College Counseling

Finding the Right Fit

The overall ethos at Sonoma Academy is very much oriented towards academic and personal growth and evolution. Our college counseling program reflects those same values as our counselors guide students through a four-year curriculum of self-discovery and project planning. This curriculum includes course planning, standardized testing preparation, college research, application tools, and personal statement preparation. Students meet individually and in groups with their college counselor several times in increasing frequency as they approach the completion of their applications. 

Our College Counselors help students build a unique list of schools that match the student’s interests, passions, and strengths, as well as the quality of life they seek at college. By developing one-on-one relationships with all of our students and working with families, we are better able to advise them on appropriate college matches and to advocate for them to admissions offices. What’s most important is that students have a variety of options and the knowledge of self to choose the school that is right for them.

Recommended Reading

  • Tips on Success in College from The New York Times
  • College Unranked: Affirming Educational Values in College Admission by Lloyd Thacker
  • The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College by Jacques Steinberg
  • Harvard Schmarvard: Getting Beyond the Ivy League to the College That is Best for You by Jay Mathews
  • Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admission and Beyond by Marilee Jones and Kenneth Ginsburg
  • Letting Go: A Parents’ Guide to Understanding the College Years by Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger
  • Looking Beyond the Ivy League: Finding the College That's Right for You by Loren Pope
  • The Best 371 Colleges by the Princeton Review
  • Colleges that Change Lives: 40 Schools You Should Know About Even If You’re Not A Straight-A Student by Loren Pope
  • Cool Colleges: For the Hyper-Intelligent, Self-Directed, Late Blooming, and Just Plain Different by Donald Asher
  • Fiske Guide to Colleges by Edward Fiske
  • The Fiske Guide to Getting into the Right College by Edward Fiske
  • The Insider’s Guide to Colleges by The Yale Daily News

List of 2 news stories.

  • Talking About Wins and Losses

    Tis the season for festive decorations, tasty treats, joyful celebrations...and also, a bit of heartbreak and unexpected angst. As many of our seniors start to receive acceptances, deferrals, and rejections from the colleges they applied to Early Decision or Early Action, they experience a range of emotions that can be hard to get a handle on at times. 

    In recent weeks, Nichelle and I met with our College Counseling Connections and Exploratory groups and with senior parents to talk about how to to mindfully discuss college decisions with friends and family. We asked both students and parents: what would you like your family and your peers to know about how you’d like to talk about this subject? We have compiled their advice below, along with some of our own tips for talking about wins and losses in the college application process.

    Parents say:
    • They aren’t asking about college decisions because they are being nosy; they are asking because they care.  
    • They want to be kept in the loop, because your college choice will ultimately involve them, as well. 
    • They recognize that getting into college is just one part of a long journey. The college decision is not the end, it is the beginning of the next phase. 
    • There is no one perfect college, and really, chances are very good that you will find a place to thrive, even if it’s not your first choice. 
    Seniors say: 
    • Be thoughtful about when and how you share your news with others. You don’t need to bury your joy, but be aware that others around you might be grappling with disappointment. 
    • If a friend wasn’t accepted to their dream school, please don’t try to cheer them up by trash talking the college or trying to “put things in perspective.” It’s okay and normal to feel some sadness in the wake of a rejection. 
    Dot and Nichelle say:
    • Be prepared for people to ask about college applications and the future. If the topic makes you anxious or upset, come up with a standard response to let people know that it’s not a conversation you are comfortable having at this time. 
    • Check your decisions at home, not at school, and especially not in the middle of class. 
    • Be mindful about posting about wins and losses social media, and if you find that seeing everyone else’s college application process play out on Instagram makes you feel bad, take a social media break. 
    • Don’t share other students’ news and don’t be nosy. 
    • Resist the temptation to “figure out” why a college decided the way it did. There is so much we don't know about each individual's process, and this is a futile effort. 
    • Try not to let college talk dominate all of your conversations, especially during the holiday season. Be open with your friends and family about how you are feeling, and agree on an approach to sharing news and asking for updates. 
    • If you get deferred by a school that you applied to Early Action or Early Decision, take heart! This is good news; it means that the school wants to see more from you. Strategize with your counselor on how to put your best foot forward in the Regular Decision pool. 

