The College Counseling Office at Marin Academy provides all students:

  • Comprehensive, individualized, expert university counseling

  • Help synthesizing their story gained through family, academics, athletics, arts, outings, and activities

  • Detailed support in preparing applications for varied and flexible pathways

  • A visible framework for success and healthy transition into life after MA

Our Approach

MA’s College Counseling Office applies and innovates the best practices of independent school college counseling. At the center of this work is the idea that post-secondary planning happens as a student’s awareness around their identity, capacity for executive functioning, interest in specialization, and agency are coalescing. Approaching researching and applying to colleges as a model for the kind of informed decision-making they will use throughout their lives allows students to see the college journey as an expansive project of optimism and choice.

To direct this work, we have developed the following learning statements to serve as the pillars of the MA College Counseling Office. They carry through in all we do and reflect the values and mission of Marin Academy. They can be seen through the scaffolding we provide for students and families starting in tenth grade and in how we work with each student individually. 

  • Choices: “I can make a plan that serves my best interest by identifying research questions that connect to personal objectives, by using quality sources, and by paying attention to how biases might influence my decision-making.”

  • Self-Awareness: “I can use honest and sustained self-assessment to identify personal needs while coping with uncertainty and maintaining emotional balance.”

  • Autonomy: “I can make incrementally more significant independent decisions while managing a complex process.”

  • Self-Worth: “I can see that no one outcome or type of outcome will define future success, satisfaction, or happiness.”


Comprehensive, individualized college counseling is included in the Marin Academy tuition. We have three full-time college counselors, plus academic and support staff dedicated to working with your student throughout the college process. 

MA college counselors are experts in the field of college admission and counseling who regularly engage in professional development and networking with the college admission community. We provide focused, individual attention and small and large group sessions throughout the academic year for students and parents. 

Our staffing allows us to meet 1:1 every week with every senior throughout the fall semester and still have time to meet with students in grades 9–11 as needed. Your child’s Marin Academy college counselor is your student’s primary and best-resourced advocate in the college application process. 


The College Counseling Office believes in the value of whole community education and releases four newsletters yearly, in June, September, December, and March.

We also present a range of community-wide as well as grade-specific programming available here.

Students begin to meet one-on-one with one of the College Counselors in the second semester of the sophomore year. Our initial focus is to discuss course selections, as well as to check in on and guide the overall MA experience so far. Parents are welcome to make similar appointments once the student and the College Counselor have had at least one meeting. 

The formal college counseling process, wherein students and their counselor begin seriously interrogating college options based on a comprehensive academic record and interests, begin in the middle of the junior year. 

In the fall of the senior year, students take College Seminar—a one semester, non-credited course—that takes place during free block. Its focus is on application preparation and management, counselor check ins, and stress reduction. We include many resources provided in College Seminar on our Canvas course page. 

Evening programs are a mix of in-person and virtual meetings, and meetings with parents are always available with a remote/virtual option. 

College representatives meet with students using Zoom or in-person during September and October at the conclusion of the school day (at 2:45 or 3:15 p.m.) and again in the spring. Juniors and seniors are strongly encouraged to attend these meetings. 

Independent Counselor Expectations and Requirements

Some Marin Academy families wonder if they should hire the services of an independent counselor. 

Professional, ethical, and skilled independent consultants can play an important educational role for students who do not have access to adequate college counseling resources in high school. MA students and families, however, are fortunate to have a superior level of both individual and group guidance and support. 

Even so, in affluent areas, independent counseling has developed into a misguided commodity, whose purported need is fueled by a combination of media frenzy, guilt, and social pressure. Parents worry:

  • “If I don’t pay for an independent counselor, I am not supporting my child.”

  • “Our neighbors have hired a private counselor, so we’re going to have to as well.”

  • “Everything I’ve heard in the news suggests our child won’t get into college without the help of college coaching.”

  • “I don’t know anything about the college search process; we need more help!”

  • “My kid will never be able to handle this on his own!”

  • “More coaching is always better...” And so on.

While some students may have special needs that could warrant the need to consider an outside counselor, we are confident that the majority of MA students do NOT need such services. The professional experiences, relationships, membership affiliations, and training of the MA college counselors ensure that our students receive personalized, abundant, and expert guidance tailored to the needs of each of our students.

If you are considering an independent consultant, please carefully consider that:

  • Secondary counselors often pull students from their school-based counselors whose genuine relationships with students are built across the strength of the MA community (through athletics, performances, outings, in class, in community, and so on), and who are the ones writing letters of recommendation and advocating directly to colleges.

  • Independent counseling came into existence as the result of inadequate counseling resources at public high schools. There was, and is, a clear need for many students and their families to find information about the college process outside of high school, especially in California where the average student:counselor ratio is about 900:1. Even though the student:counselor ratio at MA is 35:1 for our seniors (and for all students the ratio is 145:1), some parents persist in the misconception that outside services will provide an “inside track” or make an otherwise unwieldy process manageable. Adults in our community can convince themselves that this assistance is valuable or needed. 

  • The college application process is a process to be savored and through which your student will grow, if they are allowed to do this themselves. No college counselor can guarantee a specific outcome, but we can promise you that we will provide your student with the best information and attention possible throughout their time working with us. 

  • Be mindful that in these situations having an outside counselor work in this capacity could lead to delaying a student’s development in organizational skills that will only arise for your student later in college.

When might it make sense to use an Independent Counselor? In keeping with our counseling philosophy regarding autonomy and developing decision-making skills, know that we will not “nag,” track down, or complete work for any student. For a true procrastinator or a student with severe organizational struggles, working with an independent counselor might be a way to proceed if that independent counselor understands that this is the aim of their service. If you believe you fall into this category, we ask that you talk to your MA college counselor and carefully review the resources and recommendations of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) before you sign a contract with someone outside our community. We can offer recommendations that you may find helpful.

Students pursuing a highly specialized program (e.g., dance, musical theater, film, etc.) should explore additional resources by working with their MA teacher or finding an independent counselor that specializes in that area. Our office will collaborate with students and independent counselors in those situations.

If you do employ an outside counselor, we require you to disclose that information to our office. It’s critical to Marin Academy and the Marin Academy College Counseling Office to maintain full integrity in the work we do with colleges. Partnering with you about your intent to work with an independent counselor allows us to do that and releases your child of the burden of feeling like they are keeping a secret. It also allows us to support your child so they do not feel uncomfortable if they receive conflicting advice, or if they are showing signs of application “burn out.” Above all, we do not want your child to mistakenly learn that college preparation is an “activity” to be perfected rather than the natural next step in their educational path. In the end, what we all want is the best for your student.