A College Counselor Chronicles Her Own Family’s Journey

2014_LEAP-10-LISA-WEBIt’s my turn!! I’ve worked for 15 years as an independent college counselor assisting families on college selection, application, career selection, and admission. Finally, I have a high school junior, and I get the privilege (yes, I just said privilege) of embarking on the journey from a different perspective. Most certainly this will result in moments of wanting to pull my hair out (as my clients have attested to me), but hopefully many more of fun and joy.

I’m frequently asked, “What would you do if he were your son?” when parents are seeking advice from me. In an effort to answer that question, I will do my best to chronicle my journey via our blog as this will provide tips and laughs for all of you on the same journey. So, I’m starting my journal LATE—and I’ll tell you right now, we aren’t doing everything perfectly. We are going to make mistakes, because I’m trying very hard to make this my son’s journey, not mine, and relinquishing control of the process a bit to keep the peace. I’m also going to choose to keep some details close to my chest for his privacy.


  • 10th Grade Testing: practiced for, took, and analyzed PLAN and PSAT results. He is going to be an ACT kid, not SAT. TIP: Figure out which your child is best at and focus on that particular test.
  • Career Planning: He was finally old enough to take his Birkman Assessment. As a Senior Certified Birkman Consultant, this is a day I’ve been longing for to get a deeper picture of his wiring and how it can lead him to a best-fit career. We did this spring of his 10th grade year and he’s now exploring and narrowing career choices with LEAP’s Fit 2 Flourish Coaching. Tip: Choose the career path before the college. You don’t want your kid to fall in love with a college that can’t equip him for his future.
  • Summer College Visits: These aren’t always official visits (some were), but we started these the summer heading into high school. He indicates he wants to stay a few hours from home; we’ve been on campuses like Ohio State (spring break), University of Cincinnati (numerous athletic and cultural events), University of Kentucky (spring break), Marquette University (vacation), University of Tampa (vacation), Cedarville College (athletic event) and Miami University (I was speaking there), because we were in the area and now he’s experienced a variety of campuses formally and casually. It’s helping him figure out what he wants in a school.
  • Research: We created a list of accredited colleges for his specific desired future major and he’s started looking at them online as well as reaching out to the schools for more information.
  • Course Scheduling: He is enrolled in two dual credit college courses this year, one last year, and two next year. Can you say future college savings?
  • Fall 11th Grade

  • Testing: We created a testing timeline for his ACT tests. He can test any time now, because he completed algebra 2 as a 10th grader. We avoided fall testing due to his sport and registered him for his first ACT in December and plan for him to retest in April.
  • Test Prep: We registered for LEAP’s ACT-SAT Prep Essentials for the month leading to his test date. We will do individual tutoring leading to the second attempt.
  • E-mail: We created a new, clean e-mail address for him to use exclusively for ACT testing and colleges. You’ll be surprised at the volume of e-mail that will start to come in as the junior year progresses. It can overwhelm personal e-mail accounts.
  • College Visits: He’s attended one college fair this fall already and connected with a college rep at school. We looked at the school calendar to maximize days off and have scheduled his first choice college visit for November on a teacher in-service day. More visits to be scheduled, but we know his days off (in-service, Martin Luther King and President’s Days, spring break) plus he gets two college visit days. Tip: Get out the school calendar and make a plan!
  • Tools and Tips: He is attending an ACT-SAT Informational Seminar as well as a Resume Building Workshop (he will take his resume on his college visits.) November is his College Selection Seminar, college visit, and the start of ACT prep.

  • We will keep you posted on the blog! Thanks for following the journey.


    This article was written by Lisa Mader

    Lisa Mader relies on extensive teaching experience, a master's-level education, and affiliation with some of the industry's most important accreditation boards to help college-bound students maximize their performance and find their best-fit college. Through her company LEAP, Lisa has helped countless families in the areas of test preparation, college selection/application, choosing a major and future career, and much more.


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    3. Elaine

      I am a mother who went through this last year and my son did many of the prep work your son is doing like deciding which test to take and focusing on that, but resume building?! Taking a resume on college visits? That seems way over the top and I have been on many formal college visits and did not hear about or see one student with a resume…seems like it could give a bad impression…

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