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School counselors perform the following roles in order to promote students’ positive development in academic, career and personal/social domains:

As academic advisers, our counselors are committed to helping all students fulfill their potential while at DCIS and to ensuring their success after they graduate, whether they go to college, enter the workforce or military, or pursue other interests. Specifically, our counselors:

Our counselors also meet one-on-one with students related to any number of interpersonal concerns, which vary considerably between middle schoolers and high schoolers, and even between students in the first two versus the last two years of high school. That’s why we have counselors dedicated to each level:

How a Counselor Can Help

With training in child and adolescent development, learning strategies, self-management and social skills, our middle school counselors are well-equipped to support students through this important developmental period by giving them the skills they need to succeed academically, socially and emotionally.

Working together with the student, parent(s) or guardian(s), teachers, and administrative or other support staff, our middle school counselors strive to support all students in the way that works best for them — ideally leading to improved academic and behavioral performance and, ultimately, to happier kids.

Text adapted from the American School Counselor Association.

Middle School Counseling

Middle school marks students’ passage from childhood to adolescence, which can be both exciting and challenging for students as well as their parents and teachers. That’s because middle school students typically:

  • Alternate between high activity levels and frequent fatigue from rapid physical growth.
  • Try on different identities as they search for who they really are, and begin more often looking to their peers instead of their parents for ideas and affirmation.
  • Are highly sensitive to their peers’ comments and judgments.
  • Rely heavily on friends for comfort, understanding and approval.
High School Counseling

In this final transition into adulthood, high school students are figuring out who they are, what they do well and what comes next once they graduate. They are separating from their parents as they explore and define their independence, and their peer group exerts considerable influence, often subjecting them to increased pressure to engage in risky behaviors around sex, alcohol and drugs. This dynamic can increase high schoolers’ conflict with their parents, even as they still need to know their parents have their backs. 

Having to navigate academic, peer and parental pressures as they face high-stakes testing, the challenges of college admissions, both the scholarship and financial aid application processes, entrance into a competitive job market, or rampant indecision about what comes next can lead to high anxiety and depression in many high school students.

DCIS Academic Advising

We are committed to ensuring that all students are prepared for success in career and college. To that end, we help all students in choosing one of five pathways after graduation:

  • Two-year college
  • Four-year college
  • Technical school or certificate training program
  • Armed services
  • Full-time employment with advancement opportunities

Students work with their counselors, teachers, advisory teachers and school leaders to complete a plan online in the Naviance system that will guide their coursework choices while at DCIS and ideally lead to a successful transition after high school into their chosen path.

Once this plan is in place, students work with counselors to choose their class schedules each year based on their goals and interests. 

Because our school is small, level of interest dictates whether a class can actually be supported. That’s why some of the offerings in the spring, when students are selecting their schedules for the next year, may not materialize as classes in the fall, and students will have to change their schedules. Our counselors are adept at helping students with these changes, either during registration or once the school year begins.

Students can also talk with counselors about classes in which they feel they’re not being sufficiently challenged or they are over their heads, or perhaps where they might have a conflict with a teacher or, in the case of high schoolers, an outside commitment (e.g., an off-campus college course). 

Our counselors also help high school students make their four-year plan for classes to ensure they take certain classes (such as AP classes) in particular years, given that some are not offered every year. 

For students who are struggling academically, our counselors can provide additional resources and facilitate tutoring. They can also work with students who are habitually late or absent to get them back on track.

Individual Career and Academic Plan (ICAP)

Students will work with their counselors, teachers and families throughout their time at DCIS to develop, update and complete their Individual Career and Academic Plans (ICAPs), a process that starts as early as the 6th grade. 

Through this personalized career and academic planning tool, students are empowered to evaluate all aspects of their path to college and career, including goal setting, college opportunities, academic planning, financial literacy and financial aid, and 21st-century skills. 

This framework creates a clear road map for students, so they are able to visualize how exploring possibilities and achieving milestones translates into realizing their future college and career aspirations. At the end of their senior year, they will turn in the completed plan to fulfill the ICAP requirement.

Career Exploration

As part of helping students create and refine their ICAP, our counselors administer various personality and aptitude tests to get students thinking early on about what kind of career they might enjoy or do well in.

Among other tools, they use those in Naviance such as the following:

  • Strength Explorer — assesses 10 talent themes for individuals and identifies the student’s three strongest emerging talents, such as Confidence, Dependability or Future Thinker. It provides explanations of these themes, strategies for capitalizing on each, and action items to help students gain insight into their greatest talents (natural patterns of thought, feeling and behavior) to leverage in the classroom and in life.
  • Career Interest Profiler — questionnaire to match student interests and strengths with possible careers.
  • Cluster Finder — questionnaire to match student interests and strengths with possible careers through personal qualities, activities and school subjects.
  • Explore Career and Clusters — allows students to review and save information on a particular career or cluster/group of careers, including an overview, knowledge and skills needed, and typical tasks/activities and wages for a career or cluster.

