The Montclair Dispatch College Counseling Series–Part 4

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

Montclair Graduates Pursuing Their Dreams, Eager for Next Steps // Photo Courtesy of Studio042 Photography
Montclair Graduates Pursuing Their Dreams, Eager for Next Steps // Photo Courtesy of Studio042 Photography

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 four will examine the steps that students and parents should take during the summer before a student enters their senior year. This is an especially crucial period within the greater application process.

After finishing their junior year, a high school student will now know their cumulative GPA (grade point average). This will be an important portion of a college application, as, essentially regardless of the school, this information will be required. Additionally, knowing this information, a student and a consultant or parent can now create a more refined or set list of colleges for the student to consider applying to. And, if the student and parent choose to seek help through an education consultant or coach, Barbara recommends that a rising senior meeting should take place around this time. At this meeting, the student and coach will discuss if further standardized testing is needed and can decide whether or not there are more schools to visit or tour before actually submitting the application.

During this meeting, students and consultants will discuss the different types of applications that a student could be completing. These include the Common Application, the CAAS (Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success), the Universal Application, among others. The varying types of applications can create chaos and confusion. It is very important to research and understand which colleges and universities are accepting which type of application at the time of applying because it changes with each year.

In addition to the more logistical decisions made at this meeting, students and the consultant can review possible topics for the main essay section of the application. Be careful when deciding on an essay topic, as you do not want the substance of the main essay to be too similar to the topics discussed in supplemental essays. The last thing you want is for your essay to appear redundant and unoriginal. Students can often begin looking at main essay topics in July, but, most supplemental essay topics are not released until August, and in certain instances, September.

The rising senior meeting is a very important aspect of the application process. But with the right guidance, students and parents can avoid unnecessary confusion and stress.


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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