College Counseling Guidebook


The counseling department advises students throughout the duration of the college planning and application process. One-on-one college and career counseling sessions begin in earnest with students in January of the junior year, but counselors are also available for student or parent-initiated appointments with any student (in any grade) throughout the school year. Students should meet individually with a counselor before a family meeting.

Please view the “guidebook” below, in addition to the various menu links (on the right) to learn about the timeline of college preparation for students at Newark Charter High School. Students are encouraged to look ahead through all years, in order to get a preview of the college counseling curriculum and the process of applying to colleges from Newark Charter.

College Counseling Services:

  • One-on-one meetings with students (upon request of the student)
  • Meetings with families (upon request of the family)
  • Classroom guidance classroom visits to social studies classes in the spring of the junior year
  • Classroom visits in the fall of the senior year
  • Assemblies
  • Financial aid sessions for parents
  • The Admission Game with Peter Van Buskirk
  • College Visits to NCS
  • College counseling emails

Elements of College Planning:

  • Depth and breadth in course selection
  • Standardized testing plan of action
  • Career and academic major exploration
  • Resource awareness
  • College list development
  • College visits to NCS
  • College visit encouragement (to the campuses)
  • College application system and tech-related troubleshooting
  • College essay advice
  • Recommendation letters
  • Financial aid & scholarships
  • Post-admission counseling
Testing Calendar

Testing Timeline Overview

Every student creates his/her own college admission testing plan, but counselors are available for consulting, and there are some general guidelines below.  Please note, AP Exams are not included (below) because they are embedded in the curriculum.  All students enrolled in AP courses are required to take the corresponding exam in May before the conclusion of the school year.

–April of Sophomore Year: PSAT

May or June of Sophomore Year: consider SAT Subject Tests only if you will be applying to highly selective colleges and universities (including the University of Delaware’s Honors Program) – it makes sense to take subject tests at the end of the sophomore year if you are finishing the corresponding AP course (e.g. if finishing AP Biology, take the Biology E/M Subject test), or if you have mastered a subject and feel you are ready to excel on the subject test even without taking a corresponding AP course (e.g. many strong math students take the SAT Math II Subject test in sophomore year). More information here on Subject TestsMost students wait until the junior year for subject tests. If you have questions about this, please see Mr. Mitchell.

–October of Junior Year: PSAT/NMSQT (PSAT is used as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test)

–December-February of Junior Year: Consider SAT or ACT or an SAT Subject Test.

–April of Junior Year: All juniors take the official SAT at Newark Charter for free (paid for by DOE). Please note, this is the only SAT that is held at Newark Charter.  For all other SAT or ACT Exams, students must sign up with their parents at the appropriate sites linked to above. For many juniors, the school-day April exam will be their first SAT, while others are taking it for the second time (they already signed up online and took it on a different date).  After the April exam, it important to take stock of where you are at based on your own personal admission goals.

  • Scour each of your colleges’ websites to find the specific literature about the testing requirements. You NEED to be 100% aware your testing plan will allow you to fulfill the requirements at all of your colleges.  For some, it’s as simple as taking the SAT, whereas the more selective colleges may require more tests (e.g. SAT Subject Tests) and specific ones based on the choice of major or program.
  • Here is a compilation that is helpful (for subject tests) because it provides links directly to the colleges’ policies for standardized testing.
  • Plot out your testing calendar based on your personal application plan. Write down your testing dates and make a study plan for gradual preparation leading up to your next test. Practice tests are basic elements of test prep. Good preparation includes a consideration of prior performance for studying, if you previously took that exam.
  • Also, don’t forget that some colleges are test optional (click the link to view a list of test optional schools) like the University of Delaware, which does not require in-state students to send their SAT/ACT scores if they don’t think the scores will help them earn admission.  The University of Delaware currently lists the following on its website:


–May-June of Junior Year: consider SAT Subject Tests, or another SAT, or the ACTMore information here on Subject Tests. Consider SAT Subject Tests only if you will be applying to highly selective colleges and universities (including the University of Delaware’s Honors Program) –More information here on Subject Tests.

–September-November of Senior Year: At this point, you know what you need to reach your personal goals. In some circumstances you only need significant growth in one subject area, and so you can register for another SAT with a focused preparation in a particular area (Evidence-based Reading & Writing, Math).  You may also still be trying the ACT or tying up loose ends with more SAT Subject Tests.

