College Counseling

Program Overview

College Counseling at Allendale Columbia School is an excellent resource for every upper school student. In addition to our vibrant liberal arts programming, college-like school atmosphere, and highly engaged faculty, College Counseling is a critical aspect of our graduates’ preparation for higher education. The AC College Counseling experience is meant to be informative, supportive, and exciting for students and parents alike.
A successful college application process is not just about knowing where you want to go – it’s also about academic preparation and making intelligent choices to get there. Needless to say, the strength of each student’s academic record is the most important part of their college application. AC's Head of Upper School, oversees the course selection process for all students in Upper School to ensure they are building a strong and unique transcript.

At AC, we also offer support and practice for college visits, interviews, essay writing, and individualized suggestions for preparation for standardized testing. During their junior year May Term, eleventh grade students work on preparing their college essay and other components of the college application.

Our main goal is to arrive at a manageable and balanced list of potential colleges and universities (the “college list”) that are good matches for the student’s individual interests and preferences, so each student’s college application process results in desirable college options!

Emily Nevinger, Director of College Counseling

We encourage our students to be introspective in their college searches and self-advocates in the application process, helping them select a college or university that is a strong academic and social match. Using a healthy balance of information, deadlines, and encouragement, we give every student our complete attention and full support.

Each year, we offer:

  • A personalized college search and application process guided by our Director of College Counseling
  • College Planning programs for students and parents, including college admissions professionals as guest speakers
  • 70+ visits to our campus by college and university representatives
  • A comprehensive College Workshop – including college essay writing, application preparation, and mock interviews  (during the junior year at no additional cost)
  • A technologically-enhanced experience through SCOIR – a web-based college search and application management system
  • Information on scholarships and financial aid, including a College Financial Aid Workshop

Top 5 Tips for College Planning

List of 5 items.

  • #1: Search and Visit Broadly

    With over 2,800 four-year colleges and universities in the United States, students and parents usually come to the college search process with a limited familiarity of the vastness of college options. At the start of your search process, search and visit broadly so that your student is exposed to a range of colleges and universities.  The only authentic way for students to discern her or his preferences is by visiting colleges of different sizes, in different locations, offering different opportunities. To be most successful, include colleges of varying levels of selectivity in your search and visit plans.
  • #2: Allow Students to Drive the Process

    The college search and application process is about more than the final college choice; it’s about students developing the self-advocacy and communication skills to be resourceful and independent adults during their college years and beyond. It is important that students lead the charge with everything from college research to setting up college visits and completing all of their application materials. Each student will benefit from a different level of support and encouragement through the process, and ownership of the college search and application process will lead to a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when they make their final college choice and increased confidence to tackle life’s next big endeavor.
  • #3: The Role of Financial Aid

    For the majority of families embarking on the college search and application process, the availability of financial aid and/or scholarships is a top priority. The resources are available for you to make informed decisions about applying to colleges that are financial Reach, Target and Likely options. All colleges now have Net Price Calculators available on their websites where you can input your family’s financial information to generate an estimated financial aid package.  Some colleges that offer merit-based scholarships will also have a similar program to calculate scholarships. Engaging in honest and open conversations about college costs, financial aid, and loans earlier in the search process helps to set the foundation for the college choice conversation in advance of the Candidates Reply Date of May 1st.
  • #4: Expect Ups and Downs

    Understandably the college planning and application process can be full of emotions. It’s full of demanding tasks (i.e. standardized testing, interviewing and applications) that are likely not all going to go perfectly for students. The reality of the landscape of highly competitive college admission, where the media focuses most of their attention, is that even students who do it all right are not guaranteed admission. This does not mean that students somehow “missed the bar” or “fell short” if they are not offered admission to their first-choice college; it means that there are only so many seats in the classrooms and beds in the residence halls to accommodate an ever growing, high-achieving and compelling applicant pool.  Helping students work through disappointment is an important life skill to strengthen.
  • #5: Focus on Making a Strong Match

    Through the college search, you can research academic programs, extracurricular and community activities, availability and success of career guidance, and maybe even rankings, but no glossy brochures, lists or data will be able to help you discern what college will fit each student best.  A student’s college choice will be his or her home for 4+ years, and their success will be directly correlated to their happiness with their environment. There are clearly things you can research in advance of campus visits – such as academic programs, size and location, etc. – however, sometimes the campus just doesn’t “feel right” to a student, and that’s okay. When it comes time to making the enrollment deposit by May 1st, refer to tip #2 and allow your student’s voice to be heard.

Director of College Counseling

Emily Nevinger is the Director of College Counseling at Allendale Columbia School. After serving as the Interim College Advisor in Fall 2018, Emily took on a role to offer students and families outside AC with guidance in the college admissions process. Her role also expanded to the Admissions team, where she helped prospective families learn more about AC’s innovative education, but she is happy to be back in College Counseling. Emily joined AC from Emory University where she directed the selection process for more than 20,000 freshmen candidates each year. She started working at the university level in 2003 and was a senior member of the admission committees for University of Miami, Emory University, and UNC Chapel Hill. Emily holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from Duke University, a Master of Higher Education Administration and Enrollment Management from the University of Miami, and a Certificate in College Access Counseling from Rice University.
At Allendale Columbia, we prepare students for the world they will inherit. In our trusting and responsive environment, students in nursery through grade 12 grow in confidence and develop scholastic independence.