Finding the “Best Fit” College

A college counselor with more than 20 years of experience in education will now be helping Trident Academy students identify their “best fit” colleges as they prepare for graduation.

Jean Pendleton Madden has already begun working with students and their parents. She earned her B.A. at Brown University and her M.Ed. at Lesley University. In November 2012, she will complete her College Counseling Certification through UCLA.

To keep up with trends in admissions and on campuses, Madden visits schools all over the country. Last year alone, she was on 30 campuses in the Southeast and met with representatives from another 50 colleges. She says, “Nothing compares to seeing the schools and talking with the admissions decision makers.”

“Jean Madden’s experience in college counseling, combined with an affinity for matching individual student needs with their ‘best fit’ college, places new emphasis on culminating a successful Trident experience with acceptance to a first choice college,” says Interim Head of School Sandi Clerici. “This is an area that we want to strengthen and we’re confident Jean will help us do that.”

Madden will be working with families throughout the year on identifying colleges, completing applications, and evaluating financial aid options. Adequate research ahead of time is one of the keys to ensuring a successful college experience, she says. One of her mantras is: “Do it early!” She explains that students should start take the SAT or ACT in their junior year, finalize their list of schools early in their senior year, and submit applications long before the deadlines. “Not only will this impress the schools, but it will relieve everyone’s stress level!”

“For students with learning differences, the best fit means not only finding the colleges that have the major, location, and ‘feel’ they are looking for, but also finding the schools that will provide the academic support services they need,” Madden explains. “While all colleges offer some academic services, the type and level of support vary greatly. Parents and students need to know what questions to ask and who to talk to in order to evaluate just how well a school fits their needs.”

Another piece of advice from Madden is to visit as many colleges as possible. “This is the only way that students can know if they will be comfortable at a school. If you don’t feel at home on a campus, then nothing much else matters. I highly recommend visiting schools, sitting in on classes, and even staying overnight if that is an option.”

Madden is a member of both the Southern and the National Associations of College Admission Counseling and a recent recipient of a NACAC Imagine Grant.