News, Opinion, & Multimedia for Tamalpais High School

The Tam News

News, Opinion, & Multimedia for Tamalpais High School

The Tam News

News, Opinion, & Multimedia for Tamalpais High School

The Tam News

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Counseling Issues

With college application season in full swing, Tamalpais High School seniors and juniors applying to schools feel immense amounts of stress and pressure. However, some students who can relax with no worry are able to because of the previous help they received.

Living in an area as wealthy as Marin County, many students have access to private college counselors and private SAT/ACT tutors, which their parents pay large amounts of money for. These counselors range from 60-200 dollars per hour, specifically in Marin County.

Junior Tessa Ulvestad has had a college counselor since her freshman year. 

“We meet about once a month or every other month,” she said. “If it’s before the school year, she will help me figure out what classes I should be taking to achieve my goals. And recently we’ve been making a rough list of possible colleges that suit my future.” 

In addition to this, her college counselor helps her come up with activities to differentiate her on college applications. 

“I feel like she’s definitely helped me with some extracurricular ideas that could benefit my college applications. She’s definitely helped give me direction because the whole process is very confusing,” Ulvestad said.

While private counseling is helpful, it’s wildly expensive. Many counselors around here cost hundreds of dollars per session, and thousands of dollars total, leading students to rely solely on the help of their school and its resources. However, when it comes to college, Tam doesn’t do enough to help its students, putting students without private help at a distinct disadvantage.

The College and Career Center (CCC) here at Tam is a place many students rely on for free college counseling advice, but it seems that it provides very minimal support, leaving students confused on its usage. It is severely understaffed, with only one college counselor tasked with helping the entire school of over 1,600 students. During stressful college application seasons, one person on the job does not seem to cover all students. While the CCC does a good job hosting college events and workshops, it leaves very little time for students to check in and get meetings with the counselor. Many students have complained about the difficulty of reaching the CCC, and even when they do, not having their questions answered. 

“I wish there was more communication about community service through the CCC. We need more things to help you break down how you want to move forward with your life. I feel kind of lost right now,” Tam junior Hannah Canin said.

Tam seems to do nothing to help when it comes to the SAT/ACT, aside from two emails being sent out telling students to sign up for the PSAT, and one about mock SAT and ACT opportunities. While some colleges do not require SAT/ACT scores, the need for them can be intense for students with a goal to separate themselves and stand out.

In terms of preparedness and gaining prior knowledge to these tests, there is a severe lack of communication and information shared. 

“I missed the mock SAT because I didn’t know about it,” Canin said. 

At prestigious private schools such as The Branson School, students find it very helpful to have college counselors and additional support that is already embedded in their educational environment. All Branson students take a “college counseling” course, where they spend a few hours every week with their school-provided college counselor to get to know them, compile lists of colleges they are interested in, and have help in the essay and personal statement writing process. There’s also someone who is in charge of managing standardized testing. They offer  mock SAT/ACT tests for the school and ensure all students are given the support they need, often arranging outside tutors.

 “Kids who need the extra support and kids trying to get recruited [for sports] use outside support, but I’d say most don’t have outside counselors because there’s pretty much all the resources we need at school,” Branson junior Audrey Gilmor said.

While being a large public school instead of a small private school means we will not have the ability to have as strong of a college support system, students should have the ability to have a little more interaction with their counselors. Counselors are the ones who write one of the letters of recommendation needed to apply for colleges, but given there are five counselors for the entire school, some students have never even spoken to their counselors.

In an attempt to form a solution, it would be seen as very effective to have an incorporated elective into Tam’s classes. This would not only offer a universal opportunity for all Tam students to have access to test preparedness but also a chance to come out even with the competitive students who have the funds to spend on other resources.

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