Many other resources can help students learn more about their interests and strengths and how they can best fit into the world of work. Some of them are listed below.

  • College In Colorado career planning — includes the Interest Profiler, Career Plan Builder, Career Finder and Resume Builder.
  • O*NET OnLine — has detailed descriptions of the world of work for use by job seekers, workforce development and HR professionals, students, researchers, and more.
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook — a guide to career information about hundreds of occupations.
  • Career Fitter — 60-question online test with a free report detailing the student’s work personality, specific careers that are a good match, core strengths, potential weaknesses, and more. A premium report that contains more information is also available.
  • Explore the Trades — provides key industry statistics, scholarship opportunities and connections with residential service contractors throughout North America. Skilled tradespeople are in demand. Extreme job growth and salary increases have been projected through at least 2030, putting plumbers, HVAC technicians and electricians in a secure position to take advantage of great opportunities now and in the years to come.
  • ACT World of Work Map — an empirically based system used in conjunction with ACT assessments for summarizing and displaying basic similarities and differences between occupations. It is visual and interactive, designed to engage users in the process of career exploration. Like any map, it needs compass points. All occupations can be organized according to their involvement with four types of basic work tasks, working with
    • Data: facts, records, numbers, business procedures
    • Ideas: abstractions, theories, insights, new ways of doing things
    • People: care, services, leadership, sales
    • Things: machines, materials, crops/animals
College Advising

Our high school counselors can play a huge role in students’ college search by helping with the following:

  • Ensuring students have all the classes they need to graduate on time.
  • Writing letters of recommendation for students.
  • Sending official transcripts to colleges.
  • Helping students with decisions about classes and extracurricular activities and their effect on college admissions.
  • Helping students research colleges and draft their college list.
  • Assisting with FAFSA (financial aid) applications.
  • Finding and helping students apply for scholarships.
  • Helping students complete and send college applications.
  • Facilitating group campus visits to in-state colleges. 

Naviance is a comprehensive college-planning and career-readiness platform that features college research and matching tools, course planning, career assessment and personality tests, and surveys to help students connect what they are doing in school to what they would like to do once they complete their education. 

Naviance also allows school counselors to track the progress of individual students and to communicate and collaborate with students and families. 

The program is integrated with the Common Application, which facilitates the online submission of college applications, transcripts, school forms and recommendations.

Planning for College
  • CollegeAnswer: Provided by SallieMae, a leading national commercial provider of student loans and college savings plans, this site offers free tools for preparation and saving, planning, paying, and managing loans, but also includes tools for deciding on a college, and even help with assessing a student’s personality, interests and skills to help choose a career direction.
  • Money 101: This free financial education program is provided by the Colorado Department of Higher Education to help Colorado students and families understand college financing and the role that higher education can play in their financial futures. The online financial literacy curriculum is presented in units. Students can choose which topics are most important or interesting to them, or take a pretest to get recommendations about which units they should start with.
  • In Like Me: A free resource hub designed to bring together the disparate aspects of the college planning, application and student aid processes in one practical, easy-to-use site.
Finding a College

Finding college information is easy thanks to the many college search tools that provide a wide range of information such as admission requirements and statistics, graduation rates, course offerings, application forms and filing dates. Students can even virtually tour campuses and find student ratings and opinions about colleges and universities they may be considering.

  • CollegeData: Students can search more than 2,000 colleges to find the schools that match their preferences and get all the details on admission, financial aid, academics and campus life.
  • CollegeInSight: Provides easy-to-use college profiles and powerful research tools that include information about affordability, student debt and diversity.
  • College Portrait: College Portrait of Undergraduate Education is similar to U-Can but focuses on public colleges and universities and provides charts and concise information in an accessible format. Institutional profiles include admissions and enrollment stats, student demographics, graduation rates, popular majors, faculty information, class size, tuition and fee trends, costs, financial aid, campus housing, student life, and campus safety.
  • Kiplinger’s Best College Values: Ranks U.S. colleges and universities in three separate lists: public universities, private universities and liberal arts colleges according to the value they provide in relation to their cost. Users can query, view and sort the schools on each list by various financial and quality measures.
  • U-CAN Network: The University and College Accountability Network provides charts and concise information on more than 700 private institutions, including admissions and enrollment stats, demographics, graduation rates, popular majors, faculty information, class size, tuition and fee trends, costs, financial aid, campus housing, student life, and campus safety.
  • Unigo: Offers “insider” reviews, videos and photos by actual students attending the college along with institution-specific stats and rankings as well as forums that focus on specific topics and colleges. Unigo’s partnership with The Wall Street Journal provides additional content focused on getting accepted, choosing schools and paying for college.
  • U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges: Beyond its rankings, this site offers a plethora of college data and guidance. In addition to ranking national universities and liberal arts colleges, you’ll find an assortment of interesting lists including: A+ Options for B Students, Learning Communities, Up-and-Coming Colleges, Internships-Co-ops, Study Abroad, Best Undergrad Teaching and Writing Programs. 
College Resources for LGBTQ Students 

Provides numerous college search resources for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning students. 

  • College Board: Search and the BigFuture matchmaker tools allow students to query a database of more than 3,500 schools. The site also contains useful student aid and entrance exam information. Students answer questions about what they are looking for in a college — major, size, location, extracurricular activities, tuition, etc. — and the tool generates a list of schools that meet those criteria. Links and comparison tools enable students to learn more about individual colleges.
  • College Navigator: A free consumer information resource provided by the U.S. Department of Education. The site has tools and search options that make it quick and easy to gather and compare data about most U.S. colleges and universities. It also has useful links to federal government sites for financial aid and career planning.
    • ​Common Dataset: The Common Dataset refers to the source data that colleges and universities provide annually in a standardized format, for use in college guides and other venues. Analyzing the data can provide insight about admissions, merit aid and more. To access the data, Google “common dataset” + “[name of institution]” (e.g., “common dataset vanderbilt).
  • Princeton Review: Princeton Review College Search is similar to the College Board’s BigFuture matchmaker tool, but it searches in a different way. Instead of returning a list of schools that meet exact criteria, it provides a list of schools that meet the majority of a student’s criteria. The list is divided into good match, reach and safety schools. To make the most of this site, students should provide their unweighted GPA and their ACT/SAT scores. 
  • Campus Explorer: This college search site covers 8,000 schools, including two-year, four-year and online opportunities.
  • College Confidential: This site has gathered all the best college admissions content on the web in one place, including articles and advice on choosing a college, getting into college, paying for college and college life. There are also forums for parents and students to ask questions that come up while navigating the college selection and admissions process, plus a feature (CampusVibe) where students (and parents) share opinions about colleges with videos, photos and visit reports.
  • College Results Online: College Results Online (CRO) is an interactive, user-friendly tool designed to provide policymakers, counselors, parents, students and others with information about college graduation rates for nearly any four-year college or university in the country.
Application Guidelines

The college Common Application is, as the name suggests, a uniform application that is accepted at more than 680 schools across the country, including many top colleges.

Having to complete just one application means the student needs to write only one essay, which saves considerable time and allows the student to apply to more schools with less effort. But the Common App may not always be the best choice.

Common App or College-Specific Application?

Some colleges and universities offer the option of using the Common App or the school’s specific application. Schools are not supposed to have a preference for their own form and essays over the Common App, and in fact, they must sign a pledge promising not to give preference to those applicants who complete the school-specific application.

But some believe that schools do have a slight bias toward candidates who complete the school-specific application and answer the more customized essay question(s), asserting those students seem more sincere about the college.

In deciding which application to complete, students should consider the following questions:

  • Am I a “stretch” at this school?
  • Do I really want to attend this school?
  • Do I have the time to spend on this school’s application without jeopardizing my other application deadlines?
  • Am I confident that I can do a better job presenting myself in the school-specific application than the Common Application?

Students who answer yes to any of these four questions should strongly consider using the college-specific application over the Common App.

Letters of Recommendation

Students applying to college will need one or more teacher recommendations for schools that accept the Common App. Each college will indicate how many teacher recommendations they want, and the student should not submit more or less than what is requested. 

Students applying to schools via the Common App also may need a letter of recommendation from a counselor. Counselors will attach their letter to the Secondary School Report.

The DCIS College Counselor will send all pieces of the Common App at the same time: teacher evaluation and recommendation, counselor recommendation with the Secondary School Report, transcript, and school profile.


The application essay is an opportunity for students to make themselves stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately, many student essays end up sounding the same, making the process of reviewing thousands of essays a tedious task for admissions officers. 

Students who want to make an admissions officer sit up and take notice should plan to spend a good amount of time planning, writing and rewriting their essay(s). Because they are too close to their own work, they should also ask someone with a sharp eye to proofread their work. One or more typos signals a lack of attention and care — obviously not the impression the student wants to give.

