Considering college counseling


Alex Parker-Rogers, News Editor

Planning for a future after high school looks different for everyone, but with the myriad of choices and personal factors to consider, all students planning to go to a college have a long road ahead of them.  

Many students choose to research schools on their own or take advantage of resources their high school offers, while others may also explore help from outside parties via private college counseling. Though not accessible to all students due to the cost, college counselors are an increasingly popular method of college preparation. Weighing all of the options that exist for the college preparation process is necessary for students to determine which course is best for them. 

The College and Career Center at Sequoia is available for all students to take advantage of the many resources they offer. Teresa Ignaitis and Teresa Yeager, work closely with the Sequoia community and have noticed that more and more families are paying for college counseling. 

“I do know for a fact that every year there’s an increase [of students getting private counseling]  and the amount of essays that I used to review has gone down, so it must be that people are getting help in other places,” Ignaitis said. 

One explanation for the surge in students and their families deciding to try private college counseling is the recent belief that college admissions are becoming more competitive. 

“I think parents believe ‘we have to do this’ because everyone’s so worried. It’s the media that says it’s so hard to get into colleges […] they only speak about the colleges that are super hard to get into and you don’t hear about all the other great opportunities,” Ignaitis said. 

High schoolers and their families may also believe counseling is a necessity because they do not feel knowledgeable enough about college preparation themselves. 

“There’s people and parents not feeling like they’re the expert in this process, so they feel they need to hire one,” Yeager said. 

The families of college-motivated students could also seek out private counseling for the multitude of services they provide. Most offer help with the college application process, reviewing or editing personal essays, resume building, tutoring or even getting to know the student in order to determine the best schools for them to apply to. 

“I’ve learned a lot about the application process and requirements that colleges look for. [A private college counselor] helped me navigate through extracurriculars and also the steps needed to submit college applications. I would definitely say a college counselor has made the process of applying a lot easier,” junior Ben Dickman, who has been meeting with his counselor since the end of his sophomore year, said. 

Junior Hannah Delizo also mentioned that her counselor helped her research schools and think about which extracurricular activities might benefit her college applications. 

“It helps me keep more track of what I should be thinking of in the future, like taking opportunities that might help me with applications, looking into colleges I hear about that sound interesting, and thinking about what interests I could apply to a major,” Delizo said. 

Though these services are definitely useful, they come at a price. One local company, Bay Area College Consulting, offers an application package, typically used during the student’s senior year, that costs $1,500-$5,000. The year-round packages that families can start their kids on as early as eighth grade cost anywhere from $675-$1000 a month, depending on the package type and the amount of years it spans. Many students at Sequoia interested in attending college are not able or willing to spend that kind of money on a private counseling program. 

“Getting [a private college counselor] wasn’t an option for me because I haven’t heard of them until now and they aren’t very accessible to me due to the cost per hour,” junior Samantha Castillo said. 

This lack of access to private counseling is reflective of inequities that have existed in the Bay Area for quite some time. The booming tech industry that exists within Silicon Valley has led to growth in the  population of families in that field who are mainly upper middle class, which has deepened the existing wealth gap.

 According to the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, within the last decade, median household income has increased by 87% ($250,000) among households that make $20,000-$290,000, while households that make up to $15,000 have seen only a 36% ($4,000) increase in median household income. 

Race also has an impact on the wealth gap. Systemic racism has excluded people of color– especially the larger Latino population in the Bay Area– from the same opportunities white people have accessed to acquire their wealth. 

 According to research The Bay Area Equity Atlas collected in 2019, white workers make a median earning of $92,054, followed by Asian or Pacific Islander workers who make $82,260. Black and Indigenous workers follow further behind these numbers with median earnings of $54,008 and $48,952, respectively. Latino workers make the least of all other groups in the bay Area with $44,050 as their median earning.

Sequoia educates an ethnically diverse student body which also means the school represents different levels of wealth in the Bay Area. According to the Sequoia High School 2022-2023 School Profile, the student body is 57.4% Latino, 32.9% white, 5.4% Asian, 2% mixed race, 1% African American, and 0.8% Pacific Islander. With the racial wealth gap in mind, these numbers show the majority of Sequoia is non-white, which means many students may not have the means to afford private advising, whether they would have wanted to explore that option or not.    

 For these students, or anyone not interested in private counseling, there are plenty of other methods of college preparation. Sequoia provides most of the same services private advisors do, but for free. On the Sequoia High School website, in the College and Career Center section, students can access the weekly college newsletter, scholarship opportunities, financial aid resources, how-to videos and perhaps the most suggested, Naviance.

Naviance is perfect for students who desire the personal help private counselors provide as it offers a formula that can generate college lists based on the student’s preferences. If it’s essay help students require, the College and Career Center recommends College Essay Guy, a free online resource with essay tips. 

Apart from the College and Career Center, there is also the AVID program, which focuses on building academic skills needed for college as well as organizes campus trips. With a teacher’s recommendation, students can apply for the program, which will meet as a class every school day for all four years of their high school career. Many students use the class as their primary form of college preparation and feel positive about their future. 

“The resource I use is AVID which is a college prep class they also help you with applying to colleges. I’m a bit nervous, but overall confident, about college and the research that I’ve done on schools.” Castillo said.

Students who do not have private counselors often research schools they’re interested in on their own. This method is definitely advised by the College and Career Center, but with the added suggestion of focusing on the personal reasons a student would want to go to the college they’re researching. This means looking beyond the prestige of the school and honing in on the question of why it would be a good environment for the individual student.

“I think going onto the actual, individual website of the college and actually listening to the admissions officers and what they’re looking for is what they need to do. Go beyond acceptance rates and that kind of stuff because everybody wants to go to Stanford, right? And you ask them why and they say ‘it’s because it’s a good school’. It’s so much more than that. They’re not going to get in with that answer. And so the students who actually do that work and really understand why they want to go to a school are more successful,” Ignaitis said.

Making sure the method of college preparation is the right one for the student is the most important factor in this decision. With all of the great resources Sequoia provides and any other personal resources students may have available to them, a fulfilled life after high school should be attainable for all.