception about finding the ‘right’ college. Can you share some of your wisdom with us? How do you help students cut through all that?
Much of my individual discussion with our students is helping them determine what their preferences and priorities are in their college choices. They fill out surveys in some of the classes and do research on colleges I have given them based on assignments and our discussions. They start with a list of 20-30 colleges at end of College Counseling 2 and then we are able to narrow it down to 6-10 at the end of College Counseling 4. Our goal is to reach a balanced list of colleges they would be excited to attend regardless of its selectivity.
Is there one piece of advice you can give students from anywhere about selecting a college?
Selecting the right college is a very personal choice and should be treated as such. The school that is right for you may not appeal to your friends but can be the best place for you to thrive. Before you can decide what is right for you, you need to determine why you are going to college. What do you hope to experience during those 4 years and how will your school prepare you for life after your education? Thinking through this question personally and uniquely is the key.
We’re so grateful for the guidance students have received in the area of college counseling for over 10 years of Oaks Christian Online. Students from any school are welcome to enroll in these college counseling courses. Listed below we celebrate our full-time alumni and some of the colleges they’ve been admitted to.
OC Online Graduates (last names have been removed):
‘13 – Brendan, Markus and Summer
‘14 – Elle, Savannah, and Meredith
‘15 – Summer, Hank, Michelle, Ciarra, Colin, Nykole, Gloria, Georgia, Elaine, Cherokee, Colton, Lynsey, Madison, Makenna, Jack, Isabelle, Andy, Annika, Sienna, Bethany, Michael, Luyola, Trevor, and Morgan
‘17 – Madison, Yoona, Taylor, Alex, Julia, Megan, and Alex
‘18 – Gabrielle, Cooper G, Cooper N, Ryan, Viktoria, Ella, and Daniel
‘19 – Samantha, Sofia, Ethan, Sarah, and Helena
‘20 – Eneya, Mia, and Max
‘21 – Mya, Jeremiah, Samantha, Reece, and Breanna
A sampling of the colleges they were admitted into and considered a best fit for them:
American University Barbados
American University Paris
Arizona State University
California State University Northridge
Cal Poly Pomona
California Lutheran University
Colorado Mesa University
Kings College NYC
Loyola Marymount University
Northern Colorado University
Seattle Pacific University
John Cabot University (Rome)
The Savannah College for Art & Design
Trivecca Nazarene University
University of California Davis
University of California Irvine
University of Southern California