Transitional Counseling

Transitional Counseling 

School aged youth regularly go through transitions - changing grade levels, changing schools, transitioning from school to work. We see each as a natural opportunity to promote positive learning, develop positive attitudes and promote social and emotional development. 

Research indicates (Cauley & Jovanovich, 2008):

  • More students fail ninth grade than any other grade of school
  • Poor and minority students are twice as likely as others to be retained
  • Among fourteen- and fifteen-year-olds who struggle with basic reading and mathematics skills, 20 percent drop out of school within two years
  • A study of fifty-six Georgia and Florida high schools found that schools with extensive transition programs had significantly lower failure and dropout rates than those schools that did not offer comprehensive programs

Schools must address transitions proactively in order to enhance their own goals of supporting youth development. Examples of transition opportunities include welcoming new arrivals and providing ongoing social supports as students adjust to new grades or new schools in order to support students' academic and social-emotional development to promote success in school.

Transition counseling benefits students during any transitional time, and at any grade level (from elementary to middle school and from middle to high school). Here at Sam Brannan Middle School, it's our goal to help students with the transitions they are experiencing now, and give them the tools to cope with the transitions they will face in the years to come.

College Counseling

Your high school will probably have at least one on-site college counselor to help you find and apply to colleges. Your school counselor can help you:

  • Stay on top of class selection and graduation requirements
  • Navigate your high school's processes for
    • Getting letters of recommendation from teachers
    • Completing the counselor letter of recommendation
    • Sending your official transcript to colleges
  • Select extracurricular activities
  • Research colleges and draft your college list
  • Answer your FAFSA questions
  • Find and apply for local scholarships
  • Complete and send your applications

College 101

There are two different ways colleges make admissions decisions. Some colleges use what is known as "formula" admissions. Other colleges use what is known as "comprehensive review." The former is comprised of three things: grades, test scores, and curriculum. The California State Universities use this system. The UC's and all private colleges use comprehensive review. They consider grades, test scores, and curriculum, and they also consider other factors like extra-curricular activities, community service etc. 

The Application

College applications vary from college to college, but most require some or all of the following parts.

Application Form

Most colleges require you to apply online directly to the individual school or system (CSU, UC) or use the Common Application, entering your information just once.

Application Fee

The average college application fee is around $45. (Some colleges charge up to $70, while others don't have an application fee at all.) Many colleges offer fee waivers for applicants from low-income families. If you need a fee waiver, call the college's admission office for more information.

High School Transcript

This form is filled out by an official of your high school. If it comes with your admission materials, you should give it to the guidance office to complete as early as possible. Some colleges send this form directly to your school after receiving your application.

Admission Test Scores

At many colleges, you have to submit SAT®, SAT Subject Test™, or ACT test scores. Test scores are a standard way of measuring a student's ability to do college-level work.

Letters of Recommendation

Your entire application should create a consistent portrait of who you are. Many private colleges ask you to submit one or more letters of recommendation from a teacher, counselor, or other adult who knows you well. When asking someone to write such a letter, be sure to do so well before the college's deadline.


If you're applying to private colleges (and some public like the UC's), your essay often plays a very important role. Whether you're writing an autobiographical statement or an essay on a specific theme, take the opportunity to express your individuality in a way that sets you apart from other applicants.


This is required or recommended by some colleges. Even if it's not required, it's a good idea to set up an interview because it gives you a chance to make a personal connection with someone who will have a voice in deciding whether or not you'll be offered admission.


If you're applying for a program such as music, art, or design, you may have to document prior work by auditioning on campus or submitting an audiotape, slides, or some other sample of your work to demonstrate your ability.

Your entire application should create a consistent portrait of who you are and what you'll bring to the college. The more the pieces of the puzzle support one impression, the more confident the admission committee will be in admitting you. If the essay or interview contradicts information you gave on other forms, you may cause them to have doubts about accepting you.

Paying for College (Definitions)


Free Application for Federal Student Aid. A detailed form that is the first step in applying for federal aid, offered by the U.S. Department of Education. The FAFSA is available from colleges, high school guidance counselors, public libraries, and on the Internet. Only one FAFSA needs to be completed each year, even if you are considering several different colleges. Be aware that it needs to be re-submitted every year that you are in college.

The Department of Education is in the process of phasing out the paper FAFSA, and recommends that students complete the FAFSA online. Visit the Department's special FAFSA web site for everything you need to know about preparing to complete the FAFSA and sending your completed FAFSA to the schools you want to apply to.

California DREAM Act 

The California DREAM Act is state legislation that allows undocumented, AB540 students (any student who has attended a California high school for 3 years and will graduate from a California high school) to apply and compete for institutional financial aid in the public colleges and universities in California. By filling out the DREAM Act application (similar to the FAFSA), eligible AB 540 students can receive financial aid at California public colleges and universities partially derived from state funds including CalGrants and Work Study if the student has been approved to work through DACA.

