Episode 13: College Admissions

In Episode 13, district technology coach, Adam Geisen, talks to THS guidance counselors Katie Brendel and Heidi Houchins about the “how-to’s” of college admissions.  Planning for college is not an easy task. Students should prep for college throughout high school, but for rising seniors the timeline seems to go very fast. Applying to college can be stressful, but proper planning can help alleviate some of the pressure on students and their families.  


Kate Brendel has lived in Troy for most of her life and graduated from Triad High School in 2000. She was the first class that graduated from the current THS building! After high school, she attended SIUE where she majored in Business Administration with a specialization in Marketing. She graduated in 2005 and started working in St. Louis for an Information Technology company. She realized pretty quickly that the business world was not a good fit for her and started working on her master’s degree in School Counseling at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. While she completed her master’s degree, she worked for the State’s Attorney’s office in Madison County where she gained more valuable work experiences. She graduated with her Master’s Degree in 2009 and was hired as a guidance counselor at Triad that same year. She can honestly say that she loves her job, and feels very fortunate to work at Triad High School. As a school counselor, she takes care of students’ academic, personal/social, and career needs. Her caseload covers students with the last name of Mio-Z. On a personal note, She is married and has one son, Owen. In her spare time she loves playing with her son, spending time with family and friends, running/working-out, reading, and shopping.

Heidi Houchins is in her 11th year at Triad High School currently serving as a guidance counselor. Before working at THS, she taught at Vincent Gray Academy in East St. Louis, IL. She received her undergraduate degree in Social Science Education from Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville as well as a Master’s degree in School Counseling from Lindenwood University. She lives in Highland with her husband, two sons, and her dog Dodger. She is so incredibly thankful to work in a field that she loves and to spend every day with some of the most amazing people in the world: her students.


When is a good time to start looking for colleges?

  • Students can and should start looking at colleges before their freshman year of high school. I know this seems early to begin this process, but it can help the student with goal setting and planning.
  • It is a good idea to go onto college websites that the student may be interested in attending to look through various admission criterias: averages of gpa, test scores, and classes that should be taken in high school to prepare for college.  This helps students set goals for themselves and what they need to achieve during their high school career to reach these post secondary goals.
  • We also advise students to visit colleges they may be instersed in to see how the school “fits” for the student. You can attend colleges over the summer and Triad allow juniors and seniors two college days to take during their last two years of high school.
  • Typically, during the student’s junior year, students should start narrowing their college search and perhaps selecting a reach school, a target school, and a safety school.

How do I know what colleges to consider?

  • Finding the right college is all about finding a good fit for each individual person.
  • You should NOT attend a school because your friends are going there or boyfriend or girlfriend. It is all about what feel is right for you.
  • We encourage students to do research on this topic as soon as possible. Are you meeting the admission requirements for the college? It is affordable for you? Does the campus have what you are looking for? Does the school have the major or program that you want to pursue? Guidance does have a book that lists schools and the majors that they offer by school.

When do I submit my application?

  • Typically, applications are submitting during the first semester of a student’s senior year.
  • You can apply to as many schools as you would like to, but usually there are applications fees associated with applying.
  • We recommend using October 31st as a general fall deadline.

Where can someone go to learn about financial aid?

  • The FAFSA which stands for Free Application for Fed Student AId should be completed for your child during their senior year of high school by October 1st.
  • EVERYONE should fill out the FAFSA regardless of their families financial status.
  • Illinois does provide a service to help families with the FAFSA application, if needed, ISAC.

This book gives students inside information – but only what they truly need to create exceptional college and scholarship applications. The authors have taken their combined 30+ years of experience working with competitive selection processes and simplified it in an easy-to-use guide. All the Wisdom and None of the Junk gives students the techniques they need to excel in the high-stakes college application process by taking readers step by step through actual prompts and sample responses to the Common Application (accepted by nearly 700 colleges and universities) and the Boettcher Scholarship Application.
“When to Do What” is a practical, easy-to-read guide for parents and students wanting to learn more about the college process. Author Joann Elliott puts over twenty years of college counseling experience into one succinct book! The first 5 chapters are dedicated to answering popular questions like “when should we start talking about college?” to “what if I don’t know my major?”. The last six chapters outline step-by-step timelines of the order of when to do various aspects of the process from visiting to applying to financial aid. The book also contains various worksheets and to-do lists that break down goals into more manageable tasks. Helpful items include sample activity lists, tips on writing essays, and questions to ask when visiting colleges. It’s like a college counselor at your kitchen table! Ideal for students in 8th -12th grades and their parents or anyone who wants to have a clearer picture of this sometimes daunting process!
Every college and university has a story, and no one tells those stories like former New York Times education editor Edward B. Fiske. That’s why, for more than 30 years, the Fiske Guide to Colleges has been the leading guide to 320+ four-year schools, including quotes from real students and information you won’t find on college websites. Fully updated and expanded every year, Fiske is the most authoritative source of information for college-bound students and their parents. Helpful, honest, and straightforward, the Fiske Guide to Colleges delivers an insider’s look at what it’s really like to be a student at the “best and most interesting” schools in the United States, plus Canada, Great Britain, and Ireland ― so you can find the best fits for you.

Get Help Completing the FAFSA

Triad’s Student Services Website


BIG Future

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