Counseling and Guidance

Serra counselors guide the Padres through all four years on a college path, helping them to determine which colleges best fit their needs. Kieren found his perfect fit at Loyola Marymount University, where he is majoring in psychology. Although the college process itself is complex and requires thoughtful planning, Kieren was able to make a confident decision because of the guidance he received at Serra.

Naresh Kishnani
(father of Kieren Kishnani '19)

Serra counselors see themselves as student advocates who, in partnership with parents and faculty, help our Padres to achieve their personal and academic goals and successfully navigate their high school journey.

Preparing Padres for the road ahead

It’s no secret that planning for college can be stressful for students and their families. In an era when many parents feel the need to hire expensive private college counselors, it’s important to know that Serra’s counseling team has the expertise and extensive resources to expertly shepherd our Padres through the college planning and application process. The results speak volumes about the counseling team’s success: Every year, 99 to 100 percent of Serra students matriculate to the colleges that best suit their academic and career interests, consistently earning millions of dollars in college scholarships. For the class of 2019, that number was $29.5 million, with 78 percent of graduates earning one or more awards.


of Serra graduates matriculate to college

Focusing on student well-being in the here and now

The future looks brightest when students can see a clear path forward. Recognizing that the high school years can sometimes dish up both personal and academic challenges for the young men, our counselors are equipped to provide social-emotional support and resources our students need, and the academic intervention and advocacy that will help them to course correct. The counseling team also offers support groups each school year. One topic addresses students’ social interaction and how to successfully engage in the Serra community; others are flexible, chosen in response to students’ needs and interests. Counselors are always available to meet with students and parents as requested or needed.

Counseling and Guidance FAQs

What do the boys do each year at Serra to prepare for college?

Freshman year:

Freshmen and their parents are introduced to the importance of grades, getting involved and sharpening their study skills. A student’s GPA is the primary factor in college admissions. Freshmen are introduced to Naviance, our web-based, college planning program, and they begin to build their résumés. Counselors meet with all freshman families.

Sophomore year:

Using a program in Naviance, sophomores take personality profile tests to discover their career interests. They learn a little more about themselves, which is central to the college process. They begin to research colleges and update their résumés.

Junior year:

Each junior participates in a year-long college advising seminar, a curriculum-based program that helps students to self-assess, determine their goals and identify colleges that will further those goals. Testing plans, college research and college admissions case studies are pieces of the seminar. Juniors are encouraged to attend college admissions visits, which are held daily in the fall and the annual college fair with over 130 colleges in attendance. Counselors meet individually with each junior family in the spring to review goals and develop college lists. Students also  have the opportunity to attend our College Essay Boot Camp, a workshop given in early summer following their junior year.

Senior year:

On Senior Kick-off Sunday, seniors begin the application process. Individual meetings, application workshops and college admissions visits continue during the fall. Throughout the year, counselors meet with students to review admission decisions from colleges and financial aid packages in order to guide the students to their final college decision.

Do counselors help the boys to select colleges?

Serra counselors work extensively with each student throughout the college process to support the boys, while suggesting schools that are suitable to their academic achievement, social interests and career goals. The college planning seminar, junior family meetings and individual meetings help students to develop their college lists. This includes recommending colleges that students might not have previously considered.

How soon should high school students start looking at colleges?

Students should visit colleges during the junior year, although it is never too early to step on campuses whenever it is possible. Some of our families visit campuses during family vacations, which is an excellent idea. Serra also hosts an annual, extensive college fair on campus during the fall; this past October more than 130 college representatives participated. In addition, we welcome visits from college admissions representatives throughout admissions season each year. Exposing students to a broad range of colleges and universities early enables them to set academic goals, which is the most important factor in college admissions.

Do counselors help Serra students with their college application forms?

Serra counselors work closely with each student and provide opportunities for students to attend application workshops for the UCs, CSUs and four-year private and out-of-state colleges.

Should students take both the SAT and the ACT, and how many times?

We recommend that students explore both the SAT and ACT to see which test fits them best. The most common time for testing is in the spring of junior year. During the summer prior to senior year, students should prepare for additional testing in the fall, based on their earlier test results. Counselors work with students individually to determine how many times they should retest, if at all.

How important is the college essay/personal statement? Do students write it in their English classes? Do counselors help them?

The personal statement gives admissions counselors a sense of who a student is and a glimpse of his writing skills. It reveals a student’s personality and character, which grades and test scores do not show. Senior English classes work on the narrative style of writing in support of students’ college essays early in the fall of senior year. In addition, a College Essay Boot Camp is offered at Serra during the summer prior to senior year.

Many parents feel that the competitive nature of the application process is over the top. How do you keep our Padres from becoming overwhelmed? What is your advice to students and to parents?

The biggest challenge students face is to learn who they are, what interests them and what they want to do with their lives. In that self-discovery, it means staying open-minded and not limiting their college searches to the most well-known schools. To reduce stress, we provide students and parents with all of the information they need. This is accomplished through e-newsletters, evening presentations, student and family meetings, and other college workshops. Our advice to parents is to stop listening to what everyone else says, and to focus on finding schools that are the best fit for their sons.

Why is college preparation so important today? How has the application process changed in the last five to 10 years.

The public impression of the college admissions process has generated considerable anxiety over the past several years. The application process has become more competitive, as the number of college applicants surpasses the number of available seats at many colleges and universities.

Over the past 10 years, most colleges and universities have seen an increase in applications, including some from a few thousand applicants to 30,000 or more. During this same period of time, the number of students accepted by these colleges has increased only slightly. This has lowered admission rates at the most popular and well-known schools. To ensure that they have suitable options for college, students apply to more schools today than in previous generations. Technology has made it easier for students to apply to multiple schools without having to complete additional applications.


Serra students use Naviance, an online, comprehensive college, career and life readiness solution, as the central tool for college research and planning.

Students are introduced to Naviance during their freshman year; parents also receive access to the system. Over the course of four years, our Padres utilize the wide variety of features in Naviance beginning with basic search tools and culminating in the organization of their college applications during senior year. Naviance also serves as a communications platform, allowing counselors to share pertinent information with students and their parents throughout the school year.

Counseling Staff

Your Serra counselor will . . .

  • Support you as you transition to high school and get acclimated to the Serra community.
  • Provide guidance in selecting courses that support your college and career goals and meet high school graduation and college admissions requirements.
  • Act as your advocate when you are confronted with a challenging academic or personal situation.
  • Refer you to trusted outside resources for educational testing or psychological support services.
  • Help you to identify strengths and preferences that can open your eyes to  potential college majors and career paths.
  • Work with you individually as well as in groups to provide comprehensive college advising services.
  • Introduce you to college admissions representatives and help you assess what you learn from them.
  • Write thoughtful and compelling college letters of recommendation because Serra counselors know their students well!
Jane Zoucha

Jane Zoucha

Director of Counseling
Steve Farren

Steve Farren

Karen Ghidossi

Karen Ghidossi

Kristin Hanson

Kristin Hanson

Chris Quiery '01

Chris Quiery '01

Class of 2001
current students and parents:

More college planning tools and resources are available in your PCR portal.
Student portal
Parent portal