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Reaching Younger Students: RE adds college counseling programs for 9th and 10th graders

“The college counseling process should begin in the ninth grade!”

It had been a little more than eight weeks since I had begun my new position as Executive Director of College Counseling at Ransom Everglades School in 2022. RE parents, alumni, and friends were meeting with me to share their thoughts on the future of college counseling as we developed what came to be dubbed the REimagining of college counseling. I have this vivid recollection of one parent sharing with me how strongly she felt that the college counseling process should begin early in the upper school experience. Taking careful notes of our conversation, I underlined this statement twice. I knew at that moment that this would be an important aspect of our emerging vision for college counseling. Less REimagining and more about imagining a new model.
Higher education admissions leaders have long been reluctant to engage high school students too early in the admissions process. Most agreed that recruiting students should not begin before the junior year (though most acknowledge some contact with younger students who were taking the PSAT during Grade 10). The stakes are already so high, the thinking goes, that starting earlier would simply add to the stress and frenzy surrounding college admissions. From the vantage point of my new role at Ransom Everglades, I was no longer convinced that this made sense. The national admissions landscape has changed dramatically in recent years and so, too, should our thinking about an appropriate starting point for the college counseling process. 

Patrick Tassoni, Director of College Counseling, and I launched informal discussions with members of the RE community, including with then-Interim Head of School Rachel Rodriguez, faculty and parents about a college counseling program for Grades 9 and 10. What emerged from those conversations was the firm belief that introducing younger students to broad concepts and themes would help ease them into the college counseling process that traditionally begins in the junior year with the assignment of a college counselor. Many of us recognize that the college search process immediately introduces a high level of anxiety and stress for many RE juniors and their parents, primarily due to the fear of the unknown or from what they have heard and read about the selective college admissions process. We believe educating the RE community earlier will help families feel more comfortable with the process. 

And so, this fall, we began hosting college counseling seminars for Grades 9 and 10 during advisory. Over the course of the next year, we will offer four seminars each for ninth and tenth graders, addressing timely topics in a fun and developmentally appropriate manner. To ensure that we complement social emotional learning slated for the new advisory program, we are working closely with Pete Di Pace, Head of the Middle School, whose goal is to enhance the advisory program at Ransom Everglades. In addition to the college counseling seminars, we will be assigning college counselor liaisons to ninth- and tenth-grade advisories so that both students and parents have assigned contacts in the College Counseling Office to address questions as they arise.

Our efforts to imagine a comprehensive college counseling program also include transition conversations with the 8th-Grade Parent Network, as well as assigning college counselors to Grade 11 students by September 1 of their junior year. We are confident that these efforts will benefit our students and parents by providing the support to navigate the challenges that are endemic to our contemporary college admissions process. I hope you will join me in imagining a new process for our students and parents.

As always, I welcome your thoughts as we REimagine college counseling. Please feel free to contact me at 305 460 7956 or
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.