College Counseling

Dear PCD Students,

Welcome to your college counseling portal—your go-to place to guide you through the college search and application process. There are many tools available to you to help you navigate this part of your educational journey. Though there are certainly many resources that are relevant and helpful to all students, this process, at its best, is highly individualized and our goal is to work together to find the best match you will belong and thrive.

My goal is to help remove much of the stress and anxiety that can often attend this process, so please feel free to contact me at any time—to meet, to plan, to wonder, to question, to make the most of this pivotal time in your education.


Terry Ward
Director of College Counseling
401.438.5170 x121


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.

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.

Should I apply to a certain number of schools?

This is a good question, but a difficult one because each student is unique. Generally speaking, a list of between six and eight schools should offer students the variety and depth necessary to find a college match. 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.

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.

It seems like a lot of colleges are not requiring the SAT or ACT anymore. Do these tests still matter?

Hundreds of colleges, universities, and other institutions offer different options when it comes to standardized tests. Every year more institutions adopt “test optional” programs and these programs can vary widely—it’s not just a matter of the SAT or ACT not being required. That said, standardized testing continues to be an important piece of the college admissions process and will be for the foreseeable future. Most colleges and universities still require testing, and those schools that do, really consider the tests when making their decisions. We should talk about each college and what its policies are.

What about SAT II Subject Tests?

These are one-hour tests in specific subjects like math, French, U.S. history, and biology. Only a couple dozen quite selective colleges still require the SAT II Subject Tests. This means that they are not important for most students. I confer with each student to make sure he/she is taking the SAT II tests, if required.

Should my child take the ACT?

The ACT (American College Testing program) is completely comparable to the SAT. All colleges accept the ACT. It is about the same length as the SAT, but it is structured differently. Significantly, it has a reading comprehension section that students who are strong in math and science might prefer. Generally speaking the ACT questions are more straightforward, but there are more of them, so speed is more of a factor for the ACT. There are other differences in the tests as well. I urge students in spring of the junior year to take both the SAT and ACT and then decide which one they prefer to re-take in their senior year.

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.

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.

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 ia 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

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.