College Counseling

List of 3 items.

  • 75

    college representatives visit our campus each year
  • 110

    Average number of colleges and universities that accept our students each year
  • 33

    average number of colleges each graduating class matriculates to
The college counseling process, in which students and their parents participate collaboratively, supports the continuation of each student’s individual educational journey.
Determining each student's next step begins long before senior year, when, through the PCD Playbook program, students start to think of themselves as lifelong learners and understand their unique strengths and interests. A successful college search process, as well as a successful high school experience, requires self-exploration, extensive research, maturity, risk-taking, good decision-making, and ultimately self-confidence—tasks and characteristics that are developed and practiced every day at Providence Country Day School. Formal college counseling begins in the junior year, though the process of self-reflection that helps inform the process is on-going.

Calendars, Testing Info, and Resources

Click below for:
  • Junior and Senior Year College Counseling Calendars
  • Standardized Testing Tips
  • College Testing Info
  • College Counseling Glossary
College Counseling Resources

List of 4 items.

Message from Terry Ward, College Counselor

College Admissions: One counselor’s perspective.

I believe that the process of college admissions is a learning experience, an opportunity for students to discover more about themselves and their capacities. I believe a college counseling office should encourage every student to engage in this process as a substantive personal search, not the careless pursuit of a “name” school.

But the college counseling process should not be the first time a student thinks carefully about their future. There is certainly no need to “lock in” one’s future plans for education and occupation in Grades 9 or 10. But there is great virtue in encouraging students in those grades to explore their proclivities, attributes, and interests, starting with the very first days of high school. Such an intentional process of self-discovery will prepare them well for adult life. It also might help them find direction in high school. And this effort certainly will serve them well in the college search. They will be well equipped to make college choices that suit them best. This is crucial, because the greatest goal in college counseling is to make smart choices that lead to fulfilling undergraduate college careers that prepare them well for whatever comes next. Life is long, at least we hope it is, and college is but a first step in a substantive adult journey. One’s college education should be a springboard into the future.

List of 3 items.

  • The College Admissions Process

    The college admissions process is interesting in that while there are a number of processes and activities that every student must perform in more or less the same manner, at heart it is and it must be an individual process.

    The college admissions process is undeniably competitive, but the best question to guide this journey is not, “Am I good enough?” but rather, “What do I want out of college?” The student who concentrates first on this latter question will find the most success at the end of the day. In this great wide world of ours, it is always possible to find someone whose level of achievement exceeds one’s own. This is one of the things one discovered as one grows older and one’s world grows larger. But this should not distract us. Indeed, it is the big fish in the small pond who makes too much of present distinctions who ends up ill-equipped to deal with the wider world that awaits. Bigger ponds await us all. A student hung up on “adding up” will not be able to handle that fundamental reality with any kind of success.

    So, this is a time to seize the day and take advantage of the opportunities within one’s grasp. This is not the time to just see how you measure up. There are opportunities aplenty for every student graduating from high school and proceeding on to college. The key is to be in a position to take advantages of the opportunities that come one’s way. The notion that the admission to a college with a well-regarded name is all one needs for future success is an illusion. One’s life is not a zero-sum game defined by a college admissions decision.
  • The Admissions Decision

    I don’t want to minimize the disappointment students feel when they do not gain admission to their choice college(s). Students work hard on college applications, send them off, and wait months to see what someone they don’t know has to say about their future. And the word that comes back is unequivocal. Even the ambiguity of a “wait list” or “deferral” offer is not contingent upon the student’s reaction. Whatever the news from the college, the student has to live with it. And of course if they have their heart set on a college that does not offer them admission, that news stings. It hurts. It takes some getting used to.

    On the other hand, an offer of admission from a college, accompanied typically by a letter replete with flowing words of praise, induces a giddy kind of excitement, especially if the student had, or thought they had, some reason to doubt the outcome. There is no doubt that this is a sweet moment. (And of course, this is what usually happens – well more than 2/3 of college admissions decisions are positive. Only 100 colleges in the country deny more applications than they accept.) An offer of admission feels good. It should.

    I certainly want students to exult when the offers of admission come. But whatever the colleges say, I want students to put these decisions in an appropriate context. I want to urge them not to cede their self-worth to the administrative process called college admissions selection. Whatever the outcome of a college’s deliberations, the student’s talents and the student’s promise remains intact. No college can claim ownership of that. In truth, no college admissions operation is perceptive enough to pronounce definitively upon the worth or the value of a student, never mind the extent of that student’s accomplishments and certainly not their future promise.

