College Counseling Helps Families “Find the Right Fit”

College Counseling Helps Families “Find the Right Fit”

College Counseling Helps Families “Find the Right Fit”

With personalized guidance, informative programming and a dedication to finding the right schools for each student, the department guides students and families through the college-application process.

With shifting trends and increased competition, many students and families across the country find themselves navigating a college-admissions landscape that can feel overwhelming. As experts in the many facets of preparing for and applying to a wide range of colleges and universities, the members of Ravenscroft’s College Counseling Department have not only embraced these challenges but also adapted their approach to meet the evolving needs of Ravens and their families.

Through personalized guidance, informative programming and a dedication to finding the right schools for each student, the department remains steadfast in guiding students and families through the complex task of applying to college.

“Even though the process has changed so much and changes every year, we pivot and shift along with it,” Lia Prugh, Co-Director of College Counseling, said. “Whether it’s updates to the FAFSA process or landmark Supreme Court decisions like the ruling striking down race-conscious admissions, we pivot with these changes. We support our students in real time.”

“The mission of our office has always been to find the right fit for students  it’s not about achieving some sort of placement ideal,” Sean Kennedy, Co-Director of College Counseling, added. “Our approach evolves annually as a natural byproduct of student interests and how to support those interests.”

Ravenscroft graduates Kemmia Ghodrat ’19, Eleanor Campbell ’20, Sam Rappaport ’20 and Ben Fesko ’20 share insights about college life during the 2023 College-Age Alumni Panel in Jones Theatre; senior Jane McNeill ’24 adds her pin for Davidson College to the decision map in the College Counseling suite.

Personalized Support

At Ravenscroft, the college-application process is often built on the connections forged between students and their college counselors. From the moment students start their college search, they’re welcomed into a supportive space where counselors become mentors and allies.

One aspect of this individualized approach is assisting students in crafting a college list that aligns with their academic ambitions, extracurricular passions and long-term goals. By delving into each student’s interests, preferences and academic profile, counselors collaborate closely with them to curate a tailored list of colleges and universities where they can thrive both academically and personally.

Randi Ogan ’25 competes in a race during the March 21 varsity track & field meet (photo courtesy of Courtney Carter ’26); Upper School strings students under the direction of Pamela Kelly perform at the 2024 Prague YoungBohemia International Festival of Young Choirs and Orchestras.

“Having experienced this process four times as a parent myself, I will say the essence of our work is advocating for students to find the ideal path for their journey. It’s more than what they are going to major in,” said College Counselor and Director of Civic Engagement Bill Pruden, a veteran educator with over 30 years of experience in independent schools. “We dive deeper into what each student desires in their college experience. Whether it’s a busy city campus or a more intimate setting, we collaborate with students to identify their priorities and find the perfect fit.”

College Counseling Coordinator Bailey Lamidi underscores the department’s personalized approach to student support.

“We recognize the multifaceted challenges students face, from perfecting their applications to juggling academic commitments and extracurricular activities," she said. "Our department strikes a delicate balance between individualized meetings with seniors and group sessions tailored to address the diverse needs of our student body.”

Aryan Ghodrat ’24 speaks with Jodie Loturco ’24 and Elena Mathan ’24 about Habitat for Humanity during the Upper School Club Bazaar in fall 2022; varsity robotics teammates Tyler Artinger ’25, Yash Agarwal ’24, Zach Peverall ’25 and Paulie Brooks ’25 work on a robot in the Keim Center’s Innovation Lab in the spring of 2023.

Tayla Nargassans ’23, who is attending UNC-Chapel Hill, believes that these personal relationships are key contributors to the overall success of each Raven’s college placement, as they provide a “much-needed support system through what can be a very stressful process.”

“The College Counseling Department has built up a safe and supportive space, and I feel that it shows in the success of student applications and decisions,” she added. “They read my [application] essays, helped me with course planning and are even still working with me today to help send my transcripts to programs I am pursuing for my career.”

Echoing this sentiment, Chloe Adams ’23, currently enrolled at Wake Forest University, expressed gratitude for the expert guidance her college counselor provided. “Mr. Kennedy was always supportive and available,” she said. “He provided invaluable insights into schools and application requirements and assisted me every step of the way. My experience with college counseling at Ravenscroft was truly exceptional.”

