top of page

The College Advisors Roadmap for Success: Your First Steps

As a parent, there’s no better feeling than watching their student walk confidently onto a college campus, feeling like they truly belong.

But this doesn't happen by accident.

Achieving admission to college requires a deliberate, long-term strategy. And whether you seek guidance from an experienced college advisor or prepare on your own, there's a proven roadmap for success.

This first of a series of articles on preparing for and seeking college admission explores each of the initial steps, including:

  • Understanding and defining student passions, interests, and goals.

  • Building a strategic resume of achievements and involvement.

  • Assessing current academic performance and social participation.

  • Creating a strategy that prepares and positions your student for college success.

Let's get started!

Discovering Your Student's Aspirations

Understanding your student's passions, interests, and goals is a critical first step in college preparation. These early conversations pave the way for a competitive application showcasing their unique strengths and experiences.

Here are tips for starting meaningful discussions about their abilities, interests, and potential college and career options:

  • Create a Relaxed Atmosphere: Forget formal interviews. Opt for casual conversations during car rides, meals, or relaxing together.

  • Focus on Open-Ended Questions: Instead of yes or no questions, use open-ended prompts like "What interested you most about that class?" or "What kind of problems do you find yourself wanting to solve?"

  • Active Listening is Key: Avoid distractions and listen closely to your student's responses. Ask follow-up questions to show genuine interest and encourage them to elaborate.

  • Celebrate Curiosity: Let your student know that there are no wrong answers. Embrace their questions and encourage them to explore different interests without judgment.

Conversation Starters

Here are some questions and activities to get the conversation flowing:

  • Strengths & Weaknesses:

  • What are you good at? (e.g., problem-solving, writing, working with others)

  • What subjects do you enjoy most in school and why?

  • Are there any areas where you'd like to improve?

  • What are some things you find challenging?

  • Passions & Interests:

  • What do you most enjoy for fun in your free time?

  • Are there any hobbies or pursuits you'd like to try?

  • What kind of books, movies, or podcasts do you enjoy?

  • Which extracurricular activities did you enjoy and not enjoy? What did you like or dislike about them?

  • Career Exploration:

  • Imagine you have a superpower that helps other people. What would it be and why?

  • If you could solve any world problem, what would it be, and how would you tackle it?

  • What are some jobs you find interesting? Why?

  • Let's take a personality or career-matching quiz together and see our results! (There are many free resources available online)

Activities to Spark Exploration

  • Shadowing Professionals: Have your student shadow a professional in a field that interests them. Job shadowing provides firsthand experience and a chance to ask questions.

  • Volunteer Work: Volunteering lets students explore different causes, develop new skills, and build a service ethic.

  • Summer Programs: Consider summer programs or camps related to potential interests. These programs can provide a taste of different fields and help students develop new skills.

Student self-discovery is a process, not a checkbox. These casual conversations aim to spark your students' thinking about their interests and potential. The best time to start having these conversations is during their sophomore year of high school. It's a critical first step in uncovering their true aspirations and choosing the right schools to support them in the future.

While your student thinks about the future, it's time to assess their current academic and social standing.

Building a Foundation for a Custom College Plan

Your students' transcripts, test scores, and extracurricular involvement paint a vivid picture. And it's this picture that admissions boards will see when evaluating your student’s application. 

Step 2 is reviewing and assessing your student’s current standing in the following essential areas. The goal is to create the foundation for a robust college application in the future:

Review High School Transcripts (GPA, Course Rigor)

Review your student's transcript together. Discuss their GPA and course selection. Are there areas where they've consistently excelled? Subjects that present particular difficulty? Have they challenged themselves with honors, Advanced Placement (AP), or dual enrollment courses?

This is the right time to determine how your student can complete the necessary coursework to support college applications in the future. Meet with your school guidance counselor or an educational consultant to design a strategic coursework plan for your student. Consider tutors for subjects presenting difficulty or stress to master.

Standardized Test Scores (SAT, ACT)

Has your student planned for or already taken standardized pretests?

  1. If your student takes a standardized pretest, use their scores to measure future progress.

  2. Discuss their strengths and weaknesses in each section.

  3. Consider exploring tutoring or test prep resources to target areas for improvement.

While many schools have shifted to test-optional admissions, strong SAT or ACT scores can still be a significant advantage in the application process. There has also been much discussion about these tests becoming more important again in the coming years.

Extracurricular Activities

What extracurricular activities does your student participate in? Do they reflect a passion for music, social justice, technology, or athletics? Their preferred activities reveal their values and how they spend their free time.

Has your student held leadership positions within their extracurricular activities? Taking initiative and demonstrating leadership qualities are valuable assets for college applications.

Athletic Activities

Athletic participation requires dedication, discipline, and teamwork, which translate well to academic pursuits and campus life.

Discuss how your student manages their time between academics and athletics. Does their history display organization and an ability to focus on and manage varied commitments?

Volunteer and Community Service

What community service activities has your student participated in? These experiences highlight the causes they care about and their willingness to give to their community.

Ask your student to reflect on the impact of their volunteer work. How has it helped the community and themselves? Did it shape their perspective or inspire future goals?

Special Skills and Talents

Does your student have exceptional artistic abilities, musical talent, or foreign language skills? These skills can enrich a campus community and make your student a preferred applicant.

How have your student's unique talents developed over time? Have they participated in competitions, workshops, or independent projects? 

Engaging in these conversations throughout your student's sophomore year offers valuable insights into more strategic academic choices and extracurricular involvement. Consider scheduling a meeting with your school counselor or a professional college admissions advisor to discuss course selection options that align with your student's emerging interests.