–How many times should I take the SAT or ACT? Most students take the SAT twice, and many also try the ACT, an admission test that is accepted by every college or university in the country that also accepts the SAT.  Some students take the SAT for a third time — although two is most common — while a few students are understandably satisfied with only submitting one score from a lone test. If you have questions about whether or not you should take a test (at all) or again, please see Mr. Mitchell.

9th Grade

Curriculum and Grades

The National Association for College Admission Counseling surveys admissions professionals in order to compile a list of the most important factors in the college application review process. For over a decade, the top factors have involved grades and course rigor/curriculum.


9th Grade Counts

Freshmen are often reminded that for the purposes of college admissions, everything in high school counts — from grade 9 through 12.  This is not to suggest that academic work prior to the freshman year is irrelevant, but it’s true that in most cases, colleges will be reviewing the full academic transcript from all four years of high school.  Colleges may pay closer attention to trends as the student approaches the senior year, but the freshman year will usually constitute a significant portion of the overall cumulative GPA.

Academic Transcript

Students are encouraged to become familiar with the format of the academic transcript that will eventually be sent to colleges upon student request. Please see a sample transcript below:


Grading Scale

A = 90-100

B = 80-90

C = 70-80

D = 60s-70

F = below 60

Weighted & Unweighted Grade Point Average (GPA)

Students should be aware of the grading scale and weighted GPA.  Newark Charter shares the cumulative weighted GPA (starts in 9th grade) with colleges.  Some colleges will also request the unweighted GPA. Students may ask a counselor to learn of their unweighted GPA.

Grade point average (GPA) is determined on a 4.0 scale with weight given to honors and AP courses. Honors courses receive an additional .5 weight, and AP courses receive an additional 1.0 weight. All graded classes are counted in the weighted GPA.

Course Selection Plotting

The freshman year curriculum will already be established for each student as he/she enrolls.  Students are encouraged to plot out a basic sketch of the courses they will take over the next three years (sophomore, junior, and senior).  Some elective courses cannot be plotted out with certainty due to the potential for yearly adjustments in offerings, and changes will inevitably occur as career and potential major ideas evolve.  As a result, this course selection plot should be updated each year. Important factors to include in this course selection plot will be:

  • Graduation requirements
  • Personal preference/enrichment
  • Depth and breadth of courses
  • Phasing and rigor
  • AP course enrollment
  • Potential college major
  • College Admission requirements


Extracurricular Activities

Resist the temptation to be everything to everyone.  Colleges are seldom impressed by students with gaudy (long) lists of extracurricular exploits, but they are impressed by students who demonstrate meaningful and consistent contributions in a reasonable amount of extracurricular activity.  This is not to suggest that students should purposefully limit their involvement to just one club, but there is a fine line between overachieving and overextending.  If you are comfortable with your level of commitment, that’s all that matters, but resist the temptation to overreach.

Extracurricular involvement is a consideration for many colleges (with varying degrees of importance), but it should not be a cause of undue stress.  Colleges also like to see that a student has continued with commitments for an extended period of time, ideally over multiple years.  Check the activity period calendar or talk to a counselor for ideas about clubs to join.



As students begin to hone their research skills in the freshman year curriculum, they can also start developing an area of academic interest that may evolve into an intellectual passion that extends beyond the classroom.  Students are encouraged to seek enrichment outside course requirements and to document that enrichment if possible.  This can be in-depth research that is expanded upon in subsequent years, or it may just be a preparatory experience; either way, the emphasis is on enrichment that continues outside the walls of Newark Charter.  What do you like to read?  What do you like to think about (intellectually), even if it’s not required for class?  These are the types of thoughts that eventually become fodder for college essays and career exploration.


Leadership and Summer Enrichment Programs

Marketing for summer programs will often refer to some type of “edge” that a program will give students in their eventual application to colleges. Many programs will help, but not simply because a student attended the program.  Choose summer programs based on their potential for true and lasting enrichment that is important to you. Peruse this list of programs that Newark Charter students have considered or attended in the past.  Many of the programs will be hosted by colleges.  Also, please note that some programs will highlight “college credit” as a benefit of the program.  Depending on many factors, the college at which you eventually enroll may not accept that credit.  As a result, students should understand this before assuming the “college credit” will be transferable to all colleges.