Deciding what classes to take, clubs to join, extracurricular activities to participate in, and the big one — how to select the right college are just a few of the important decisions students have to make during high school. The Office of College Counseling and Academic Planning is there to help. Acting as guides, resources, and advocates for students, they help students not only prepare for college, but to lay a solid academic foundation, identify interests and passions, and make the most of their high school careers—paving the way for a seamless transition to college and other post high school endeavours.
The Office of College Counseling and Academic Planning helps students navigate through an often complex process of academic and college planning. “In the end, we want our students engaged in activities and classes that reflect their passions and interests. We want them to thrive and be fulfilled. With the help of academic planners at the start of the students’ Milken journey, and later with assigned college counselors, we will work to connect those passions, interests, and talents into a college search process that compliments each student with their own unique and appropriate list of possible collegiate destinations,” said Director of College Counseling and Academic Planning Ross Mankuta. “We truly pride ourselves on conducting an individualized process that caters to each students and their unique desire, needs, and expectations.”
Building relationships with colleges and universities is an important piece of the puzzle for the counseling staff. It helps them identify which schools would be a good match for students, and the four person staff is consistently traveling and visiting over 100 schools per year. The department is made up of Mankuta and three Associate Directors of College Counseling and Academic Planning, Shelley Kierman, Samantha Schreiber, and Mari Oropeza. A natural fit, Academic Planning (AP) became part of College Counseling in 2013. Prior to that, it was done by the Advisory. Now, the AP team, which consists of the four college counselors and three principals, handles those duties.
According to Mankuta, Milken has the most comprehensive program in the Los Angeles area. It includes weekly counseling classes that start the first semester of the junior year through the first semester of the senior year. Students are more educated about the college selection process than peers at other schools because of all of the programs that department offers throughout the year. The college planning process starts well before students begin preparing for and applying to schools. Highlights of the program by grade include:
An Academic Planner meets with every rising ninth grader to discuss the transition to the Upper School and courses and academic programs for ninth grade.
College counselors meet with each ninth grader about the importance of coursework and getting involved in extracurricular activities. They create four-year plans for courses. Rising tenth graders register for their sophomore courses.
Students are assigned a college counselor and academic planner and begin building a relationship with them. Counselors begin discussions about the college application and admission process.
Weekly counseling classes start the first semester of junior year. Cohorts, which each consist of 30-35 students, meet throughout students’ junior year and first semester senior year. Students complete two questionnaires, one in the beginning of the year detailing their background information, and a more comprehensive one in December, which includes information on academics, extracurricular involvement, college interests, and a self assessment.
In the fall semester, weekly college counseling sessions and ongoing individual meetings with students are held. Most students begin applying to schools at this time. When it comes time to look at colleges, the counseling department employs a holistic view. Focusing not on just the best college, they strive to find the best fit for seniors. For some, that could be going abroad or even taking a gap year. Most opt for a four year college. Because of the highly selective admissions climate, Mankuta tells students to keep an open mind about schools. He asks them what characteristics they are looking for in an institution, and he will often suggest schools they are not familiar with to research.
Students have plenty of opportunities to familiarize themselves with different schools. There are 120 colleges and gap year programs that come to Milken every year, providing great opportunities for students to ask questions. To get a sense of what admissions interviews will be like, students can even schedule mock interview with one of the counselors, who is not their own.
Various programs are offered to students and parents to educate them on the college selection process. Those include grade level parent nights to review the college counseling philosophy and process, as well as writing workshops in the summer, and Case Studies Night, a mock college admissions activity and mini college fair, which takes place on May 8 at 7:00PM this year.
College counseling and academic planning is a collaborative effort between the counseling department, students, and their families. Guiding them through the college search and selection process, the counseling department offers comprehensive programming that heightens and builds self awareness, self exploration, and self expression, making the college search process an exciting learning process. Students gain the tools to make informed decisions and chart a course for success.