College Counseling


The primary goals for the college process at Hopkins are threefold:

  • To assist students and their families in finding a number of good college "matches" - places where students would feel challenged, happy, and satisfied. Based on nearly six decades of experience in counseling students, in addition to frequent trips to college campuses and attendance at national and regional meetings, we work together with our students to come up with a list of college prospects.
  • To help admissions officers to understand and appreciate the competitiveness of the Hopkins curriculum. This is done in several ways, including through the school profile (a document that accompanies every transcript), the school letter of support (written for each senior, detailing curriculum choices and quoting teachers' comments from term reports), and meetings with college admission representatives who visit Hopkins each fall.
  • To demystify the college search and application process, and to help students understand how they fit into the world of college admission. We show students what they may do to either enhance their records or to present their records in the most meaningful way. We try to achieve a balance of careful support with a sense that this is their process; students need to become more independent and self-reliant as they make their way towards college life.

The Program

Students first meet with the college counselors during the winter of junior year in small group settings called College Seminars. Over the course of the sessions, students learn about the college admission process. Students then schedule individual meetings with a member of the college counseling team, including at least one meeting with the student’s parents, if desired, through the spring of junior year, and through the senior year as well.

While students are encouraged to be ambitious and not to underestimate their own abilities, they are also carefully counseled to choose to build into their college list an appropriate balance of selectivity. The terms we use are: "Reach,” “Target,” and “Likely.”

A “Reach” school is one whose demonstrated admissions selectivity and expected academic credentials are very high, either based on the school’s own intrinsic numbers (e.g. 25% or fewer applicants admitted) or on a comparison of applicant credentials and a college’s expectations. Admission at a Reach school would be judged unlikely. It is often the case, however, that a student should include two or three Reach schools on their list by virtue of academic or non-academic “fit,” or by virtue of personal desire and motivation. The caveat here is not to let yourself become too attached to a Reach school, especially to the exclusion of the rest of your college list; this can cause needless grief.

A “Target” school on a college list at Hopkins is one we feel you could, and maybe even should get into, based on SATs, grades, and other credentials. But, because the college is very competitive in admissions, and turns down many students who are qualified, and even more than qualified, admission is not assured. Target schools should make up the central core of a student’s list, most often 3 to 4 colleges on any given list would fall into this range.

The "Likely" group of colleges is roughly equivalent to what we used to call “safeties.” In recent years, with selectivity going up and up and up at most schools, however, the traditional “safety” schools are often no longer safe! Nor does the term “safety” connote the kind of quality we want to be sure students recognize in the colleges that provide “cover” for their lists. “Likely” schools, therefore, should make good “fits” for the students and should be schools on which students can rely for admission, if their credentials match those of the college.

Fit” is a term we always use in the descriptions of colleges which might make up a student’s list. By “fit” we mean the extent to which a college matches a student’s needs and wishes. Sometimes “fit” can be quantifiable: size, location, the existence of a particular program, TA’s teaching classes; other times “fit” is more subjective, depending on the chemistry between student and school, a feature of “fit” that is every bit as important as the quantifiable elements. In any event, “fit” as a feature of your child’s college, will be much more important in the long run than any particular “name brand” or public perception of a given school.

The Counseling Process

While college planning has its roots in our earliest educational decisions for our children, the actual college search-application-admissions-and-decision activity does not formally begin until the winter of the junior year.

Even as a highly competitive, ambitious college preparatory school, Hopkins believes that there are intrinsic social, educational and maturational issues to be addressed and valued in the high school years, issues and values which (dare we say it?) go beyond the importance of where a student enrolls in college. Focusing too narrowly or rigidly on college admission related issues throughout high school could get in the way of a student’s long-term development, happiness, and success in life.

Having said that, there are indeed, however, college admissions issues of planning and awareness that are important, even in the lives of seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth graders at a school such as Hopkins. The following list is for lower and middle school families to start to think about the process:

Colleges Attended

The following is a list of colleges and universities attended by the Hopkins Classes of 2012 through 2015:

Five or more Hopkins graduates attend:
Amherst College
Barnard College
Bentley University
Boston College
Bowdoin College
Brandeis University
Brown University
Colby College
Colgate University
Columbia University
Cornell University
Dartmouth College
Duke University
Fordham University
The George Washington University
Georgetown University
Harvard University
Johns Hopkins University
Lehigh University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
New York University
Northeastern University
Smith College
Stanford University
Swarthmore College
Tufts University
University of Chicago
University of Connecticut
University of Pennsylvania
Vanderbilt University
Villanova University
Washington University in St. Louis
Wesleyan University
Williams College
Yale University

Two or more Hopkins graduates attend:
American University
Bard College
Bates College
Boston University
Bucknell University
California Institute of Technology
Carleton College
Claremont McKenna College
Connecticut College
Elon University
Emory University
Franklin & Marshall College
Hamilton College
Haverford College
College of the Holy Cross
Howard University
Kenyon College
Lafayette College
Middlebury College
Mount Holyoke College
Muhlenberg College
Oberlin College
Pennsylvania State University
Pitzer College
Princeton University
Providence College
Quinnipiac University
Scripps College
Skidmore College
Southern Methodist University
Trinity College
Tulane University
Union College
United States Military Academy
University of Michigan
University of Wisconsin, Madison
University of St. Andrews, Scotland
University of Virginia
Vassar College
Wake Forest University
Wellesley College

