For most high school students and parents, the phrase “college admissions” is enough to make palms start sweating.
Thankfully, SFC has a brilliant team of college counselors to help students prepare for and navigate the process of applying to, getting accepted by, and choosing a college. In this article, we discuss how Santa Fe Christian prepares students for this momentous chapter in their lives.
How the College Admissions Process Has Changed
Students today face a college admissions process that is vastly different from that of their parents’ generation. Due to factors like technology and the COVID-19 pandemic, admissions have become increasingly competitive.
Because applications like the Common App and the UC application are available electronically, students can apply to several schools using one application (up to 20 schools using the Common App and all nine UC schools with the UC application).
Nancy Olah, one of SFC’s Upper School Academic Counselors, says this “makes the process a bit more selective.” The increasingly digital and streamlined admissions process has caused the number of applications colleges receive to skyrocket, increasing competitiveness. Since most schools now use the Common App, “it really becomes a matter of just how many boxes you check and whether you want to pay the application fee for those schools.”
Just as technology has caused a major shift in the college admissions process, so has COVID. When the pandemic hit, seniors had their SAT and ACT exams rescheduled multiple times, and most couldn’t take their tests. As a result, colleges that year were forced to go “test-optional” or “test-blind.”
“One of the blessings of the pandemic,” Olah says, “is that colleges realized maybe test scores don’t adequately reflect how a student’s going to do in school.” Now, many colleges are in an “in-between stage,” waiting to see whether or not these tests will be reincorporated.
In this state of flux, SFC encourages students to sit and prepare for a test. “It’s better to do more and need less than to say, ‘Oh, shoot. I should have done this,’ later on when it’s too late,” Olah explains. It’s too early to tell which way colleges will go, so for now, there’s still a benefit to testing.
How Parents Can Help Their Students Through College Admissions
Applying to colleges can be stressful for students and parents alike.
Olah’s biggest piece of advice for parents is to encourage their children to get to know their counselor. She says she’s used to students stopping by at the beginning of their freshman year to introduce themselves and ask to meet with her. “It takes a lot of maturity and a little courage to approach an adult and introduce themselves and for that student to really get to know their counselor,” she says.
Counselors can help students formulate goals and prepare well for the admissions process throughout their high school years. When Olah is able to get to know a student, “those are things that we can write about as we write their letters of recommendation,” she says.
All students at SFC (and their parents) have their counselor’s appointment link, so getting face-to-face time with them is easy to do.
SFC’s College Counseling Department
SFC has one of the best counseling departments in San Diego County. One reason for this is the ratio of counselors to students. “Our classes on the big end are maybe 120 students with three full-time counselors,” Olah says. “It’s great because we can really get to know students.”
Students are divided among counselors Nancy Olah, Steve Strimple, and Jeralyn Johns. All three counselors are members of the National Association of College Admissions Counselors, which allows them to talk to college admissions officers and counselors from other high schools around the country.
While each counselor works with a particular group of students, parents are free to reach out to any counselor with general questions.
SFC’s Approach to College Admissions
By using students’ interests, talents, and personal callings to inform the college admissions process, SFC’s approach to the college admissions process allows students to be well-informed and prepared for the next big milestone in their lives.
We Get To Know the Students and Their God-given Talents
The college counselors at SFC get to know their students well, so they’re able to help them navigate their unique college application and admissions journeys.
“What I like about our model,” Olah says, “is that we get to start working with students from a young age. I think that’s the benefit of our K-12 approach. We get to know students in the spring of their eighth-grade year, and we get to work with them throughout their time in high school.”
SFC’s counselors aren’t just focused on getting students into the schools with the most prestigious names. They explore whether or not certain schools are good fits for them, why God is calling them to that school, and whether it’s a place they can utilize the gifts and talents God has given them.
We Help Students Get To Know Themselves
From their ninth-grade year, students have the chance to start exploring college opportunities. All ninth graders at SFC have the option to sit for the PSAT in the fall, and afterward, they’ll start receiving emails from colleges. This is a great way for them to start learning about different schools.
Their time at SFC isn’t all about college, though. “We don’t want to start hammering college, college, college from an early age because it shouldn’t be about college,” Olah clarifies. “It should be about you finding your potential here at Santa Fe, getting involved in things, building a community. The college admissions process is going to be a byproduct of that.”
Another way the counselors help students get to know themselves and their interests is through a program called Naviance. This program begins in ninth grade, allowing students to build a personality profile and do a learning style inventory to see which environments best promote learning for them.
Later on, this leads to career exploration, and Naviance suggests colleges with majors that lead to those careers. As students get to know themselves better, they’re better equipped to make decisions about potential college paths.
We Guide Students on Their Path and Point Out Opportunities for Growth
SFC provides opportunities for students in areas that colleges like to see, such as leadership, athletics, extracurricular activities, and academic rigor. This gives students fodder for their college applications and helps them become attractive candidates for admissions.
When it comes time to apply for college, counselors can help ensure students apply to a well-rounded list of schools. “Every healthy college list should have a safety school, range schools, and reach schools,” Olah says. She’s used to students coming into her office who are set on attending a certain school, but she encourages them to leave room for God’s plan.
As Olah says, “If God’s put it on their heart, then He’s putting it there for a reason. It may be because He has a plan for them that leads them there, but it could also be because He has a plan for them that opens as they pursue that school.”
We Help Students Build and Adjust Their Four-Year Plan During High School
The counselors at SFC begin meeting with students during their freshman year to talk about their four-year plan. “That goes over all of our graduation requirements that are designed to position them for college admission, but it also helps us get to know their interests,” Olah says.
If students exhibit a strong interest in a particular field of study, the counseling department can point them toward enrichment programs to help cultivate that interest. The counselors can also help adjust students’ four-year plans to incorporate that interest into their time at SFC.
“We can’t expect a 14- or 15-year-old to have their life all mapped out, or even an 18-year-old,” says Olah. By meeting with students during each year of high school, counselors can adapt students’ plans as they come to know themselves better.
We Advocate for Students
One of the best aspects of college counseling at SFC is that the counselors write letters of recommendation for each of their senior students. This is a privilege that isn’t afforded to many other schools, especially public schools.
And most importantly, SFC counselors expand students’ perspectives and encourage them to include God in their college admissions process. “We encourage students not to hold onto one or two schools too tightly because we want them to leave room for God to work in their lives,” Olah explains.
The counselors at SFC are advocates for students from their freshman year until they’re accepted at the school that’s best for them.
SFC’s Commitment to Our Students
Santa Fe Christian is committed to guiding our students through their college admissions process as seamlessly as possible into the next chapter of their lives. With some of the best counselors in San Diego County, you can rest assured that your child will be well-equipped with the right support and resources they need to succeed.
If you have any questions about the college admissions process, please don’t hesitate to reach out.