CSS Financial Aid PROFILE

A supplemental need analysis document used by some colleges and private scholarship programs to award their non-federal aid funds. Early in your senior year, participating colleges may ask you to file a PROFILE so that a predetermination can be made of your financial aid eligibility at that school. The PROFILE does not replace the FAFSA-you must still file a FAFSA in order to be considered for federal student aid. You should file a PROFILE only for those colleges and programs that request it. PROFILE registration forms, which are processed by the College Scholarship Service (CSS), are generally available from high schools or colleges.

Financial Aid Package

Describes the total amount of aid that a student receives. A package generally consists of several parts: grants/scholarships, loans and jobs. Grants and scholarships are considered "gift aid." Loans and jobs are considered "self help."

Types of Financial Aid

Grants and Scholarships

Money given to a student that carries no stipulation of repayment is known as a scholarship or a grant. Scholarships and grants can originate from the federal or state government, private sources or the college itself. Grant eligibility tends to be based on need; when need is high, the grant aid tends to be high as well. Scholarship eligibility is often based on financial need, academic achievement, particular talents or skills, or a combination of one or more of these factors. In some cases, the terms "grant" and "scholarship" are used interchangeably.


Any program described as a loan requires repayment, usually with interest, to the source of the funding. Loans often come from the institution or private lender. Generally, the greater the financial need, the larger the loan. A variety of repayment options are usually available, and sometimes permit payment to be deferred while the borrower is enrolled in school. The time frame for loan repayment can be as little as two to three years, or as long as twenty years. Many banks and lending institutions now make special loan programs available to help parents finance their student's education. These loans are not based on financial need, but can help stretch the family's budget over the years of schooling. Loans may be referred to as "self-help" aid.


On- and/or off-campus employment for hourly wages during the academic year. In some cases, the jobs are designed to complement the student's field of study. Jobs may also be called "self-help" aid.

Federal Student Aid Programs

Eligibility for federal student aid programs, except the Federal PLUS loan and unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan, which we'll describe later, is primarily based on financial need. Families demonstrate need for federal student aid by completing and filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), available from colleges, high school guidance counselors, public libraries, and/or the Internet.

Federal Pell Grant

The largest single aid program. Grants are awarded to students demonstrating high financial need and are not required to be repaid. Using FAFSA data, financial need is determined according to the Federal Methodology, a formula established by Congress to assess the family's ability to contribute to the student's educational costs. For each eligible student, the Department of Education forwards funds to the school, which are then delivered to the student's account at the school, or are paid directly to the student. The maximum award varies annually, according to the level of federal funding. (Max is usually around $5,000)

Federal Perkins Loan (formerly National Direct Student Loan)

A federally funded campus-based loan that is administered by the college aid office. Students do not apply separately for the Federal Perkins Loan-it is awarded to eligible students with extreme financial need as part of an aid package at the college. A fixed five percent interest rate is charged annually after completion of studies, and a grace period is specified in the promissory note. The average Perkins Loan is usually around $2,000. Please check with your counselor or college financial aid officer for updated information on interest rates and loan amounts, which are subject to change pending the finalization of legislation before Congress.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)

A federal campus-based grant awarded to students who demonstrate significant financial need. Like Federal Perkins Loan, students do not apply separately for FSEOG-it is awarded to eligible students as part of the aid package at the college. These funds run out quickly, so the earlier you submit your FAFSA, the more likely you will receive these funds. The average Federal SEOG is usually around $600.

Federal Work-Study (FWS)

A part-time work program awarding on- or off-campus jobs to students who demonstrate financial need. FWS positions are primarily funded by the government, but are also partially funded by the institution. FWS is awarded to eligible students by the college as part of the student's financial aid package. The maximum FWS award is based on the student's financial need, the number of hours the student is able to work, and the amount of FWS funding available at the institution.

Federal Family Education Loan Program

This term encompasses two separate loan programs: a student loan known as the Federal Stafford Loan; and a parent loan known as a Federal PLUS Loan. A FAFSA must be filed for Federal Stafford Loan consideration. Please check with your counselor or college financial aid officer for updated information on interest rates and loan amounts, which are subject to change pending the finalization of legislation before Congress.

Federal Stafford Loan

A long-term, low interest rate loan administered by the Department of Education through private commercial lending agencies (banks, credit unions, etc.). The maximum amount a dependent, undergraduate borrower can receive is $3,500 for the first year of study; $4,500 for the second year of study; and $5,500 for third year and beyond, with a limit of $23,000 for an undergraduate education. The interest rate is the lowest of all loans at 3.86 percent. (*This information is subject to change.)

Students can borrow Federal Stafford Loan funds regardless of financial need. However, if financial need is demonstrated, the federal government may subsidize (i.e., pay to the lender) part or all of the interest while the student is in-school and during grace and deferment periods. If the student does not demonstrate financial need, part or all of the loan will be unsubsidized-that is, the student, rather than the federal government, is responsible for the interest during in-school, grace and deferment periods. Please check with your counselor or college financial aid officer for updated information on interest rates and loan amounts, which are subject to change pending the finalization of legislation before Congress.