    Above all, students and parents should take heart in the fact that we are all on the same team. We want our students to take pride in their acceptances and to handle their rejections with grace, and we are all rooting for every student’s success. With a little empathy, a little tact -- and perhaps some extra holiday cookies -- we will all get through this tricky season feeling supported.
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  • Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Early Application (*but were afraid to ask)

    by Dot Kowal, Director of College Counseling 

    November 1 is more than just a day to digest Halloween candy. Our seniors know that for many colleges and universities, November 1 is the Early Decision (or Action) deadline. Applying early to a top-choice school has become an increasingly popular choice for many independent high school students, for a variety of reasons. Some competitive colleges now accept up to 60% of their classes from the Early Decision pool, so some seniors are feeling more and more pressure to take the early route. There are solid arguments both for and against applying early, and, like the whole college process, much depends on each individual student’s situation.

    Understand the Early Options
    Colleges offer several different versions of early application to their prospective students.
    Early Decision amounts to a promise to attend a college if admitted. Students must withdraw all other applications and commit to enrolling at the school. If not accepted, some students are deferred until the Regular Decision reply date. Students can only apply to one school Early Decision. Early Decision replies usually come in early December.
    Early Action is not binding; students do not have to withdraw other applications and do not have to make a decision about whether to accept the offer of admission until the spring. Students can also apply to more than one school Early Action.
    Early Decision II is the same binding contract to attend a college if accepted as Early Decision, but the deadline is later (usually around the Regular Decision deadline in early January). Students hear back from colleges quickly, often by early February.
    Restricted Early Action is offered by a few very elite colleges. Although it is non-binding and students do not have to respond to offers of admission until spring, students are not allowed to apply Early Action to any other schools when using this option.

    Why Apply Early?
    Applying Early Decision or Early Action does have advantages. Applying early signals that you are very serious about that school. Colleges often take a larger percentage of their ED/EA pools because these applicants are safe: They are very likely to attend, and they are willing to take whatever financial aid package they are offered without waiting to compare offers from other schools. And, whether accepted or denied, it can provide some peace of mind for students to have a decision from their dream schools locked away earlier in the process.

    The Downsides of Early
    Early deadlines can add even more stress to an already stressful time, and some students feel pressured to apply early even if they aren’t completely enthusiastic about a school. If a student needs another shot at the SAT or ACT or is hoping for a boost from their fall semester grades, applying early means they won’t be able to include their most recent scores and transcripts. And applying Early Decision means that you are limited to one financial aid offer; you can’t compare packages to maximize scholarships and grants.

    The Early Bird and the Worm
    They say that the early bird catches the worm—but what if you catch the wrong worm? We only recommend that a student apply Early Decision if they are 100% sure that this school is their top choice. It is imperative to visit the campus and to know why it is your top pick; what, specifically, makes it a good fit for you? Being committed to a school that you’re just lukewarm on, or that you love the idea of, is a recipe for regret down the road.

    The Bottom Line
    Applying Early Decision can be a great option for students who are very serious about the college they’re applying to, who have strong grades and test scores and don’t need their fall numbers to bolster their application profile, and who are willing to take whatever financial aid is offered to them. For others, Early Action is a more attractive route, allowing for more flexibility and time to decide. And for many seniors, having more time to thoughtfully compile their applications and narrow their lists makes Regular Decision the way to go.

    Now… back to that Halloween candy!
    Read More

College At-A-Glance

2500 Farmers Lane 
Santa Rosa, CA 95404 
(707) 545-1770

Sonoma Academy Is... the only private, independent, college preparatory high school in Sonoma County. On our beautiful campus nestled at the base of Taylor Mountain in Southeastern Santa Rosa, our students are able to explore their interests and passions in a rigorous and inspiring environment that develops a lifelong love of learning and prepares them for college and beyond.