Where Should Students Be in the College Process?

Q&A with Abington’s Director of Guidance


Emily Coulsey

Ms. Ferioli working on student’s college applications on Thursday, November 14, 2019 in her Guidance department office at Abington High School.

As seniors are sending in applications to colleges, many juniors begin to worry if they are on track. To clear up any confusion, Mrs. Ferioli, the director of guidance at Abington High School, answered common questions about the college process.

Where should juniors be in the college process?

“Juniors should take the PSAT to practice the test conditions they will face on the SAT. They should focus on keeping their grades up and start thinking about what they will do after high school and attend as many college fairs as possible. Additionally, after the holiday break, juniors will begin to work with the guidance counselors about beginning the college search and reviewing the requirements for admission. In January, there will be a meeting held for parents to attend and receive admissions information,” Ferioli said.

Should students be doing anything to prepare for applying to college during their freshman or sophomore years? 

Mrs. Ferioli said, “Freshmen and sophomores should work on keeping grades up and joining some sort of sport or activity.” She explained that while colleges “don’t need to see a student joining every club out there, they like to see some sort of involvement in extracurricular activities.” Additionally, she suggested that employment and volunteering also can benefit a student’s resume. And that it never hurts to start preparing early.

What is the purpose of attending college fairs?

“Fairs allow students a face to face conversation to learn more about a college,” Ferioli said.  They give students the chance to ask questions to admissions staff and gather specific information about schools they may be interested in. “One major advantage of attending a fair is that many of the reps at the fair are on the team that reads applications for admission. Making a positive impression with a rep at a fair may help your chances when it comes time to apply,” she said. Additionally, students may ask about sports/clubs the school offers, admissions requirements, or majors that the school offers. Questions like these can help students decide if the school is a good fit for them. 

How many colleges should students visit before applying? 

Ferioli advises that students “try to visit every school that they are considering.” However, that opportunity is not always available. In that case, Ferioli advises that “students should try and visit at least 3-5 schools prior to applying. That way, they can get a good idea of what different colleges have to offer and what type of environment is a good fit for them.”

Do you have any advice for students who don’t know what career they would like to pursue yet?

When it comes time to apply, “it’s okay to not know exactly what you want to do after high school. But, it’s helpful to have some sort of direction you may want to go. Think about what you are good at or what careers or majors have sounded interesting to you. Talk to family and friends, and ask about other people’s jobs and careers,” said Ferioli. Also, students should attend college and career fairs. And make appointments to talk with their guidance counselors. “Many students go to college undecided about their major, which is fine, you can try different courses and choose a major while in college,” says Ferioli. However, it is important to find a school that has several options you may be interested in. Also, the school should be a good fit as far as size and location. Mrs. Ferioli says that research is key, and the more you learn about the school or career that you are interested in, the better decisions you will make.

What questions do students commonly ask guidance counselors about the college process?

Student questions usually revolve around deciding what schools to apply to and the timing of applying to those schools. Mrs. Ferioli said, “That’s where the research and homework come into play. Students should use the resources that guidance will give them to fill out information about colleges.” 

She says that deciding where to attend takes both time and research. However, visiting colleges is the only way to be for students to be sure the college will be a good fit for them. “The timing of when to apply all depends on the deadline for that school. The earlier the deadline, the sooner a student needs to act on getting things ready,” says Ferioli.

Overall, the Mrs. Ferioli agrees that the process can feel like it is a lot to handle. “But if students follow the advice of their counselor and meet with them regularly, the process will feel more simplified and manageable. The important thing is to make sure you are actively working on doing the research that needs to be done and following through to meet any deadlines you have,” she said.