Although students and parents might start to think about higher education in a general way long before junior year, it doesn’t make sense to start developing a specific list of institutions prior to the middle of 11th grade, since a significant history of academic performance and standardized testing needs to accumulate in order to determine, realistically, what level of college a student should target. The college counseling process shown here identifies major steps during the last two years of high school. These sessions are sequenced in a logical manner, with each step preparing the way for the next one. A sound counseling process is organized in this fashion to ensure an orderly movement from beginning to end that contributes to a favorable admissions outcome.
The counseling activities shown below represent a general approach, which can be modified depending upon individual circumstances and needs. The pacing of the sessions, also, is determined on a case by case basis.

1st SESSIONS: Introduction (student and parent/s)
Get acquainted
Preview counseling services
Establish academic profile
Review standardized testing history and set up sequence going forward (SAT I, SAT II, ACT)
Review educational goals

2nd SESSIONS: Selection Criteria (student)
Review history of extra-curricular activity (hobbies, interests, jobs, etc.) in and out of school
Develop personality profile
List characteristics desired in ideal college (given personality profile and resume history)
3rd SESSIONS: Initial List of Colleges (student and parent)
Review points from SESSION 2 for parent input
Discuss pros and cons of individual colleges that match up with selection criteria
4th SESSIONS: Targets and Strategy (student and parent)
Identify (on initial list) several colleges that best meet student’s needs and aspirations
Begin discussion about how to maximize presentation at target colleges (strategizing)
Establish itinerary and timing for campus visits
5th SESSIONS: Application basics (student and parent)
Set up timeline for completing applications (based on list of target institutions)
Preview how to access applications
Review basics of filling out an application
Review actions that supplement the application (resume, recommendations, additional material)
Discuss when and where to interview
6th SESSIONS: Essay Primer (student, parent optional)
Review basics of a good essay
Dissect examples
Discuss subject matter for student’s master essay
Review work on applications (review college list)
7th SESSIONS: Essay draft (student)
Discuss rough draft generated by student
Discuss alternative topics, if necessary
Review work on applications (review college list)
8th SESSIONS: Supplemental essays (student and parent)
Review topics for required short essays for target institutions
Rough out responses to short essay questions
Review work on applications (review college list)
Review evolving strategy and discuss early applications (to maximize presentation at target colleges)
9th SESSIONS: Interview preparation (student, parent optional)
Review interview protocol
Discuss where interviewing might be appropriate and helpful (connected to strategy)
Practice interview
Review work on applications (review college list)
10th-12th SESSIONS: Managing the end-game (student and parent)
Sign off on final list and finalize early application plan
Ensure submission of completed applications by deadline
Review checklist of final actions to complete the file at target colleges
Activate additional helpful factors (submit new information, involve connections, review call possibilities, interact with faculty, revisit campus, talk with local alumni/ae, etc.)