College Search Guide

The King’s Academy College Counseling Department will help guide you through the four phases (Preparation, Education, Exploration and Investigation) of searching for a college that is a “good fit” for you.


The Preparation phase formally begins when a student enters the ninth grade. However, coursework taken during the middle school years may have an impact on the path they take in high school and can even impact a student’s high school transcript and cumulative grade point average. The courses taken during the freshman and sophomore years serve as the foundation that prepares the students for grades eleven and twelve.  During the freshman and sophomore years, students are encouraged to participate in discussions with their guidance counselor, teachers, peers, family, youth leaders, and others to explore careers and interests. They also plan which courses they will take during their high school career.  All TKA students take the Preliminary Scholastic Achievement Test (PSAT) for practice in the fall of the sophomore year and again in the fall of the junior year as part of the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The PLAN test is also given to sophomores as a practice for the ACT and because of its useful career counseling component.  Students in grades 9 and 10 are also encouraged to take the Do What You Are and Learning Styles inventories as well as the Career Interest Profiler through Naviance. These inventories and profiler should be completed by the second semester of their junior year.

The Education phase mostly takes place in the junior year, when each student and family begins to meet with the college counselor in big group meetings and during individual conferences. These meetings begin taking place during the second semester of the student’s junior year. At these meetings the students and parents become acquainted with the different facets of the college investigation, application, and admissions process. Topics include: how to investigate colleges, timing of testing, admission plans, types of applications, the college visit, the essay, the interview, and recommendations.

The Exploration phase begins in the fall and early spring of the junior year and usually continues through the summer. This is the period of time when the student and his/her college counselor brainstorm together and separately in order to develop a list of colleges (somewhere between 15‐20) that broadly fit the student’s college selection criteria as previously articulated to the counselor. In addition to colleges suggested by the college counselor, students will probably accumulate other ideas through participation in the college search programs available on the Internet, through meetings with college representatives at the school, college fairs, from various reference materials available in the College Counseling Office, and through suggestions of parents, family and friends.

The Investigation phase begins shortly after and sometimes during the time the student is assembling the exploration list.  At this time the student is researching, learning and often visiting schools of interest. For students who are able to quickly whittle down their lists, this is a relatively short period of time. For others this process is much longer, sometimes stretching into the fall of the senior year. There is no right or wrong length of time for this process; it should be viewed as the length of time that is needed for each individual student. However, students and families do need to pay close attention to college and TKA application deadlines.
Helpful Tips To Remember

  • Contrary to popular belief, you are NOT searching for “the perfect college”. The truth is that there are many colleges that are a “good fit” for you.
  • It is very common for students to change their mind about some of their college criteria during their senior year. For instance, you might think you want to stay close to home, but by February you have decided you want to move further away. Or, you might think you want a larger school, but after winter break decide that a smaller school is really best for you.  For this reason, it is a good idea to have a variety of colleges on your application list.
  • The place your best friend chooses may or may not be the best place for you. Assess your needs and desires and work to find the right place for YOU.
  • It is best to visit the colleges before you apply, however, this may not always be possible. If you cannot visit before you apply, try to visit as soon as possible after you apply. For colleges with a selective admission process, one of the factors the admissions office may consider is whether you have shown interest in the college by having an “official” visit.