A. There are several aspects of our practice which provide parents a degree of expertise that is quite unique. First, we specialize in our approach to consulting. That is, each of our consultants focus on specific areas of education, i.e., college counseling for rising juniors, seniors and transfer students, traditional day and boarding school counseling for elementary and secondary school students, and therapeutic special needs placement counseling for children, adolescents and young adults with emotional, psychological, behavioral and/or social issues which significantly impact their ability to develop and progress in a healthy and appropriate way. Given that there are literally thousands of colleges, day and boarding schools, and therapeutic schools/programs, we believe that in order to have the all-important familiarity with specific schools, it is essential to keep our focus narrow.
A second critical aspect of our consulting practice is that each of the consultants involved in therapeutic special needs is a trained clinician. We bring many years of individual, group, and family counseling to the educational counseling service that we provide to our clients. As experienced mental health professionals we understand the implications of various diagnoses for a student’s emotional, academic, and psychological needs. Our clinical training enables us to speak with other professionals and prospective schools in a knowledgeable, in-depth manner about your child and his/her complex issues.
In addition, the consultants who focus on elementary, secondary, and college counseling have all had extensive experience working in schools. We understand how schools operate, we speak the same language, and we value the relationships we have with schools.
The result? Carefully honed school recommendations and a national reputation for successfully completed placements.
A. Once you schedule your meeting, we will send you an email with our engagement documents attached (a client information form, contract, and release). For therapeutic/special needs placement counseling, your release will ask you to list the names and phone numbers of the people with whom you would like the consultant to speak on the spaces provided at the bottom of the form. The names on the release form should include the student’s current school, counselors, therapists, psychiatrists and hospitals (if any).
A. We typically schedule two-three hours for the first appointment. The consultant will meet with the parent(s) for the first half and with the students for the second half (unless the student is less than 10 years old, in which case the consultant may not need to meet with the child at all). We can also schedule the initial meeting with just the parents if you are not certain that you want to move forward yet, and in such cases we schedule an hour and a half for the initial consultation.
A. You will have an initial meeting which consists of a meeting with the parent(s) first and a separate meeting with the student. The parent and student meetings can be on different days if it is more convenient, but the parent meeting is always first. Depending on the time needed for school research, a follow-up meeting to discuss school options and the application process can take place within a few days of the initial meeting, or may need to be scheduled for a week or more later. Thereafter, again, depending on the situation, there might be meetings to discuss school visits, the applications, or for further counseling with the parent and/or the student. Or, it may not be necessary to meet in person again and the process can continue with communication by phone, video conference, or email.
Elementary and Secondary Day & Boarding Schools
A. For applicants to 9th grade, most families start the process between March of their child’s 7th grade academic year and the beginning of 8th grade, but the process can begin almost anytime. Some families meet with us after beginning to explore school options, and transfer students may meet with us at whatever point they start thinking about changing schools. You are welcome to call and discuss your individual situation to determine whether the time is right for some help understanding school options and/or understanding the application process.
Also, for students thinking about changing schools at the elementary or secondary level, Karen can see families at any point that they would like assistance exploring school options.
A. We recommend that 7th graders who will be applying to high schools that require the SSAT take a middle level SSAT in the spring of their 7th grade year. The scores will not be shared with high schools and it gives the student a chance to experience the test as well as to get some scores in order to plan some test prep if it would be helpful before the test is taken in 8th grade. There are several national test dates, some students are offered the test at their school, or a client can come to our office to take the test.
Students who will be applying to schools that require other tests (most likely the HSPT or ISEE) might want to take a practice SSAT (the SSAT is the only test that can be taken multiple times) to get a feel for that type of standardized testing.
College Counseling and High School Curriculum Planning
A. Families are welcome to begin Curriculum and Pre-College Planning during the student’s freshman or sophomore year, or first semester of their junior year. Clients are billed on a yearly basis. We begin the Full College Counseling process, including recommendations of schools, in January/February of a student’s junior year after first term grades have been received and reviewed.
