There’s a team on campus that some might call the last stop in a student’s journey at Overlake. And yet, the College Counseling office is partnered with all Upper School students throughout their high school journey in a way that the team likes to call “arm in arm.” “We really see it as relational in that it is not just about college,” explains Kate Asgari, Director of College Counseling. “It is about the developmental arc that’s part of their time at Overlake straddling their time beyond Overlake.”
The College Counseling office is comprised of three team members. Asgari leads the team alongside Associate Director Chris Kuipers, and Assistant Director Regina Quiban. All three have spent time working in college admissions before moving to the other side of the table, as they say. “In this world we are helping to guide students and families in understanding how does that labyrinth work? What are the passageways? What are the blind corners? How does this all fit together?” reflects Asgari.
One way the team informs students and their families is through their grade-level curriculum for Upper School. “Knowledge is power, so having those month-at-a-glance bullet points spelled out and then we have programming that is an overlay to that with the goal being education. We don’t imagine a ninth grader should be able to start college planning, but instead a concerned parent/guardian trying to get their legs under them and trying to understand how this process works.”
Beginning in ninth grade, families receive the grade-level curriculum as well as access to Scoir, an on-line college planning platform for families to utilize throughout the college application process.
Besides digital access and information regarding the college application process, Overlake’s team also provides lots of face-to-face meetings with students and families. Quiban works with ninth and tenth-grade families for individual questions related to test prep and preparing for their student’s journey, while Asgari and Kuipers are academic deans. “They meet us in the spring of their tenth-grade year, and we follow the person we meet as their academic advisor and also as their college counselor, so we know those students and families quite well.”
Staying atop of college admission trends is something the entire team aspires to do through ongoing professional development opportunities and leveraging their network in order to provide the latest information to Overlake families. “We attend a lot of webinars with colleges and we meet with college reps and talk with academic deans to stay ahead of the information and to disseminate that to our families with the programs we have,” says Quiban.
Throughout the college application and selection process remains the team’s approach to helping families find the “right fit” school for their graduate. “None of these schools make a student successful,” explains Asgari. “An Overlake graduate will be successful wherever they go because of the education they have and how they know how to apply it. And then, it’s like ‘how do we find those fits where they can flourish?’ But there isn’t a single college or university that takes a student here and makes them somehow successful. They have the skills to be successful wherever they go. THEY are the gift to these institutions they go to.”
Kuipers’ advice for parents is simple – focus on making the most of their student’s high school experience. “There’s essentially nothing students can do specific to the college application process before the spring of their junior year. In the meantime, they just need to focus on being a strong student and discovering – and cultivating – their own unique talents and interests. Parents need to focus their energies on supporting their students in this work. Help them become the best version of themselves as individual humans, and then in Senior year we will all work together to find the college that’s best for them. DO NOT spend four years trying to mold their students into what they think will be most competitive in the admissions process at some particular school.”
After Winter Break, the team is looking forward to bringing recent Overlake graduates back onto campus for Grads Return, and annual event where these recent grads come back and share their experiences with Upper School students.
Overlake College Counseling is often asked what they’re reading. Below is a list of the team’s good reads and their recommendations below:
- Never Enough: When Achievement Culture Becomes Toxic and What We Can Do About It By Jennifer Breheny Wallace
- Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be by Frank Bruni
- Who Gets In and Why by Jeffrey Selingo
- The Price You Pay for College by Ron Lieber
- The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey
- The Self-Driven Child by William Stixrud & Ned Johnson
- How to Raise an Adult (for parents/guardians) by Julie Lythcott-Haims
- Your Turn: How to Be an Adult (for students) by Julie Lythcott-Haims