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Tools for Data-Informed College Counseling

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

College counseling is an art, a science, and a human endeavor. It is influenced by a set of moving targets, networks of relationships, institutional priorities, and a lot of factors outside of any one participant's control.

Part of the learning experience for students in a college search comes through healthy, honest self-assessment, paired with honest assessment of the admission realities, in service of building a balanced list that yields good choices when decisions come back. An important life skill that can be practiced here is learning to live with uncertainty-- we can never be fully assured of outcomes, and there can be months of waiting for a response. These are scenarios that many young people have not yet encountered, and part of a counselor's work is helping build the muscles to manage them.

We can inform our assessments and mediate our uncertainty with data (evidence) and organization. Read on to learn about two platforms that ground my reflection-oriented counseling relationships in clarifying data, while helping my students organize, communicate and plan. There are sample screen previews below each description.


MaiaLearning, recently merged with Guided Path, provides a platform for managing communication between the student and the counselor. We can add colleges to a research/ "considering" list, and students can launch their investigations from the page. By clicking through a college's thumbnail as seen here, they can find information on admission, academics, financial aid, Fiske Guide profiles, even direct links to CampusReel student-made videos. As they finalize their list, colleges move from "Considering" to "Applying," and students have an additional set of deadline and task reminders, as well as a clear pathway for their senior year plans.

MaiaLearning is increasingly used by schools and school districts around the world, and I'm happy to be able to use its powerful database and well-developed interface as an independent counselor. My team at Shanghai American School adopted MaiaLearning early in its development, and so I am not only familiar with it, but having demo'd all the similar platforms available, I am confident in its usefulness and ease of navigation.

College Kickstart

I am especially pleased to be able to offer College Kickstart reporting to my clients.

College Kickstart is an incredibly powerful tool to help seniors finalize and balance their lists. Making use of recent admission data compiled from many school users around the world, as well as the Kickstart team's researchers, the system analyzes each student's profile and interest levels to assess admission probabilities. In turn, that information is used to advise on application deadline strategies (Early Decision, Early Action, Regular) to maximize outcomes and minimize application fees-- it can also help with the determination of whether or not to submit test scores to each college, in this new test-optional landscape. Kickstart even assigns a letter grade to a list, encouraging balance between likely, target and reach categories, and a sensible number of applications.

As a subscriber, I am able to run individualized reports on lists for each student as the list evolves, and those can be shared in a PDF that families can review. It's an impressive platform that is not accessible to individual users, and is used by counselors at some of the most expensive college prep schools to help students strategize their applications.

By the way, Kickstart publishes a free blog that contains research and insights into annual application data, college admission notification dates, and other helpful information that any family can use.

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