    I would hasten to add that no college admissions operation would presume to do so. At bottom, we must remember that every college has the same goal – to admit enough students so that they can open in the fall with a full first-year class, whatever “full” happens to mean. That’s all they are doing. So, it’s an obvious point, but a good one to make – the college admissions process changes nothing about the talents and gifts and potential of the students who go through it. It may define where they are going to exercise those gifts, but it neither creates those attributes nor takes them away.
  • Student Investment

    The great Quaker educator and writer, Parker Palmer, gave me the gift of this story:

    There once was an old woman in a village who was renowned and feared for her wisdom and her knowledge. It was said she could perform magic. The young boys of the village decided to test this notion. They gathered and their leader hatched a plan. He said that the next time they saw the old woman in the main square of the village, they should confront her. He will hide a small bird in his hands. And he will ask the old woman if the bird in his hand is alive or dead. If she says it is dead, he will open his hand and the bird will fly away. If she says it is alive, he will crush the bird and show her that the bird is dead. One way or the other, they will prove her magic amounts to nothing. The day came and they confronted the old woman in the village square, with many others watching. “Old woman!” the leader of the boys said impolitely, “This bird in my hand, is it alive or is it dead?” She stopped, took a long look at the boy, and, looking right in his eyes, she replied, “It’s in your hands.”

    This is a parable for the college admissions process. Whatever the outcome of the college search, the student has to invest themselves fully in the process to take advantage of these opportunities. Parents and teachers and counselors and others are here to help and to guide and to support every step of the way. But the student cannot abdicate responsibility for the journey to anyone else. The student has to run the race.

    This is so very important. I knew a student I counseled once whose mother had basically taken over the child’s college search. The mother had raised four quite talented children and she had decided that she, the mother, knew what the fourth and youngest needed and “that was that.” And so this child, as talented and as appealing and promising as she was, did not feel as if she had ownership or authorship of her own college search. She went to a fine university because she was a fine candidate, but that place always will be, at least in part, her mother’s college.

    No student should cede her college search or her college experience to anyone, including one’s parent. No student, no person, should willingly cede the definition of their journey to someone else.

    I rather wish the story for all students would be what I encountered with another graduating senior once. We were talking about which offer of admission she was going to accept. One of the colleges in consideration, a renowned art school, seemed a great opportunity, but also something more of a challenge to this young woman whose self-confidence, it seemed, was just emerging. It seemed a big step from a small day school to a fast-paced urban art institute. I was delighted when she told me she had chosen to attend the challenging art school, but even more delighted by the way she expressed her decision. She told me, “I just felt that that school was calling to me.” We looked at each other and smiled, the both of us knowing she had made the right choice. Carpe Diem. Off she went, embracing her future, stepping out into the world. Every student deserves the chance to feel that way about the college they attend.
Terry Ward
June, 2021

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Information for PCD Families

List of 2 items.

  • College Search & Application

    • Peterson's is a comprehensive guide to undergraduate schools and online resources about test preparation, admissions essay tips and financial aid information.
    • The College Board has a free college search tool.
    • U-Can is a free consumer-informed college information web site, sponsored by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
    • Naviance is an on-line, web-based college search tool, is available to all juniors and seniors, as well as their parents. With their passwords, students can access extensive college information, as well as PCD's history of applicants to many colleges.
    • Many schools accept the Common Application. This site also includes information about financial aid.
    • The Chronicle of Higher Education offers a guide with nuts and bolts questions that are not necessarily well addressed by other search engines. The Chronicle of Higher Education is a weekly journal that reports on higher education in the United States and, to some extent, around the world. It is THE leading source of this kind of information.
  • Test Registration

    The PSAT/NMSQT and SAT are administered by the College Board. Contact college counseling for additional information about registration and testing dates.

    The ACT is accepted by most colleges in lieu of the SAT. Contact college counseling for additional information regarding registration and testing dates.


List of 8 frequently asked questions.

  • Is it true that we should start the college search process as early as freshman year?

    No, we don’t advise that. Freshman year is the time for students to concentrate on building foundations in both academics and extracurricular interests. A strong base in both of these areas will allow for a smoother transition into high school and will naturally begin to create the profile that eventually will support the college application. However, we welcome questions from parents and students about the college admissions process at any point in high school.
  • What do I need to know about financial aid?

    Every family’s financial situation is unique. That said, there are some steps that everyone must take. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required by every college and university in order to apply for financial aid. This form is generated by the U.S. Department of Education and is available online by the late fall. Please also refer to the Helpful Links section of this page to connect to the FAFSA website and view other useful links. In addition to the FAFSA, a select number of schools will also require the CSS PROFILE, which can be filled out online as early as September. That form is also linked from this page.
  • But isn’t it easier to get in early?

