College Corner: Back-to-College Counseling? Yes, Starting in 8th Grade

  • College Counseling
  • Sage Ridge Spotlight
College Corner: Back-to-College Counseling? Yes, Starting in 8th Grade
Rob Lamb
Portrait of Director of College Counseling Rob Lamb

It’s back to school and time to get back to college counseling. While most families think about college visits and applications starting during junior year of high school, college preparation starts in earnest with thoughtful discussions and exploration as early as 8th grade and extends through high school graduation. Throughout this multi-year journey, the landscape of higher education enrollment management will evolve and it is important for families and students to take into account the shifting dynamics. As families consider their options, for example, they must navigate the introduction of ChatGPT and other generative AI programs that are reshaping admission decisions and practices, the Supreme Court ruling last June to end race-conscious admission programs, and new test-optional admission policies. 

While there are fewer test score submissions overall, for example, there are also fewer students getting into elite schools without test score submissions. Unfortunately, there is less transparency around the correlation of test score submissions with admit rates than would be helpful to make the most informed decisions on whether students should send scores to colleges or not, and the question of which colleges are test-preferred remains vexing for most college advisors and students who may be stressing over their test scores, wondering which schools admit higher numbers of applicants with scores than those without, sometimes nearly three times as many. 

Bar graph of test submits and admit rates at colleges

Test score submission tactics notwithstanding, data from the National Association for College Admission Counseling clearly suggests that, overall, the strength of Sage Ridge’s curriculum and seniors' polished essays or writing samples, as well as their extracurricular activities, demonstrated interest, positive character traits, and recommendation letters will be weighed more heavily now than their test scores in an application review process. 

Percentage of Colleges Attributing Different Levels of Importance to Factors in Admission Decisions

This is why it is important for students to begin college prep so early, starting as early as age 13 or 14, in 8th grade. Beginning in 8th grade, students should start their college preparation with a focus on short- and long-term academic and extracurricular planning to prepare to make informed decisions regarding colleges that match their own interests, abilities, goals and needs, recognizing that there will be more than one "right" college for each student.

The earlier students set their individual goals, the more opportunity they will have to get involved in the activities and academic coursework that will set them up for college applications and success in the admission cycle. 

Sage Ridge School’s college counseling offers abundant resources to help families navigate today’s landscape and explore the fundamentals of college planning, including researching schools, developing application strategies, and understanding admission policies, financial aid and scholarship/merit aid information.

Percentage of Colleges Attributing "Considerable Importance" to Factors in Admission Decisions

For a grade 8-12 student checklist and more information about Sage Ridge’s individual counseling with students and their parents and group meetings and programs on college entrance exams (ACT/SAT), college options, meeting college costs, application tips and tactics, and admission procedures, visit Sage Ridge College Counseling or contact Rob Lamb.