The Montclair Dispatch College Counseling Series-Part 1

This is part one of a six-part series discussing the college process.

MHS Seniors Celebrating Graduation // Photo By Scott Kennedy for The Montclair Dispatch
MHS Seniors Celebrating Graduation // Photo By Scott Kennedy for The Montclair Dispatch

All advice and instruction are provided courtesy of Barbara Gottesman, whose company, College Help! Organization and Advising Services has helped hundreds of high school students in Montclair, Glen Ridge and surrounding towns and counties over the years.  She helps navigate the application process, so students can find their place in the college or university that is right for them. It’s important to note that college isn’t for everybody. Barbara is also an excellent asset for students who feel that college is not the right place for them. There is a multitude of great options for students not interested in or ready for college immediately after high school.

By the end of June every year, around 650 to 700 students from Montclair High School (MHS), Montclair Kimberley Academy (MKA), Immaculate Conception, and Lacordaire Academy graduate from high school.

And that number does not include Montclair students who attend high schools outside of the township such as Seton Hall Prep, Saint Peter’s Prep, Mount Saint Dominic Academy, Kent Place School, Newark Academy, and boarding schools. Many of these rising college freshmen are competing with the rest of the nation–and the world–to attend the country’s top colleges and universities. And every year, our high schools consistently send their students to top schools, some of which have acceptance rates as low as 5%.

For many students across the United States, the college process is often the most stressful aspect of their high school careers. Whether it’s the ACTs, the SATs, the Common App, the CAAS, the Universal application, a college’s individual application, garnering teacher recommendations, or writing supplemental essays, an enormous amount of time and energy can be devoted to landing at the right college or university. It doesn’t have to be so time-consuming.

Part one of the series seeks to provide insight if your child is entering freshman or sophomore year. Even early on in a student’s high school career, there are a few things you can do to ensure a stress-free process.  Start a folder, electronic or paper, where you can toss or attach press coverage or artifacts of experiences or activities. Keep a list of employment, honors, community service, books read, camps, hobbies. etc. Talk to some 11th and 12th-graders you admire who have taken classes you are thinking about, have participated in a specialized school program or have been involved in an area of community service that intrigues you.   Keeping track of extracurriculars throughout high school will alleviate stress for the application process.

Rising freshmen and sophomores should also be aware that it’s important to take challenging classes.  Of course, not all students should take a heavy load of challenging classes, but they should at least try a few.   Barbara recommends doing this starting in sophomore year for most students. Colleges are aware of which classes are easy A’s or which classes truly prepare students for the rigor of college-level courses.   Most kids have the ability to challenge themselves in some way. Aside from these small steps, and of course hopefully taking their school work very seriously, students should have fun, try new things or spend more time on a passion.  

If your student is just starting high school or close to graduation, utilizing education consultants could be the key to a successful college process and application season. Outside help provides an objective opinion of your child and the schools they might show an interest in. A consultant or coach could provide more options for schools to consider that you or your child might not have thought of.  An accomplished education consultant is pragmatic and will recommend safeties that your child would want to attend, taking social and climate factors into consideration. It is always beneficial to have a second opinion. With additional guidance, your trust is placed in someone who consistently helps kids attain their goals, is aware of trends in the area and aware of trends on the college or university campus.

High school embodies the final years when your child will be living at home.  Why not avoid fighting or nagging where you can? Teenagers and adults are much more likely to take the advice of someone who is not a relative.  It’s liberating for both parents and their students.


The author of the article is a Montclair native class of 2017, currently a student at McGill University, studying history and communications within the Faculty of Arts.

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