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View From Vis: Meet Our College Counseling Team

Visitation offers a comprehensive, individualized college counseling program for all Upper School students. College counselors, Sarah Patterson and Brian Burgemeister, bring years of college admissions experience to Vis. Below, they answer some frequently asked questions about College Counseling at Vis.

1. Nearly all Visitation students attend a four-year college. How does the College Counseling department work with students and their families to find the right fit?

The College Counseling program includes five or more one-on-one meetings, an individualized college list, parent meetings and much more. Our process is highly individualized, and that allows us to help our students find colleges where they can thrive. At the core, our program is about building strong relationships with our students so that we know them well. This helps us understand where students would be a great fit. By building that relationship, we can both support and challenge our students throughout the process. 

2. What advice do you give ninth- and tenth-graders as they begin thinking about college?

The biggest piece of advice we give to ninth- and tenth-graders is to not think about college. Our College Counseling program intentionally starts in the spring of sophomore year, when students are developmentally ready. Before that, the students should focus their time and energy on academics, extracurricular activities and being an engaged member of the community. We want our students to build a strong academic foundation with good study skills. We hope they will find authentic interests both in and out of the classroom and learn to balance them. This foundation and authenticity one day helps with the college process, but is really about the growth and development of the student as they begin high school.  

3. How do you help prepare students for standardized tests used for college admissions such as the PSAT, SAT and ACT?

We provide exposure to this type of standardized testing by offering practice tests for both SAT and ACT during a student’s sophomore year. We also provide counseling about test planning-- when to test, how many times to test, how to prepare, etc.

4. How do you help students refine their lists of which colleges to visit and apply to?

A student’s list should be balanced. We want each student to apply to enough colleges that they love and will be admitted to. Throughout their college search, we remind our students to maintain this balance by utilizing a reach-match-likely list of their colleges. A well-balanced list produces great results for the student. If the list gets off kilter, we are there to help them adjust. 

5. What skills and strengths do Visitation’s College Counselors bring to this process?

We have a wide range of professional knowledge on college admissions and stay up-to-date on changes in the landscape. We participate in extensive professional development including conferences, professional group memberships, and reading to stay current. We also have great relationships with colleges. We know the representatives who read our student’s applications, and we know the colleges well. In a normal year, we visit 10 to 20 colleges. We also have calls or meetings with 100+ colleges each year.  

6. What advice do you give parents and students as they tour college campuses?

More than anything, we want parents and students to be open-minded throughout their search. There are schools they’ve never heard of that could be great for them, and schools they know a lot about that would not be a great fit. Being open-minded is the key to the college search process. For more tips on visiting colleges, check out the blog post Sarah Patterson wrote a couple years ago on the subject.

7. Any other advice or tips for prospective students and families? 

Your exploration of high school options mirrors the choices you’ll one day have in a college search. Our advice is to find a high school where you can thrive. A place that will both support and challenge you. A place where you can be yourself. Good luck!