A Well-Managed College Plan


Our college process was two-fold. It began with getting a jump start on the standardized testing, and not waiting until spring of junior year to focus. I believe our outcome was successful because we had a well-managed college plan helped along by an expert, Janice Caine, of Custom College Visits.

The primary focus of her business is to arrange college tours, really good ones, which is how we found her, but once we got into the process, I realized that she could help us with much more. Because the process is so stressful, I hired her to work with my son to research and refine his college list. They met and worked on it slowly over the course of a year. The list they started with was different than the final list, schools crossed off for various reasons and others added to keep it balanced between likely, 50/50 and reach options.

She interviewed me first, and then my son and they went to work together finding schools that met his requirements. We left it totally up to them and she emailed me occasionally to let me see the working list and show me where he was in the process.

“College” becomes a nasty word as you get deeper in, and having an independent buffer was very helpful, sort of like not tutoring your own child. She created a timeline and kept my son generally on schedule so I didn’t have to be the task master. She gave him schedules of when the schools on his list were coming to our area so he could attend the local info sessions for a first impression. I loved attending those with him, it was a great mother/son bonding experience and we always went out to lunch or dinner before or after to chat about our impressions. She only called me in if he didn’t respond to something she felt was important. They created a list of must haves and looked for schools that fit.

She encouraged him to include some schools on his list that were not too “reachy” for non-binding early admission applications. Not all schools offer early action, but many do, and spreading out the application deadlines is really helpful. Those should be to places they’d seriously consider going even if it isn’t the top of their list. The idea is, if they get accepted someplace early, a little of the pressure is off for the January round of applications where you can focus on the harder schools to get into. Knowing you are going to college makes that second round a little easier and if your grades are good fall of senior year, those will be factored into the GPA when the January applications go out.

Janices true gift is planning the college tour! I am a good planner but she really knows her stuff. Because our school doesn’t have a mid-winter break, we only had spring break and opted to see 6 east coast schools in 6 days. It was a long week, but another GREAT bonding experience! In addition to the standard campus tour and information session all schools offer, Janice arranged for him to meet students involved in his interest areas. We had lunch with them, he attended classes with them, he met professors in his subject areas during office hours, and we got a real up close and personal view of these schools. One of the students even invited him to see his real freshman dorm (not the staged one they show you on the tour) and his fraternity house.

My sons first target was regional. Based on his grades and test scores he and Janice found three schools that met the criteria of likely, 50/50 and reach. He loved all three and would have been happy at any of them. He applied early where he could and because one school clearly stood out for him, he opted to give a binding early decision bid a try to his first choice school. If that didnt work in his favor, he was ready with several more good options for the January round. Fortunately for us, that early bid paid off and he didnt have to continue the process, but I am certain that he was prepared for whatever came next and would have had great choices in the end.

I find myself staring down the process one more time. My younger son is finishing his sophomore year in high school and we are ready to initiate his college search. Just like other families with more than one child, he is completely different than his brother, and Im certain we will learn lots of new things from his process. Fortunately, we will have Janice by our side!

Lisa L. – San Mateo California parent of high school students

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