Not sure when to start planning for college? BestFit College Advisors can help!

The college admissions process can feel overwhelming, even for the most organized families. There are countless factors to consider, from standardized testing and course selection to crafting compelling essays and navigating financial aid. Professional college admissions advisors are invaluable assets for your student’s success!

BestFit College Advisors offers tailored guidance for your entire admissions journey. Our experienced academic advisors help students identify their strengths and interests, develop a strategic college list, and build a compelling resume for admissions success.

Educational consultants coach and motivate students, keeping them on track throughout the application process. We provide personalized feedback on application materials, help students remain organized, and stay on top of critical deadlines.

Whether you’re seeking comprehensive guidance or targeted support, explore the stress-free benefits of working with an experienced admissions advisor. We play a crucial role in helping your student handle the college admissions process confidently and achieve their educational goals.

Contact Cheryl at BestFit College Advisors today at (207) 229-8603 to learn how we can help your student achieve their college dreams!

Now, let’s explore how to best position your student for college success!

Craft a Compelling Story for College Admissions

Think about your student's academic records, extracurricular activities, and personal experiences. These provide valuable insights into their strengths, interests, and values. A collaborative self-assessment process builds a foundation for a successful college application. By understanding their unique story, you can craft a compelling narrative of who they are. It's a resume showcasing their academic success, leadership, and contributions, which they will bring to college.

Building the Complete College Applicant

While solid grades are essential, colleges seek more than academic achievement. They’re looking for a complete package: well-rounded individuals with a passion for learning and the ability to thrive on campus. Here's how your student can go beyond the textbook and build an attractive profile to impress colleges:

  • Extracurricular Activities: Extracurricular activities include sports, clubs, student government, and theater. These endeavors demonstrate a student's interests, commitment, and leadership potential. Participation demonstrates initiative, teamwork, and the ability to manage their time. Encourage your student to explore activities they enjoy and to consider others to develop new skills or leadership roles.

  • Volunteer Work: Volunteering is a fantastic way for your student to explore their passions, give to their community, and develop life skills. Volunteering also looks great on college applications! Look for volunteer opportunities that align with your student's interests. These may be working at an animal shelter, mentoring younger students, or helping at a local food bank.

  • Developing Special Talents: Does your student have a talent for music, art, writing, or coding? Colleges value students who can bring unique skills and talents to their campus. Encourage your student to continue developing their abilities. Continue taking lessons, participating in competitions, or creating a portfolio of their work.

These initiatives demonstrate your student's academic ability and well-rounded personality. They paint a broader picture of who they are and how they will likely participate on college campuses. 

Personality Assessments and Surveys for Self-Discovery

Students usually need support determining where their interests lie. Here are some resources that can help them explore their passions and potential career paths:

  • Personality Assessments: Personality assessments like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or can help students identify their strengths, preferences, and working styles. These assessments are a starting point for exploring careers that align with their personality.

  • Interest Surveys: Many colleges and career websites offer free surveys to match student interests with potential careers. These surveys can spark new ideas and help students narrow down their options.


Remember, the goal is to encourage your student to explore a variety of activities to discover what makes them tick. This process is intended to unfold over time but may require some gentle priming to develop. Make self-discovery an ongoing topic and activity throughout their sophomore and junior years.

Mapping the College Admissions Process

So, you've embarked on this exciting journey of self-discovery with your student! Now, let's take a peek at the college admissions process itself. While it may seem complex initially, understanding the basic structure can help you and your student navigate it confidently.

Standardized Testing (SAT/ACT): Most colleges require either the SAT or ACT. While sophomore year is a little early for test prep, it's an excellent time to become familiar with these tests. The College Board (SAT) and ACT, Inc. websites offer practice tests and resources to help students understand the exam's formatting.

Application Timelines: The college application process unfolds over high school's junior and senior years, but preparing for college should start in their sophomore year. Here's a simplified breakdown:

  • Sophomore Year (All Year): Get a head start by exploring colleges, planning coursework to meet future goals, and researching standardized testing options.

  • Junior Year (Fall): This is when many students begin researching colleges and attending college fairs. They'll also start working on their college lists and familiarizing themselves with application requirements.

  • Junior Year (Spring/Summer): Some students may choose to take standardized tests (SAT/ACT) during this time. They can also continue researching colleges and start brainstorming essay topics.

  • Senior Year (Fall): This is crunch time! Students will finish their college lists, request transcripts and letters of recommendation, and start working on their applications. Early decision and early action deadlines typically occur in November.

  • Senior Year (Winter/Spring): Students will continue submitting applications and meeting regular decision deadlines. These usually fall between January and March. They'll also receive admissions decisions and start comparing financial aid offers.

These are general timelines with specific deadlines varying for each college and student.

Your Path to College Admissions Success

Start early with self-discovery and familiarize yourself with the application process. The best way to help your student prepare for college is by creating a clear strategy and roadmap to follow. 

In our next article, we'll explore how to build a strong college application profile for your student.

Is Your Student Late in Preparing For College? Don't Panic - We Can Help!

Cheryl at BestFit College Advisors has a proven track record of helping students gain admission to their top-choice schools. She can help your student:

  • Craft a personalized roadmap to their dream college.

  • Navigate the complexities of college applications.

  • Increase their chance of admission.

Schedule your FREE 30-minute consultation today! Call Cheryl at (207) 229-8603 or visit BestFit College Advisors online to learn more about preparing your student for college.


bottom of page