At top, members of the Class of 2023 toss their mortarboards following the conferring of diplomas during their Commencement exercises.

Members of the Class of 2024 proudly wear their college T-shirts on April 26.


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Senior advisor Colby Morin, at left, and members of her senior advisory take advantage of a photo opp at the April 24 Senior Class Picnic.

Earlier Engagement

Reflecting a national trend over recent years, an increasing number of Ravenscroft families are seeking guidance from the College Counseling Departments earlier in their students’ high school journey. Kennedy — who as president of the Southern Association for College Admission Counseling has cultivated a broad understanding of the contemporary college-counseling landscape — noted that this growing interest among freshmen and sophomores prompted the department to extend its support to these early years.

“For generations, the college counseling office was the group you started working with in the second semester of junior year. We were there to support the last three semesters of high school. This was the standard everywhere,” Kennedy said. “A few years ago, we began to rethink this process because we were getting more and more inquiries from younger students’ families. We realized we needed more generalized programming to address these questions at earlier grades.”

As a result, programming like the Ninth-Grade Kickoff was created to help educate new Upper School families and address the questions they were asking.

Addison Diener ’26, Adelaide Malynn ’25, Henry Zhang ’25, Shirley Yang ’25 and Sachin Lakshman ’25 wear the medals they earned in the 2024 National Classical Etymology Exam; Honors Spanish II students Mike Mellott ’26 and Cole Welborn ’26 go over a class assignment in the fall of 2022.

“Parents wanted us to instill a sense of purpose and direction early on, empowering their students to take their academics seriously,” Kennedy explained. “Now, the first student program we do at the start of every school year is with our ninth-graders. It helps them understand that they are on the clock now and things do matter — and it’s important to take advantage of Ravenscroft opportunities and resources.”

The messaging at each grade level gets more individualized as students go through the Upper School. “We are helping them understand themselves — helping them find their path within the Ravenscroft Upper School experience,” Prugh said.

Evolving to meet this demand even further, this fall Ravenscroft will add to the team a new member whose focus will be supporting ninth- and 10th-grade students. Head of Upper School Aaron Sundstrom said this expansion underscores the school’s commitment to providing individualized support to all students and their families.

Volunteer judges Victor Kalorin ’24 and Jonas Lisson ’25 (wearing badges) speak with students about their Middle School Science Fair projects earlier this year; Nikki Gupta ’26 gives an interview in the persona of England’s William III as part of a unit in the history course Emergence of the Modern World in fall 2022.

“Ninth and 10th grades are critical years for students to begin thinking about their interests and potential future pathways, and this position will be pivotal in setting students up for success for their entire Upper School career and beyond,” he said.

“Juniors and seniors will always be our priority, so adding this new counselor is a great way for us to continue to prioritize our older students while now serving our younger students simultaneously,” Kennedy added.

A Holistic Approach

In the journey toward college, today’s students and families are looking for more than just college-admissions guidance: they also seek support in navigating the opportunities and challenges of this next stage of their lives. At Ravenscroft, collaboration between college counselors and other Upper School faculty and staff, including grade-level deans and guidance counselors, provides a holistic approach that helps to ensure students are successful in both their college applications and what comes next.

Junior Class Dean Matt Thomas noted that this collaboration begins with initiatives aimed at preparing juniors for the challenging application process ahead.

Members of the Class of 2025 listen to a presentation by college counselors during their spring workshop on April 19; Jin Jeong ’25, Bryce Augusti ’25 and Cesar Bassim ’25 gather handouts before leaving the session.

“While advisory lessons primarily focus on Lead From Here and other programming during freshmen and sophomore years, junior year transitions to more college counseling-focused lessons,” he explained. “This year, we have extended our college counseling workshop on writing college essays to provide students with deeper insights into the essay-writing process, offering structured time and prompts to help them brainstorm.”

Juniors are also encouraged to be proactive, meeting with college-admissions representatives during their visits to Ravenscroft and requesting letters of recommendation from faculty members in advance of the summer break.