A. While this is a question that is best answered by taking a student’s particular situation into consideration, there are some sensible guidelines that work well for most students. Keep in mind that discussion of the optimum time for taking tests will take place throughout the college counseling process.
Usually, there is no need for freshman to take any tests – not even the PSAT. The one exception, however, is if a student is doing very well in his or her 9th grade Biology class and is planning to take AP Biology before the end of Junior year. In this case, it would be a good idea to take the Biology Subject Test (formerly known as the SAT II) in Ecology.
October: Take the PSAT or the PLAN. These tests provide opportunity for practice that can be very valuable. They do not “count” for anything, so students can be free of stress when they take them.
June: Take a Subject Test, if appropriate. Some sophomores will be taking courses in World History or Chemistry and might consider taking these Subject Tests. It is important to know, however, that the World History test is an exam that focuses on non-European cultures. Therefore, if you are in an Honors or AP World History class, you will be ready for this test. AP European History will NOT prepare you for this test. With regard to the Chemistry test, be aware that it is time intensive and difficult. You will need to have been in an Honors section of Chemistry to handle this exam.
October: Take the PSAT.
March/April: Take the ACT or the SAT.
May or June: Take 2 or 3 Subject Tests.
June: Take the ACT or the SAT.
September: Repeat ACT, if necessary.
October: Repeat ACT or SAT, if necessary.
November and December: Usually, the last opportunities to repeat SAT or Subject Tests (offered in November and December) or ACT (offered in December only).
A. Visiting colleges can be a very helpful way for students to get a sense of what kind of college environment seems like the best fit for them. Many parents are eager to take their adolescents on college visit trips during the early years of high school. This is fine, IF the student wants to go. If parents insist and the students resist, it can actually be counterproductive. I do recommend that students, along with one or both parents (if possible) plan to visit colleges during one of the breaks in the winter/spring of the junior year. Since the high school breaks are usually different from the college breaks, this enables students to see colleges when they are in session and the students are there. Sometimes sports or community service commitments prevent families from scheduling visits during this time. The summer between junior and senior year can also be a good time to visit. While the students are not there, the admission office is open and student tour guides have been hired to give tours. Students can also have interviews during the summer, which is not usually possible during spring break.
A: There is no ideal number of schools to which your child might apply, but it is important to look at a number of schools that could be viable options. Often a school that might not have seemed to be a likely option is a favorite once the family has seen it. Also, it’s important to be realistic about the likelihood of an acceptance at any school. Some schools are very selective. It’s hard to predict who will be offered spots in those schools. It’s a good idea to apply to at least one school that is highly likely to offer a spot.
Therapeutic/Special Needs Placement Counseling
A. A hallmark of our approach to educational counseling is thoroughness. We truly view each student and family as unique and deserving of a process that is careful, thorough and thoughtful. In order to provide recommendations that address the individual needs of each student, once we have interviewed the parents and young person, we undertake to speak with other professionals involved with the student and/or family, review school documents, testing records, etc. Utilizing all of this valuable information we generate recommendations that are carefully tailored to the needs, interests and goals of the family. Thoroughness need not, however, equate with a long, drawn out process. We have designed a very efficient approach to professional contacts, record review and school research that allows us to move forward in concert with a family’s desire for timely feedback. There are instances, generated by crises such as hospitalization, running away, sudden decline in performance or compliance that necessitate, in the interest of safety, a very rapid response. Again, we have honed a process that can, in these situations, allow for an almost immediate intervention for families who are under contract for educational placement services. In any case, at the initial meeting we are able to discuss a realistic timeline that incorporates the family’s sense of urgency and our need for discussions with schools, tutors and therapists.
A. This is a common concern on the part of many parents. In this situation we recommend that parents have the initial interview, which will entail a discussion of current circumstances as well as an academic, social, emotional and family history. This also allows the consultant to discuss with parents effective strategies for encouraging the student’s cooperation. Utilizing these suggestions almost always results in the student’s involvement in the process.