Federal PLUS Loan

A long-term, variable interest rate federal loan that is capped currently at 6.8 percent*(Subject to change) and is available to the parents of dependent students. Like Federal Stafford Loans, Federal PLUS loans are administered by the Department of Education through private commercial lending agencies. There is no set limit on the amount of Federal PLUS funds that a parent may borrow; however, the maximum loan cannot exceed the student's portion of the cost of education minus any other aid the student receives. Federal PLUS loans are not subsidized, and eligibility is not based on financial need. Repayment usually begins immediately after the entire loan is disbursed. Please check with your counselor or college financial aid officer for updated information on interest rates and loan amounts, which are subject to change pending the finalization of legislation before Congress.

Institutional Aid

Institutional Scholarships and Grants

Non-federal gift aid programs administered by the college. Institutional grants are generally based on financial need. Institutional scholarships are often awarded based on particular abilities or skills in areas such as athletics, music or academic achievement. These scholarships are often renewable for each college year, usually contingent on the student continuing to engage in the activity that prompted the award, or, in the case of academic achievement, maintaining a certain grade point average. Unfortunately, there are relatively few scholarship awards available through institutions. In many instances, it is the college that controls the scholarship process, inviting only certain students to become candidates.

Institutional Loans

Non-federal loan programs administered by the college. These loans usually bear low-interest rates and have favorable repayment terms. In many cases, loan payments are deferred while the student is enrolled in school. Colleges have individual application requirements for institutional loans. Applicants should contact the college to learn the types of loans that are available, the criteria that must be met to qualify, and the terms and conditions of the available loans.

Institutional Student Employment (Work Study)

On- or off-campus employment programs, similar to the Federal Work-Study program. These positions may be awarded based on financial need, the student's job qualifications or a combination of the two. In some cases, these positions may be related to the student's field of study. The financial aid office should be contacted to learn what types of student employment are available through the school.

State Aid Programs

California administers the Cal Grant program for eligible students. For a family of four, all students with a Cal Grant GPA of 3.0 and make less than $87,400 will earn a Cal Grant. Students with a Cal Grant GPA of 2.0 or higher qualify for the grant if their family makes less than $45,900 (family of four). Income limits may change for better or worse in the future.

Private Aid Sources

Private Scholarships

Non-federal scholarships that originate outside of the college, and generally require the student to file a separate application. Although academic standing or financial need may be conditions for some private scholarships, these funds may also be awarded based on such qualifiers as field of study, religious affiliation, ethnic background, leadership skills, place of residence, or other criteria. Because these scholarships are from private funding sources, the criteria can reflect whatever qualities their benefactors wish to reward or encourage. You should seek out and apply for as many of these awards as you can. High schools, Dollars for Scholars, churches, local businesses, and civic service organizations frequently have scholarship programs. So may the company where a parent works. Information about private awards, including how to apply for these funds, is usually available at the high school or local library.

Private Loans

Like private scholarships, private loans originate outside of the college and usually require a separate application. Some private loans are awarded based on the same factors as private scholarships. Others, particularly those offered through commercial lenders, are approved according to the family's ability to repay the loan. Non-federal loans through commercial lenders are often available only to the student's parents. Amounts, interest rates and repayment terms, and application procedures vary according to the individual loan program. Before considering a private loan, students should be certain they understand their rights and responsibilities under the loan program, including how interest is assessed, when repayment begins, and what repayment options are available.

Useful Websites

What is A-G

A-G Academic Planner

UC Admissions

UC Selection Criteria

CSU Admissions

California Private Colleges

CA Community Colleges

College Board


College View


Princeton Review

College Bound

Colleges That Change Lives

College Niche

US News & Report


For Undocumented Students

Transitional Counseling includes teaching students how to be a successful middle school student, high school student, college student and how to prepare for their future career.

Middle & High School Counseling

The move from elementary to middle school and middle to high school stirs up many emotions for young adolescents, ranging from excitement and anticipation to fear and anxiety. It is natural for students to have numerous concerns related to the procedural, social, and academic changes associated with these transitions. 

Here are some resources to help ease the transition:

Help Students Transition

7 Tips on the Transition to Middle and High School

Transition Resources

Transition to High School Video

Transition to Middle School Video

High School Guide: Information on Sacramento County High Schools

Career Counseling

Career counseling is a comprehensive, developmental program designed to assist individuals in making and implementing informed educational and occupational choices. A career guidance and counseling program develops an individual's competencies in self-knowledge, educational and occupational exploration, and career planning. 

The following websites are not meant to be used in place of career counseling. They are intended to be used as a compliment to 1:1 counseling to help promote career awareness and self knowledge.

Take A Career Inventory

CA Career Zone

CA Reality Check 

Skills Inventory

Meyers Briggs

Student Interest Survey

Values Inventory

Values Assessment

True Colours

Transition Assessment


TED Talk: Find Work You Love


Personality and Career Article