    Ah, the devil is in the details on this one. Yes, for some colleges, this is true. No, it is not true for others. It’s best to discuss this on a case by case basis. The bottom line is that applying early is not a magic elixir. It will not turn an unqualified candidate into a qualified one. It could enhance the application of someone who is qualified. In all cases, it pays to think carefully before submitting any college application.
  • Should I apply to a certain number of colleges?

    This is a good question, but a difficult one because each student is unique. Generally speaking, a list of between seven and nine schools should offer students the variety and depth necessary to find a college match.  The list should include 2 or 3 colleges for which the student must REACH a bit, 3 or 4 which are highly POSSIBLE for the student, and at least 2 where we can RELIABLY count on the student’s admission.  The key is to make sure the student will be happy at each and every school on the list, regardless of competitiveness. In this way a student is guaranteed to be pleased with whatever acceptances are offered. We work closely with each student and his/her family to ensure this.
  • There are so many websites and guide books with so many colleges. Where do I start?

    The college search process can be an overwhelming experience. However, there are many websites that make for a much more manageable approach. On the left side of this page are links to several useful web tools that support many aspects of the college search process. Should you have any questions, please feel free to call our office.
  • What is the current state of college admissions standardized testing?

    This is a complicated story. Because student had such problems finding available test sites during the COVID 19 pandemic, most colleges that were not already test optional adopted test optional or test free (blind) policies. For the 2021-2022 academic year, almost all the colleges who went test optional or test free (blind) have retained this policy. Therefore, in 2021 – 2022, students should only submit ACT or SAT testing if their test results exceed the average test score of a given college. If the student’s scores are lower than the college’s average, do not submit scores. Please note that at test free (blind) colleges, the colleges will not look at the scores at all. And there are a few places that still require testing, notably the Florida state universities and the United States service academies. Check with each college individually to determine their testing policies and consult with us about how to manage the testing. Students should still take ACT or SAT, just in case, but it is reasonable to assume that, going forward, standardized testing will play a less prominent role in college admissions selection practices.
  • Should my child apply early?

    This is a complicated question. First of all, there’s the matter of nomenclature. EARLY DECISION plans involve making a decision about where one will enroll. The deal with them is that if one applies Early Decision and is admitted, one commits to attend that college and only that college. EARLY ACTION involves deciding to apply early, but if one is admitted, one has until May 1 to decide whether to attend and one can apply to other colleges. So, they are quite different. A student should never just “throw in” an early application. But, if a student is genuinely interested in a school, we think applying early action is a sound decision. One should only apply early decision, however, to a college to which one is singly committed. Financial aid can get complicated with early programs, especially EARLY DECISION because you are going to be looking at just one financial aid offer. You CAN be released from an EARLY DECISION commitment if the college’s financial aid is not adequate. (There is another program called EARLY ADMISSION that really is not part of our picture. This is a program in which students go to college right after the junior year of high school. Colleges rarely accept student on this basis.)
  • What about Applying EARLY DECISION to a highly selective college

    Most colleges that offer EARLY DECISION programs, though not all, are highly selective. These colleges have handed us a conundrum recently in that they tend to accept a large percentage of their admissions class via EARLY DECISION – 40 or 50% of the class. (Colorado College absurdly takes 75% of the class early.) When a college that receives many applications accepts this much of the class under EARLY DECISION, it means the percentage of students they admit in the spring for REGULAR DECISION is quite small. It is understandable that one might think when applying to an Ivy League school or something similar that one is almost forced into applying EARLY DECISION. We don’t think there’s an easy, glib answer to this dilemma. The math suggests that one should at least carefully consider applying EARLY DECISION if one has aspirations for an Ivy or near-Ivy school. Even so, college is a four-year experience and you owe it to yourself to go to a college where you are going to be happy and fulfilled. It does not make sense to apply to any college EARY DECISION just to maximize your chances. It only makes sense if that college is right for you.

College Matriculation

With an emphasis on identifying the right school for each student, PCD graduates find success at highly selective colleges and universities throughout the US and abroad.

Click here for PCD's matriculations for the last five years (*) and additional acceptances.

The College Search Process

The college search process should not be the first time students think in a meaningful way about who they are.
PCD's college search process offers unique grade level experiences to help students prepare for future success—in high school, college, and beyond. Through a series of activities and initiatives starting in grade 9 and concluding in grade 12, the program empowers students to start to visualize the course of their lives through high school, college and into the years of their careers as working adults.

The goal is to equip students with tools for self-discovery in order to identify unique strengths and see the power of their own potential.