Once their senior year arrives, Senior Class Dean Ali Olney said, students are further empowered by workshops and lessons that help prepare them for the many new experiences they’ll encounter when they’re living on their own at school.

Sky Bell ’22 and Ashley Turner ’22 show their posters during the Class of 2022’s Senior Project Showcase; Sara Baende ’23, at center, and classmates don their college caps following the conferring of diplomas at Commencement.

“Our Senior Transition to College program, developed with our college counselors, goes beyond college-admission guidance,” she said. “It equips students with essential life skills such as planning college visits, time management and navigating challenging conversations with potential roommates.”

Upper School Counselor Dania Borrero added that this approach also addresses individual student needs, with College Counseling, advisors and class deans, and the counseling team providing “holistic support  mentally, emotionally and academically — as [seniors] navigate social, emotional and college/career challenges.”

Additionally, the school recognizes the importance of fostering a supportive community environment for parents and guardians as their students are applying to college. Understanding that families play a crucial role in their student’s journey to higher education, Ravenscroft actively engages with expert community partners to provide them with guidance on how to navigate these changes alongside their children. Programming includes topics such as campus safety, developmental transitions, substance use, mental health and overall well-being.


Ravenscroft’s College Counseling team comprises Lia Prugh, Sean Kennedy, Bill Pruden and Bailey Lamidi.

A commitment to all Ravens

Looking ahead, the Ravenscroft College Counseling Department remains committed to guiding students through the evolving landscape of college admissions with expertise and care. With a commitment to empowering students in this critical process, the school continues to uphold its legacy of excellence in college preparation, partnering with families to ensure that each Raven emerges prepared and confident to embrace the opportunities that lie ahead.

“We will always be here to help families navigate this evolving process. We will help your child find their right fit,” Prugh concluded.

“My advice for current Ravenscroft students is to relax and everything will turn out fine,” Adams concluded. “Ravenscroft does a superb job of preparing you for college and beyond. Trust the process and meet with your college counselor as often as you need to.”

CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Kennedy poses with Chloe Adams ’23 following her graduation; Pruden works with Zoe Fitzpatrick ’25 in the College Counseling suite earlier this spring; Prugh speaks to the Class of 2025 at the spring workshop for juniors.

Explore the college decisions and many accomplishments of the graduating Class of 2024 on our Celebrating Senior Success webpage. Read about the many outstanding students and teachers and the distinctive curricular and cocurricular programs in our Upper School at Ravenscroft Magazine>By Division>Upper School.


Fostering a collaborative experience for students and families while nurturing individual potential is at the core of the College Counseling office. Ravenscroft’s four-year college counseling program equips students with the skills and confidence to make an informed decision.

Counselors encourage students to look at a broad range of colleges in order to find schools that best match students’ desires and capabilities. Our college counselors get to know students well and provide individualized attention to each Upper School student and their parents. The close partnership provides support and guidance, helping students make confident and informed decisions.

Read more about the department on our website.

The Role of College Counselors

  • Encourage long-term thinking
  • Help students identify college options that fit their academic, extracurricular and personal interests and needs
  • Balance ambition and realism
  • Help students envision several successful outcomes
  • Empower students to take ownership of the process
  • Help families navigate the complexities of the process

College Counseling Timeline

Ninth grade
  • Freshman College Night webinar
  • Introduction to SCOIR and a self-assessment to identify interests and goals
10th grade
  • Sophomore College Night webinar
  • PSAT
  • College counselor assignment and junior course registration meeting (spring semester)
11th grade
  • Junior College Night webinar
  • Practice ACT, PSAT
  • Student-only meeting with advisor, followed by family meeting
  • Workshop on application essays and related advisory lessons
  • Start of standardized testing (ACT, PSAT)
12th grade
  • Senior College Night webinar
  • Application Bootcamp
  • Further meetings and work with college counselor
  • College visits
  • Student self-reports to SCOIR to track college acceptances, scholarship offers and matriculation decisions

Special programs open to all students and/or families cover topics including standardized testing preparation, understanding financial aid and, for juniors and seniors, the annual College Alumni Forum, in which a panel of college-age Ravens share their experiences, insights and advice.