Match Game

One of the hardest challenges schools counselors face is helping students choose which college best fits their academic profile, extracurricular interests, and professional goals. Julie O’Bryant, a school counselor with James River High School in Richmond, Virginia, dishes some secrets of playing college matchmaker.

Hobsons: When do you start helping students find their perfect school?

O’Bryant: We have career guidance sessions for students in their freshman and sophomore years where we talk about if college is your goal, the best way to reach that goal. Junior year we expose students to Kuder, which is a series of interest inventories that match student interests and skill levels to various careers. That gives them concrete example of what possible careers are out there and then we examine colleges that have majors in the work areas they scored high on.

Hobsons: What questions do you ask students to help them target the appropriate schools?

O’Bryant: It’s essential to examine what the student has in mind when they think of their ideal college experience. We ask what exactly the perfect college experience looks like to them and then we ask what’s the most important piece of that experience? Is it the academic programs the school is offering? Is it the campus location? Are you comfortable in your setting of classes of about 30 or do you think you’d be comfortable going into a class of 200? From there we can make a list of colleges and start narrowing it down.

Hobsons: Once a student has a list of schools, how do you narrow it down?

O’Bryant: That takes a little time. We work with students to the pros and cons of each school and the reality of gaining entrance into that college. Do they meet the criteria? Is it going to be a good [academic] fit? Then we tell them to visit those campuses and observe classes. That’s really the best way to find a good fit.


This article was written by Christina Couch

Christina Couch is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Virginia, and Chicago, Illinois. She is the author of Virginia Colleges 101: The Ultimate Guide for Students of All Ages (Palari Publishing, 2008). Her byline can also be found on,, and, and in Wired Magazine.

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