The College Summit

The SMS monthly college guidance blog geared toward our junior and senior families written by SMS Director of College Guidance, Erin Davis. The College Summit is typically broken out into three sections: For Seniors, For Juniors, and Resources.

Sept. 12, 2022

For Seniors

Well the time has come at long last. . .  It’s time to apply to colleges! This monthly newsletter will help keep the process focused and (hopefully) answer questions you all may have. It’s true that the college application landscape can seem opaque and stressful. The process changes from one student to the next, from one college to another, so no two experiences are exactly alike. Please know that we are here to support our students and families as they navigate the process. We are here to help all of our students identify and achieve their goals when it comes to the next phase of their education.

I will meet weekly with the senior class on Friday afternoons during Seminar to work on their applications. After the holiday break when the majority of the applications have been submitted, the seniors will continue to meet during Seminar to work on the transition into college and independent living, looking at topics such as personal finance, health, stress management, time management, etc.

As we begin the application process, here are the top priorities to focus on for the next couple of weeks:

  • College Lists: Students’ college lists should be finalized and updated on Naviance. I will be meeting with each senior individually to talk about their lists and what needs to happen to achieve those goals. I need to “sign off” on students’ lists by October 15. Lists will be shared with parents to sign off on as well. Please remember that students and families “own” their college lists – I obviously cannot guarantee admission into any institution. I will do my best to help students craft an appropriate and balanced list with the goal of being sure students are left with solid choices that they are excited about come Spring.
  • Make a spreadsheet of application requirements and deadlines for all of the colleges on the list.
  • RD vs. EA vs. ED applications  – Have the family conversations
    • RD=Regular Decision. Regular decision applications usually have a deadline between December 15 and January 15. Students who apply Regular Decision are in the largest application pool. Decisions for Regular Decision applications are usually made and sent out between March 15 and April 15.
    • EA=Early Action. These are early applications (deadline is usually Nov. 1 or Nov. 15) They are non-binding and students can apply to as many schools Early Action as they would like; there is no commitment involved. The benefit is that students will find out sooner whether or not they are accepted. There may be some admissions advantages to Early Action applications as it can be an indicator of stronger interest and may be a smaller application pool. Not all colleges offer EA.
    • ED=Early Decision. These early applications (deadline is also usually Nov. 1 or Nov. 15) are BINDING. Students may only apply to ONE school Early Decision and by applying Early Decision, students commit to attending (if admitted) regardless of financial aid offers or other factors. The benefits of applying ED are that often, higher percentages of students are admitted out of ED applicant pools than RD applicant pools, so for selective institutions this can be a boon. However, if a student is not able to commit in the fall and wants to “shop around” financial aid packages, they should not apply ED. Also, students will find out earlier (usually by Jan. 1) if they are admitted.
  • Essays Students: should be working on their College Essays. As juniors, we talked about what makes a strong essay and how the essay is used in the application process. We will continue to work on this during our time together this fall. After students have a rough draft of their essay, there are one-on-one supports available for help editing and revising the essays. Students are responsible to initiate these one-on-one meetings with me, Hannah BenDavid, Sophie Coolidge, or Lara Craig.
  • Nuts and Bolts: I will work with seniors this fall on the other nuts and bolts aspects of the applications, such as getting teacher recommendations, putting together a compelling application, how/if/when they should submit SAT/ACT scores, etc.
  • SAT/ACT: If seniors want or need to take the SAT or ACT again, they should register now. It takes generally 2-3 weeks for scores to be available.

For Juniors

Hi Juniors and families! In the college admissions world, junior year is really an important one. As we embark on this school year, we will begin meeting with and working with our juniors to define and achieve their college goals. This newsletter will come out monthly to help keep you informed on the work we’re doing and keep you focused through the college process. Here are some general things to keep in mind as we embark:

  • on-one with me to talk about their college process. I will also meet individually with junior families.
  • Standardized Testing: Though the standardized testing landscape is evolving rapidly, all juniors should still plan on taking the SAT and/or the ACT by the spring of their junior year. There is much more to come on standardized testing, however you should know now that colleges only see scores that students submit. Students have control over what/if colleges see test scores. Students are responsible for registering themselves for the SAT or ACT.
  • October PSAT: All juniors and sophomores will take the PSAT on Saturday, Oct. 15 at Steamboat Mountain School. (You do NOT need to register for this.) As a reminder, the PSAT is great practice and is a good indicator of standardized test scores, however it is not used in the college admissions process and scores are not seen by colleges.
  • I’m here to answer your questions!

I’m really looking forward to working with our students during this application season and process. It is so rewarding to watch their thoughts and dreams come into focus and become reality! Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.


  • October 2 is the Colorado Western Slope College Fair in Aspen, CO. Here is a link to some of the colleges that will be attending. There are also great informational sessions throughout the day. This is a truly incredible fair and a great opportunity for students to get their questions answered and learn about different colleges and academic programs. Students need to register at (registration opens later in September). Families are welcome.
  • A coalition of six highly selective colleges (Williams, Swarthmore, Carleton, Bowdoin, Pomona, Amherst) have put together a series of virtual events to help all students in the college selection and application process. Here is a link to some of those events and videos! These may be informative for students interested in any more selective liberal arts colleges, even if students are not interested in these particular schools.
  • There is also this session for students on admissions Q & A with admissions representatives from Johns Hopkins University.
  • HERE is a guide for athletes who want to participate in NCAA sports in college.
  • Virtual Visit: An admissions representative from Colby College will be doing a virtual visit with Steamboat Mountain School students on September 28 at 2:30 PM. If you are interested in attending and learning more about Colby College, a small liberal arts college in Waterville, ME,  let me know and I will send the zoom link.

Meet our Director of College Counseling

Meet Erin

Read more about the college process at SMS.

College Guidance