Our Approach

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From Kathy Strand, Lead Educational Consultant

Yes! This page is pretty dense with text.  I wrote down what I call “our approach” to give you the opportunity to learn more about me beyond my education and professional experience.

So thanks in advance for taking the time to read on….and learn more about what drives my approach to advising students and families about the college search.

Our Counseling Philosophy:

Over the course of our many years in college admissions (see “Meet the Staff”), the search for the right college has become a much more stressful undertaking for most high school students and families. If one paid attention only to publications like US News & World Report’s annual rankings issue, it would seem that only the best, brightest, richest, and those with connections and/or gimmicks ever get into college anywhere in America. Each year, we hear about all the valedictorians and other high-achieving students rejected in great numbers; and about the oboe-playing quarterbacks who write poetry, tutor disadvantaged kids, and volunteer at remote villages in Africa, who are accepted readily into the “best” colleges in the country.

“Inspired” by a few such anecdotes, college-bound students (and their parents) often feel the need to strategize and re-invent themselves in 11th and 12th grade, for fear that nothing they have done in their lives so far will be good enough to get them in.

With so much emphasis placed on getting into college by the media these days, students and parents often begin the college search process believing that HOW GOOD a college is depends on HOW HARD it is to get admitted. Using this line of reasoning, students believe that the best colleges for them are simply the most selective ones (i.e. most prestigious) that might actually admit them. High quality and ease of admission are often viewed as mutually exclusive in American higher education, where acceptance letters are sought for their value as hard-earned trophies, rather than for the potential value of the educational environments to the students in question.

All of the conflicting information, gloom and doom forecasts, self doubt, confusion, and perceived pressure (i.e. the noise) surrounding college admission and financial aid has made it much more difficult for students to choose their own best options and navigate the college search process smoothly and wisely. The mainstream media do little to promote the idea that although the most selective colleges are generally fine institutions, they are neither the only fine colleges, nor are they well matched to every student.

Cutting through the noise of the college search process and teaching families how to proceed in a way that’s best for them calls for a highly individualized approach –and this takes time. 

Time is precious for all of us, and it takes significant time to:

  • help most high school students reflect on their true strengths, weaknesses, needs, interests and passions.
  • help them find and sift through all of the available information about colleges that might be well suited to their particular blend of attributes.
  • develop a truly unified family approach to the process of exploring, evaluating, and pursuing the most appropriate colleges.
In-school support for the college search can be limited. School-based counselors’ efforts to support individual students in the college search can be hampered in both public and private schools by large student caseloads, other administrative and teaching responsibilities, resource and budgetary constraints, and/or limited ongoing training specific to college advising. Absent this ready-made continuous assistance, and unsure of where and when to start, many students and families become overwhelmed and miss the chance to engage in the process in a more relaxed time frame. 

My experience, combined with the fact that I work only for my clients, and not their schools, gives me the ability to provide individualized service at every step of the college search process. I segment the overall process into four phases (Discover, Explore, Apply and Select), with each phase an opportunity for students to revisit earlier impressions, embark on further self-discovery and college exploration, and deepen understanding of what are good options, best matches, and ultimately the right fit

I believe that participating fully in the college search process offers students and their parents an opportunity to share in what is probably the first important adult decision a young person will make on the way to independence. For the student trying to take control, and for the parents trying to let them, the process can be very stressful.  I attempt to foster open discussion, offer advice, and provide specific suggestions that keep the student’s ever-evolving interests, goals, and needs at the center of the process; while also involving and engaging parents at every key decision point along the way. As an independent consultant, I apply all of my professional experience and skills as a counselor to help my clients find postsecondary educational options that are well matched with their abilities, preferences, and needs.

Through this approach, I believe students and families that now feel overwhelmed or even afraid of making wrong decisions will be able to take much greater control of the college search, reduce stress, and derive sincere enjoyment during the journey. 


I would enjoy the opportunity to schedule a 30 -minute free introductory consultation with you and your college-bound child, during which I can share more about my experience and specifics should your family decide to partner with College Search U in the college search journey. Please email me at kathy@CollegeSearchu.com.