College counseling at SPA is centered on individual relationships with students and a partnership with each family to provide professional guidance and insight on the college search and application process.
Every student is assigned one of three full-time college counselors in Grade 10. Well before thinking about specific colleges, the college planning process begins with counselors getting to know their students and encouraging them to establish a strong academic foundation and cultivate personal interests in and out of the classroom. College counselors advise on academic schedules and extracurricular activities, and provide emotional support and encouragement as students identify the areas of study and engagement that truly excite them.
By the time students enter the junior year, college counselors know their advisees well and provide personalized guidance as the college search begins in earnest. Counselors work closely with the student and the family to identify key college criteria based on the student's interests and personality, suggest colleges to research and visit, develop a testing plan, review essays and applications, and personally advocate for students directly with college admission officers. Counselors also help students and families understand financial aid and scholarship opportunities, and counsel seniors in making their final college choice. While educating and advising students, counselors foster a relaxed, positive and informed approach that empowers students as individuals to affirm their own values and direction as well as support others.
Our college counselors stay current on college options and admission trends by regularly visiting college campuses and through active engagement in professional associations including the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools and the National Association for College Admission Counseling. Each year SPA welcomes admission officers from nearly 150 colleges to visit our campus and meet with interested juniors and seniors. Admission officers get to know the strengths of an SPA education and look forward to seeing applications from our students.
Parents and guardians are essential partners in the college search. Through a series of evening programs and morning coffees, parents learn about trends in college admission as well as the details, timelines, and logistics of the college search and application process, and effective ways to support their student. Audio recordings of our programs linked on our comprehensive College Counseling website keep this information accessible to all. Counselors welcome parent and guardian questions at any time and meet with parents during teacher conferences and family meetings in the junior and senior years. By partnering with parents to help them understand the college process before their student is actively exploring college options, together we guide the student to gain independence and ownership of their college search.
Our goal in college counseling is to support the personal growth and exploration that ensures a rewarding path to higher education. Just as the SPA experience fosters skills and perspectives that benefit students in the college search, the college counseling process cultivates skills of self-reflection, critical thinking, communication, self-advocacy and decision-making, that will be vital to students’ success in college and in life.