For most people, the college search process is full of trepidation, uncertainty and stress. So much of one’s future seems dependent on finding the right place—academically, socially and vocationally. With many factors to consider, it can be overwhelming for students and their families. La Jolla Country Day School’s College Counseling department hopes to alleviate some of that anxiety by offering a holistic, student-centered approach.
“Our work in college counseling caters to students as individuals, and we personalize their college search process,” explains Managing Director of College Counseling Damien Fatongia. “We help students identify their values and hopes for the future, and in turn, find colleges that will support them in achieving their goals.”
Mr. Fatongia joined LJCDS in 2019 after working for 13 years in college admissions. The knowledge and experience he gained being on the other side of the equation gives him important insights into what colleges are looking for in applicants.
“Everyone on the team here has a background in college admissions,” says Mr. Fatongia. “It’s a natural transition to make in our industry. We’ve all been behind closed doors and experienced firsthand how admissions committees make their decisions. We know what type of conversations are had and what’s necessary for our students to be in the running for the colleges to which they are applying.”
The principal goal for the college counseling team is to provide tailored guidance and information that will help students determine the schools that are the best fit for them. An integral part of this process is for the team to get to know as much about their students as possible through a series of conversations and an extensive questionnaire that hones in on their values and desires and what they are looking for in a college.
“We have real, genuine conversations with our students,” says Fatongia. “Many of the probing questions we ask are about who students are and what they are about. We take that part of our work very seriously because that is laying the foundation to where they can propel themselves.”
The counselors then create a list of schools that fit a student’s specific parameters and help them succeed at the next level. The team’s services also include assistance with essay writing, course development and standardized test preparation. Throughout this process, the main focus is the students, but the counselors include and support parents/guardians to keep them updated on the process and help them understand the general landscape of college admissions.
As Mr. Fatongia can attest, the counseling program works best when students and families trust the team and its process. “We constantly have a finger on the pulse of what’s happening with college admissions; we have relationships with admissions offices around the country. But most importantly, our most important goal is to do right by our students,” he says.
While there is a great deal of pressure inherent in helping young people discover the right road for their future, there is also a great deal of fulfillment. “It’s very gratifying when our students land on the right college for them, knowing that we’ve had a hand in helping them with such a monumental decision,” says Mr. Fatongia. “Students often come back after their first break from college and tell me how they love it. Getting affirmation that we helped them find a good fit is one of the best parts about the job we do.”
Class of 2021 Matriculation Stats