One Hopkins graduate attends:
Agnes Scott College
Arizona State University
Beloit College
Bryn Mawr College
Carnegie Mellon University
Colorado College
Drexel University
Furman University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Goucher College
Hamilton College
Harvey Mudd College
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Indiana University at Bloomington
Ithaca College
McGill University
Mercy College
Miami University, Oxford
Occidental College
Pomona College
Purchase College State University of New york
Pratt Institute
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Santa Clara University
Sarah Lawrence College
School of Visual Arts
Sciences Po - Columbia Dual BA Program
Spelman College
St. John’s University
St. Lawrence University
Temple University
Trinity College Dublin
University of Bridgeport
University of California, Berkeley
University of Cambridge
University of Colorado, Boulder
University of Edinburgh
University of Madrid
University of Mary Washington
University of Oregon
University of Richmond
University of Rochester
University of Southern California
The University of Tampa
University of Tennessee
University of Washington
University of Wisconsin
University of Vermont
Virginia Tech
Washington and Lee University
Westminster Choir College of Rider University
Whitman College
College of William and Mary
Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Six Topics for Early College Planning for Students in Grades 7 - 10 and their Parents (click to view)

List of 6 items.

  • Course Selection

    Admission officers will tell you that the first and foremost consideration given to an application is that of course content. More than scores, more than grades, it is the student’s decisions concerning what courses to take (and what courses not to take, or to avoid) that puts everything else into perspective. A student gets good grades – but in what courses? A student has excellent ability – but how is that ability used, tested, stretched? It is the courses selected by the students that answer these questions.

    A central issue about each year’s school record is: has the student stepped up each year to the next higher level of course work in each of the five major disciplines (English, Foreign Language, History, Science, and Mathematics), and if not, why not? Hand in hand with that issue is: Has the selection of courses reflected the student’s interests and abilities; have the course selections been intelligent choices, and appropriate?

    When admission officers look at high school transcripts and course selection, they do so in the context of the specific high school's offerings.  Therefore, a student from a school with no Honors or AP courses will not be disadvantaged compared to a student from a school where any student can sign up for as many AP courses as he/she wants.  Every transcript that we send is accompanied by a high school profile that describes our curriculum in detail so admission representatives understand that we are not an AP driven school. 

    The guiding principal in the early years of Hopkins – and throughout the high school years – should be that of taking the most rigorous program of courses appropriate to the student’s ability to be successful and to grow intellectually and personally.
  • SAT Subject Tests

    Take SAT Subject Tests in June of the ninth and/or tenth grades, if appropriate.

    The SAT Subject Tests provide an opportunity for students to show on a national, standardized test what they have learned in a given subject. Usually students do not take SAT Subject Tests before the junior year, but there are some noteworthy exceptions. At the conclusion of any major course, such as Chemistry in 10th grade, students should, after consultation with the teacher, take the SAT Subject Test in that course if they have done well (generally a B, at minimum, or better).

    The SAT Subject Test is an hour-long test which parents may remember being called the “Achievement Test.” The most common pattern for 10th grade students is to take Chemistry. Occasionally, some students are ready to take the Math 1 Subject Test after the tenth grade if the student has completed Math 5 here at Hopkins. (For information on registering for the SAT’s, please go to
  • Visit Some Colleges

    While the early high school years are much too early to make any formal college visits, if, while on a family vacation or on college visits with an older sibling, a younger brother or sister gets the opportunity to see a campus, to get a sense of college, all the better to help later on in defining what that student most wants in a college setting.  Students, take some notes -- you'll need them when you begin your own search!
  • Self-Awareness

    Students should become self-aware. The ancient, classical dictum - “know thyself” - holds true especially for college planning. Students should always be considering in the backs of their minds just who they are and who they are becoming. Do you prefer city or rural settings; do you prefer crowds or more intimate numbers of people around you; are you, politically, middle-of-the-road or do your see yourself as a staunch liberal or conservative; do you prefer tradition or innovation; how much academic challenge do you want to feel? These are just some of the questions ninth and tenth graders should be thinking about as they go through the early years of high school.
  • The PSAT

    The PSAT comes up in the tenth grade, unofficially, and then again in the eleventh grade, officially. A preliminary and practice run through the PSAT is administered in October of the tenth grade. The official PSAT, itself, which is administered in October of the junior year, is a “practice” for the SAT’s, although the junior year PSAT is also used as the initial qualifying test for the National Merit Scholarship awards. We find that introducing our students to the PSAT in the tenth grade year is not too intrusive, has a low level of threat in that year for the students, and helps them to become acquainted and more familiar with the PSAT and SAT Reasoning Test of their later high school years.
  • Activities and Leadership

    Our advice to students is to take advantage of the wide variety of activities and athletics available to them at Hopkins.  There is no perfect combination of activities that will ensure an admission offer from the most selective colleges, so it is in the student's best interest to find their passion and pursue it to the highest level.  Sports, arts, the school newspaper, diversity clubs, internships, part-time jobs, etc. --  these are all great ways for students to learn more about themselves, to build invaluable skills, and to fill out a resume.