List of 4 items.

  • 9th Grade

    This is a year to consider what the future might hold. It is too early for students to think specifically about college admissions, but not too early to think about themselves and their future. This is a time to make a positive transition to high school, achieve in an appropriately demanding academic curriculum, pursue interests outside of the classroom, and start to understand one's own unique attributes and learning style.
    • Students create a four-year academic plan and set goals with advisors
    • Students begin working with the software system, Naviance. This includes an introduction to the program and registration.
    • Using Naviance, students complete the Do What You Are survey and review the results with their advisors. DWYA uses a personality inventory analysis to create a customized report for each student, identifying individual traits, areas of apparent interest, and suggested areas for further exploration.
  • 10th Grade

    Tenth grade marks the first specifically college related activity, when students take the pre-ACT in April of the sophomore year. Detailed analysis will give students a sense of how they perform on standardized tests and suggest strategies for skill building. This is also the time to encourage students to develop a more thorough understanding of their learning styles so they can address their areas of strength and those that would benefit from additional development. As students identify favorite subjects and lean toward specific disciplines, they should consider a job shadowing experience: spending from three days to two weeks working in a professional setting that is of interest.
    • Students continue to fulfill their curricular plans. Special attention should be paid to sequential subjects (math, science, foreign language) to ensure that each student will meet his/her four year goals. If the arts are an interest and a strength, students should be sure to take relevant courses.
    • Students complete the pre-ACT in the spring and receive a detailed analysis of their results.
    • Students write a "This I Believe" essay in which they discuss an issue of particular interest. This is completed through the English Department, where it is also a graded assignment. Selected essays are submitted for possible publication on the WPRI program of the same name.
    • Students should take advantage of the summer between 10th and 11th grades to pursue a serious interest or interests. Think of the summer as a great opportunity to enjoy something you really like.
  • 11th Grade

    By the end of the junior year, the college admissions process is in full swing. We start the year with SAT/ACT preparation, and the taking of the PSAT in the fall. Formal college counseling begins in the winter. Ideally the spring vacation of the junior year is used to begin visiting colleges. Students should continue to pursue an appropriately challenging curriculum as well as pursue interests through extra-curricular activities. Taking advantage of leadership opportunities in those areas is a good way to explore interests at a higher level.
    • Junior year academic performance is especially important, so students should put their best academic foot forward.
    • Students should pursue leadership opportunities in areas of interest.
    • SAT/ACT test preparation is offered throughout the year.
    • All students take the PSAT in mid-October. Score reports are available in early December and should be reviewed carefully to discern strengths and weaknesses on college admission tests.
    • Students complete the Career Interest Profiler and review the results with the Director of College Counseling and their advisors.
    • Students have individual meetings with the Director of College Counseling before spring break and meetings with parents and the Director of College Counseling after the break. In preparation for those meetings, students and parents fill out informational questionnaires.
    • Students take the SAT in March or May. 
    • Students should consider taking the ACT in February or April of the junior year. The objective is that by taking both the ACT and the SAT in the junior year, students will know which test suits them best and be able to focus on that test in the senior year.
    • Families should consider visiting colleges over spring break, with an eye toward determining what kind of college (not so much which specific college) will suit the student best.
    • All juniors complete a Common Application essay by May 1.
    • At the end of the junior year, the Director of College Counseling provides a preliminary list of colleges to consider that is tailored to each student's interests and abilities.
    • Over the summer, students should pursue their interests in stimulating summer experiences, continue to visit colleges, study for standardized tests, and work on college essays. The summer between the junior and senior year is a busy one.
  • 12th Grade

    It goes without saying that the college counseling process is all consuming for seniors, so the checklist of activities is a long one. Listed below are some of the benchmarks of the senior year college counseling process. A full to-do list, developed with the college counseling office and through the Naviance software, is available in the parent portal.
    • Seniors begin the year with a college counseling retreat day to get the year going and accomplish a number of important tasks right off the bat.
    • Students should pursue college admissions testing as needed throughout the first part of the year. The first testing opportunity comes with the SAT in late August; the last SAT is in December. The ACT is available September–December.
    • Students must declare their intention to apply early action or early decision no later than October 15.
    • Students must have all early decision and early action applications completed by November.
    • Students will need to reply to all offers of admission no later than May 1 (earlier of course for early decision acceptances). If a student wants to remain on a college waitlist the student should consult with college counseling about next steps.
    • In the spring of the senior year students meet in small groups for college preparedness seminars. These are discussion-based meetings with speakers to help prepare students for success in an undergraduate setting.

PCD's College Counseling program featured on WPRI 12's The Rhode Show: