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Welcome to College Guidance at AFS!

The  College Guidance Team at AFS assists our Upper School students in every step of the journey from our Grade 9 course selection to our Grade 12 college admission process. We have a few goals in our work with students. We advise faculty and students on course selection that provides each student with the best conditions for learning. We also help families assess academic, social, and financial needs to identify colleges that fit each student well. We are experts at the application and discernment process that comes with choosing the next level of education after AFS.  We’re here for students. We’re here for families. From the complicated questions to the simple assurance that there is someone who understands the growth and evolution of your high school student. We are working on your behalf and we’re happy to guide you on this intellectual adventure. 

College Guidance Events and Details

Upcoming Events

Calendar of Events 2023 – 2024 School Year

  • 12th Grade College Night
    • Tuesday, September 12
    • Open to 12th grade families
  • HBCU Panel
    • Thursday, September 14
    • Open to 11th and 12th grade families
  • SCOTUS Panel
    • Tuesday, September 26
    • Open to all Upper School Families
  • Standardized Testing Webinar with Compass
    • September (Date TBD)
    • Open to 9th–11th grade families
  • PSAT Day
    • Wednesday, October 11
    • Open to 10th and 11th grade families
  • Philadelphia National College Fair
    • Saturday, October 14
    • Open to all Upper School families
  • Chris Gruber Financial Aid Webinar
    • Tuesday, October 24
    • Open to all Upper School families
  • 11th Grade College Night: An overview of the college process
    • Wednesday, November 29
    • Open to 11th grade families only
  • College 101 Webinar
    • Tuesday, December 6
    • Open to all Upper School families, geared toward parents and guardians of 9th and 10th grade students
  • Applying in the Performing Arts Webinar
    • March (Date TBD)
    • Open to all Upper School families
  • Athletic Recruitment Webinar
    • April (Date TBD)
    • Open to all Upper School families
  • Independent School College Fair — Shipley School
    • Tuesday, May 21
    • Open to all Upper School families
  • Mainline College Fair
    • Wednesday, May 22
    • Open to all Upper School families
  • Independent School College Fair — Germantown Academy
    • Thursday, May 23
    • Open to all Upper School families

Contact Us

Here’s how to reach us:

Mal Goss, Director of College Guidance and Director of Studies, 215.576.3066


Joanna Upmeyer, Associate Director of College Guidance and 9th Grade Class Dean, 215-881-7686


Maryann Cummiskey, College Guidance, Administrative Assistant and Registrar, 215-576-3955

College Guidance Timeline for Grade 9

Grade 9 

September – December

Students will build strong critical thinking, writing, and math/science skills by taking courses that appropriately challenge them. They should pursue activities that spark interest and curiosity. Students should focus on understanding the new expectations of Upper School by working on time and stress management, note-taking, getting to know their teachers, and building study skills.

January – March

Think about summer plans: camps, summer jobs, pre-college programs, and/or community service opportunities. These are opportunities that will help students “tell their story”

April – May

Students will work with their advisor and parents/guardians to plan an appropriately challenging schedule for 10th grade, taking into consideration graduation requirements, co-curricular activities, and a student’s interests


Read widely. This is the best long-term plan for students to prepare for standardized testing. Students should participate in summer programs, camps, and/or community service events.

College Guidance Timeline for Grade 10

Grade 10

September – December

Sophomore year starts off by building on top of the academic skills developed in 9th grade. Students develop relationships with advisors, teachers, and peers as resources to navigate the newness of 10th grade. Students shouldn’t aim for a long list of activities, but to focus on the activities that interest them, and use their time to discover a deeper understanding of a particular club or cause. The depth of involvement, commitment, and leadership roles are the aspects of involvement that impress colleges.


Students will take a practice PSAT to familiarize themselves with the format and types of questions on the test in anticipation of taking the PSAT in 11th grade.

January – March

Students should start thinking about summer plans that build on their interests, and provide opportunities for challenge and skill building: athletic and arts camps, summer jobs, community service events, and/or academic programs abroad. Many programs may offer summer financial aid and scholarships.

April – May

Students should spend substantive time talking with their school advisor and parents/guardians about their preferred courses for the next school year. This is a crucial step in students taking on more independence in their path of learning, as there are many more opportunities to customize a course roster in 11th grade.


AFS provides summer reading suggestions and requirements through our central library. It is important to balance summer relaxing and participation in academic programs, camps, or work.

College Guidance Timeline for Grade 11

Grade 11


The 11th grade year gathers momentum, with testing, planning, researching, self-reflection, and schoolwork. Students  should continue to stay focused on classes and develop relationships with support resources like advisors and teachers.


It’s time to take the PSAT. This test is still a practice for the SAT, but very high scorers may be eligible for entering the National Merit Scholarship competition. Families need to plan to take a Practice ACT through one of the test prep companies.


AFS hosts the 11th grade college night for students and at least one parent/guardian. Families will be given student and parent/guardian questionnaires to help the college guidance counselors guide them through the college process. Students and families are introduced to Scoir.


The PSAT and Practice ACT results are released; a student’s performance on these practice tests is a great guide to determine which test is a better fit. This is a time to consider whether a student needs additional preparation for the SAT or ACT. Students should register for their first official test at this point (the College Guidance Office strongly recommends that students not take their first official testing until the December sittings for both the SAT and ACT), as many students haven’t covered the required material.


The College Guidance Seminar course is offered in order to help students determine what factors to consider in making a college the right fit for them. The  student and parent/guardian college questionnaires should be finished and submitted.


College Counselor assignments are made and students are invited to one-on-one meetings with their assigned college counselor.

It is time for students to register for a spring sitting of the SAT or ACT.

Plan a college tour (tours don’t need to be extensive or require families to travel far; there are numerous colleges and universities in the state of Pennsylvania that can introduce families to city, suburban, rural, large, medium, and small campuses).


Continue to research colleges. There is robust virtual programming at most colleges and universities. You can also take in-person tours of campuses during spring break. Take notes about what stands out to you.

April – May

Students work with their advisor and parents/guardians to choose appropriately challenging courses. Senior year course selection and semester grades count with colleges! This is also the time to request two letters of recommendation from junior year teachers. Recommendations should come from a teacher in English, History, World Language, Math, or Science. The College Guidance Office will help students choose the right teacher for their recommendation letters.


It’s time to start drafting the college essay! There are many resources available online, including examples of previous student essays. Students should plan another sitting of the SAT or ACT. Continue to visit college campuses, attend Open Houses and Information sessions (virtual or in-person), and continue to clarify which colleges may be a right fit.

College Guidance Timeline for Grade 12

Grade 12


Students should create a plan of action, with their college guidance counselor, for applying to colleges. They should also create a checklist of all the items that are needed for application and financial aid deadlines, application supplement requirements, and testing requirements. Start checking email daily (colleges use email as the primary way of communicating with students; the College Guidance Office will also send emails with important information).

Students should keep working hard, as senior year grades are still important in the college application process (Early Action/Early Decision colleges may see your first quarter grades; Regular Decision colleges will see your first semester grades).


The FAFSA application opens. Families should work together to complete the FAFSA; some colleges also require the CSS Profile. All of these documents are to provide need-based financial aid. Families should also use the Net Price Calculator for each college a student intends to apply to (for an average amount that the family will be expected to contribute to the cost of college). Colleges also provide information about merit scholarships and grants. Students will continue one-on-one meetings with their college guidance counselor.

September – October

AFS welcomes college admissions representatives to campus or on virtual visit platforms.  The schedule for these visits can be seen on Scoir. Students should continue working on completing applications and writing essays.

October – November

By mid-October, it is time to confirm which colleges, if any, to apply to in an early round. In early November, students confirm what colleges they will be applying to for Regular Decision.

Most Early Decision and Early Action deadlines are November 1 and November 15. Submit applications 24-48 hours before the deadline. Tech glitches happen!


Many Early Decision and Early Action decisions will come out in early to mid-December. Prepare to submit Regular Decision applications

January – February

January 1 and 15 are application deadlines for most Regular Decision colleges.

April 1

This is the national deadline for colleges to release decisions; financial aid packages are typically released by now. Students should compare financial aid packages and discuss the pros and cons of their choices with their college guidance counselor and their parents/guardians

May 1

This is the national deadline for students to submit an enrollment deposit at the college they intend to matriculate to in the fall. Students should respond to waiting list offers and decline other offers of admissions.

College Application Resources

We realize that much of the work students and families will do in the college application process will be outside of regular school-day hours. We have compiled a brief list of online resources that we frequently reference in our college meetings and evening programs so that you can easily access them when necessary.  

Comprehensive Guide:
NACAC Guide to the College Admissions Process

The College Search:
Big Future
College Scorecard

The Common Application
University of California Application Platform

Test Prep/Tutoring:
(the AFS College Guidance Office doesn’t promote one test prep/tutoring company over another; this list is merely a small selection of reputable companies that we are familiar with)

Rocket Prep
Katherine Miller Education
Compass Education Group
A+ Tutoring

Standardized Testing:
Test Optional Schools

Financial Aid:

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA)
CSS Profile
Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA)
MyIntuition College Cost Estimator