What Wilson counselors have to say about a student’s most pivotal season in their high school career

Mrs. Valenzuela

What are some things you have learned the past few years as a counselor that has helped you better assist seniors during this time of application and decision making?

“Seniors tend to wait until the last minute to start the application process and they become overwhelmed.  So, I have learned to try to help them manage their time by planning out a schedule and encouraging them to take advantage of all the resources and workshops available to them. They also become stressed, and I reassure them, that it is not difficult, but that it is a process that happens over time.  I try my best to try to help them through that process.”

What is one thing you would want all seniors to know during this time–whether they are going to college or not?

“Find your passion and follow it! Ask a lot of questions from the adults around you who are in the field or career that you are looking into. Talking to other people helps you gain knowledge about the nature of a career and can help give insights both negative and positive that should be considered. [Additionally,] do your research.”

When seniors are doubtful or have low confidence in themselves to get into a good school, how do you help them believe in themselves?

“I remind them that they will never know if they don’t try.  Often times students don’t believe that they can achieve, the first step is believing they can and then going for it! 

            I also remind them that they are not going to be young forever, so they need to start thinking about how they are going to start making a living in the future.  I encourage them to think about the kind of lifestyle they would like to have as well.”

Mrs. Ortega

What should seniors focus on the most in their college essays?

“Depending on what university you are applying to, the Universities of California (UC schools) use the Personal Insight Questions (PIQs). We want you to think of these as interview questions. So focus more on what akes you unique, what experience you had. They obviously can see your transcript and what amazing and strong academic students you are; but to stand out you really have to focus on who you are as an individual, and what you are bringing to the university.”

How do students have resources and guidance when it comes to applying to college? Where can they find this information?

“Us as counselors are here for you! Please come in and see us. Schedule your senior appointment. We are here every day as well as have open office hours during nutrition and lunch breaks. But aside from that, remember that on October 10, 11, or 12, we will be going into your English classes and be helping you complete your college applications during your English period. In addition to that, we have partnered with an organization called College Access Plan (CAP). They are here after school on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:30 to 5:30 and they can also sit with you and do one-on-one help with any of your college essays and applications. They also offer PIQ or personal statement writing assistance and those workshops are on Thursdays require sign ups

How can students be confident in themselves throughout the college application process?

Remember: you have done everything possible to set yourself up for success. So now is the time to just complete that application. Do not stress out too much. Life is full of journeys, and so ride the wave, and slowly doors will open for you. Just remember that although your heart may be set on a particular school, life is going to lead you in the direction you are supposed to go to. So continue to be positive; take your time will college applications; do not rush anything; ask for help if you need it; and remember that we believe in you and that you are going to accomplish great things. 

Mrs. Jara

How do you and the other guidance counselors assist students who do not want to go to college and what resources are available for them?

“Counselors work with students through yearly conferences to help them explore options and understand their individual goals. For students not wanting to continue education in the traditional sense, we really advocate training of some kind, whether it is through certificate programs at the community college, our awesome adult school, the military or the job support services offered through America’s Job Center of California (AJCC) located on our adult school campus.” 

How do you encourage students to apply for colleges or scholarships they are afraid of or unsure of their abilities to get them?

“Students worry too much about the possibility of NOT getting something!  If you meet the eligibility requirements and it is something you believe is good for you, I say apply.  The worst thing that can happen is you don’t win or don’t get in – and there are always other options.  You really do miss 100 percent of the shots you do not take.”

How are parents involved in a students’ process of applying to college? Or do they get involved at all?

“We love parent involvement and support, but caution against parents doing things that the student should be doing.  At parent nights we encourage parents to ask open questions and talk with their student about what excites them or worries them.  When parents help students learn ‘adult things’ like their social security number or how to make a professional phone call or email, I think it is super beneficial!” 

 How can parents support their students as they apply for college?

“Keep the pressure low, but the support consistent.  The focus right now should really be on ensuring the student has as many opportunities as possible.  Sit down with them as the student fills out the basic demographic information.  Most importantly?  Parental help is REALLY needed when it comes to filling out the financial aid application.  Changes this year will make it easier, but a student cannot do it alone.”

Mrs. Khan

What are some tips that you have for seniors in managing all the things they have to do this year?

“Deciding what to do after high school is a major life choice and it is very common to have fears about making decisions that impact your future. Seniors should remember that they have a support system of counselors, teachers and staff ready to help. Seniors have to focus on their current responsibilities, home and school commitments while executing the tasks necessary to move forward with their post-secondary goals. For many seniors this may include college applications, financial aid applications, and the need to make decisions about housing and finances. My biggest advice for seniors is to set aside time every week to focus on their post-secondary plan.  If you are not sure how to get started, counselors are in their offices at break or lunch. If a task feels too overwhelming, break it up into smaller tasks and just get started. Trust the process and have faith in yourself.”

What is your biggest piece of advice for seniors when it comes to deciding what to pursue after high shool?

“When deciding what to do after high school, begin by exploring all available options. Then decide what is most important to you. What do you want to contribute to the world? What do you enjoy or what comes naturally to you?  As students begin to explore their gifts, talents and what they value, they can find a career path that aligns with what is important to them.”

Does your experience in trying to assist each senior class in their college application/decision process differ each year, or is it pretty consistent?

“The counseling department at Wilson High School has a comprehensive guidance plan that addresses the needs of students at every grade level so there is consistency of services, but as the needs of Seniors evolve, so does the assistance we provide.  Counselors also attend conferences and professional development opportunities yearly to learn the latest information and how it will impact our students, so we are constantly evaluating our practices and striving to improve our support of students.”


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