Senior Kate Trimble discusses her future with her college counselor Amy Secor.
Photo: Anna Stone

For some high schoolers, the thought of the college process is often accompanied by fear and apprehension. Underclassmen may not know what lies ahead of them, and the junior class is just starting to learn. But Pace has an extensive process to prepare its students for success and acceptance into the schools on students’ lists.

Many people may believe that Pace’s college prep begins in junior year, but it really begins freshmen year. Pace uses Transitions classes, which meet once per eight-day rotation, to help the freshmen acclimate to high school life and gain valuable tools, like time management. While the topic of college is also raised, the teachers try to refrain from stressing out the students prematurely. Despite those efforts, freshman Claire Wierman already feels some stress about college. To combat it, she is trying to be proactive and prepare by “taking the right classes and getting onto the AP track.”

In sophomore year, students take the PSAT for the first time and gain insight as to what they need to do to prepare for the SAT junior year. Math teachers may begin to give the students ACT/SAT problems to prepare them. In addition, sophomores may take Mr. Hornor’s or Ms. Smith’s AP European History class, which prepares them for college level difficulty. Throughout these two years, the students meet with their dean to determine the best course load for them, with the college process in mind. Usually, taking more AP classes in junior year will be advised to make students more competitive college candidates and to further prepare them for college-level classes.

In junior year, the subject of college is explored to a greater extent. Students are allowed to sit in on college meetings with representatives from prospective schools. Juniors are also strongly encouraged to attend the College Fair, where juniors and seniors of many Atlanta schools are introduced to hundreds of colleges and universities. Later in the year, the juniors are given a NAVIANCE online account, a crucial tool in Pace’s college process. On NAVIANCE, students can see their previous PSAT, SAT and ACT scores. They can also find possible colleges in its database and compare their current test scores and overall GPA with previous acceptees. Juniors will continue to use this resource throughout junior and senior year. In addition, juniors are encouraged to attend multiple talks hosted by the college counselors, which provide insight into the process.

Juniors learn who their college counselor is in December and are asked to complete a survey so the counselor can learn more about the student’s character and interests. Meetings with college counselors start after Winter Break. At this point in the year, juniors are just starting to actively participate in the college process and so many still feel unprepared. “I’m more stressed than before the process began,” said junior Marc Mitchell. “All that’s happened is that my list of colleges has broadened.”

That may change as juniors begin to meet with their counselor more and more throughout the year. In the beginning, the meetings are about learning about the student and his/her preferences. Over time, the meetings will focus more on colleges, but the personal connection between counselor and student will continue to develop. Although students officially have one college counselor, all the counselors are helpful in the process. “We are pretty collaborative as a team,” said Director of College Counseling Gavin Bradley. “We work hard to know all the students individually, along with the class as a whole and lots of the faculty as well.”

Seniors begin working as early as summer to get a head start. The college counselors task the students with making a resumé and filling out questions about themselves to prepare for college applications. Later, students must fill out the Common Application with the help of the counselors. In this time period, the counselors hold after-school meetings with the parents and senior class. Ultimately, the responsibility to apply to colleges is left up to the seniors, and they must fill out the applications themselves, although the counselors are always ready to help.

After a senior has been accepted into colleges, they are able to put a flag where the school is on a map outside the college office. Many seniors get to put multiple flags on the map with multiple acceptances. Senior Taylor Upchurch, who was accepted early decision to New York University, advises students to “go on Pace’s college tours early to think about where you want to go and what you want in a college.” Although it may be beneficial to start the college process as early as possible, Mr. Bradley advises otherwise. “Underclassmen should be where they currently are grade-wise and be the best at that, instead of trying to be a perfect college applicant,” he said.