Loads of tips for writing the perfect essay are online including:

  1. Best College Essay Tips
  2. Crafting an Unforgettable College Essay
Admission Options

When you apply to college, you have a number of options for the kind of application you want to submit. Learn more about each option and whether or not the decision is binding.

Paying for College

The cost of college has skyrocketed, and many might think it’s simply out of reach. But cost shouldn’t deter anyone from applying, as there are many avenues for substantially reducing the cost, even to zero in some cases. And all that money is well spent, as the wages of college graduates typically are 50 percent higher than the wages of workers with only a high school diploma.

For those who want to continue their education after high school but have no idea how to make that work, our knowledgeable counselors can help. With sound information at their fingertips, parents and students can be strong allies too in figuring out how to slash that impending college bill.


Students can reduce the amount they have to pay for college using a variety of strategies, outlined below.

  • Save money in a 529 plan.
  • Apply for scholarships.
  • Enroll in some college classes while in high school.
  • Test out of some classes.
  • Consider a less-expensive school.
  • Apply for federal student aid.
  • Take out private student loans.
  • Have parents take out a Parents PLUS loan.
  • Negotiate an income-share agreement.
  • Get a job while in school.
  • Ask your employer about tuition reimbursement.
  • Seek out undergraduate student research positions.
  • Seek out a paid internship.
Grants and Scholarships

Grants and scholarships are free money to help pay for college or other schooling after high school. Grants are often need-based, while scholarships are typically merit-based.


The federal government offers the following grant programs:

To determine whether they qualify for federal aid, students must complete the FAFSA.


Literally thousands of scholarships are available from all kinds of organizations, and they’re not hard to find. They encompass a huge range of qualifications beyond being a good student or athlete, including for being a member of a certain church, or because a parent works for a particular company, or for some other reason. Find out more about finding and applying for scholarships. You’ll also want to be careful to avoid scholarship scams.


All students who are planning to go to college should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The 20-month application window for seniors opens October 1 of their junior year and closes June 30 of their senior year. 

The sooner families submit the FAFSA, the better. Not only can funds run out, but colleges typically have earlier deadlines for FAFSA submission than the federal deadline. Students should be sure to check the deadlines for the schools they plan to apply to.

Even students who think they won’t qualify for federal financial aid should complete a FAFSA, as many colleges require it in considering students for scholarships or other financial aid.

Students who receive federal aid must complete the FAFSA every year they’re in school to remain eligible for federal student aid. Students who are not eligible for financial aid in one year should complete a FAFSA in subsequent years if their financial circumstances change.

Filing is free, so watch out for scams suggesting otherwise.

Learn about getting organized, filling out the FAFSA application electronically, and checking the status of your application and the results online.

To estimate your eligibility for federal student aid, use the FAFSA4caster.

As a recommended first step, read about 12 common FAFSA mistakes.

CSS Profile

In addition to the FAFSA, some schools may require students to complete the College Board’s CSS Profile, which is used to award more than $9 billion in nonfederal financial aid in the form of grants.

Advantages of completing the CSS Profile include the following:

  • Gain access to a large source of funding that may not be available through FAFSA alone.
  • Provide a more thorough picture of family finances than the FAFSA allows.
  • Explain special circumstances affecting the family’s finances.

Completing the application is free, but you’ll pay a fee for each school you designate to receive the report. Fee waivers are available. 

Learn about how to complete a CSS Profile application here.

College Opportunity Fund

The College Opportunity Fund (COF), created by the Colorado Legislature, provides a stipend to eligible undergraduate students. The stipend pays a portion of the total in-state tuition for students who attend a participating college, and it does not have to be repaid.

Eligible undergraduate students must apply, be admitted and enroll in classes at a participating college to receive this benefit. Both new and continuing students are eligible for the stipend.

Qualifying students may use the stipend for eligible undergraduate classes. The stipend is paid on a per credit hour basis directly to the college at which the student is enrolled. The credit-hour amount is set annually by the General Assembly and will never exceed the amount of the student’s total in-state tuition.

Learn more information on the College Opportunity Fund, eligibility requirements, participating institutions, how to apply, and more.

Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE)

The Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE, pronounced “woo-wee”) is a regional tuition-reciprocity agreement that enables students from 15 states to enroll in more than 150 participating two- and four-year public institutions at 150 percent of the enrolling institution’s resident tuition.

The 15 states are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

There is no WUE application. Participating colleges will either automatically consider applicants from eligible states or require that students apply for the WUE rate through their college scholarship or financial aid office. Once awarded, WUE rate exchanges may be continuous for a student’s college career or require an application each year. Interested students should check with individual colleges.

Not all applicants and majors will qualify for the WUE rate, and the application criteria can be rigorous.