Woodside Expands College and Career Offerings

With access to new funds from the Foundation Fund-A-Need, the College and Career Center continues to support Woodside’s diverse student body


Patrick Van Hoven

Woodside’s College and Career Center is the center of all college-related activities on campus.

Patrick Van Hoven, Staff Writer

Woodside’s Foundation recently raised $195,000, through a fund-a-need campaign to bolster college and career support. The money will fund college trips, essay workshops, and test prep. 

Each year, the Foundation runs a special fund-a-need campaign—along with their main campaign—in order to raise money for a specific need. The latest fund-a-need? One-hundred and ninety-five thousand dollars to augment Woodside’s College and Career Center support programs—a never before seen increase in funding for the center. The money will go towards funding never-before-seen programs such as college trips for students of all ages, essay workshops for nailing the tricky personal statement, and test preparation services to help students score well on the PSAT and SAT. The best part? All of it will be free. 

For students who do find that they are going to be applying to a college that is expecting a test score or they want to have that little extra advantage…we’re going to find ways to do that.”

— Lisa Vazquez

For example, according to college counselor Lisa Vazquez, Woodside is looking to support students with the college selection process through providing bus trips to visit California colleges. 

“Ideally, we would reinstate the junior trip, so that juniors can go and actually visit colleges, and get a feel for what they want to include or not include in their desired college,” Vazquez said. 

According to Wendy Porter, an Administrative Vice Principal, certain groups of students will have priority for the trips. 

“We’re going to start with AVID juniors and AVID seniors who didn’t have the opportunity, and then fill the trips with other juniors,” Porter said. “The first trip is planned for five different colleges and universities in Southern California, in order to give opportunities to students who don’t necessarily have that opportunity to visit multiple colleges like that.”

The first trip is planned for Monday, October 3rd. 

“It’s two nights,” said Porter. “[Students will] leave Monday, come back Wednesday. [The trip goes] from mid-state Santa Barbara and Cal Poly down to UCLA and Loyola Marymount.”

According to Vazquez, the new funding is already helping students with the college application process itself. 

“Principal Van Putten has already launched personal statement support, with several workshops that have been going on,” Vazquez said. “Through the Foundation’s generosity, we have been able to have an outside consultant come and finesse [student’s] personal statement[s].”

Essay coaching is already in full swing, through professional college essay coaching organization ObiCoach, according Porter.

“They have worked with two cohorts of seniors, with about a dozen at a time,” Porter said. “We’re looking at another cohort to start. They help with outlining and essay writing for college essays.” 

Free essay coaching is not all that will be happening at Woodside. According to Vazquez, the school is also currently looking into providing students with complimentary test-prep services. 

“[Principal Van Putten] is in talks with some test preparation agencies to find out how we can provide more test prep services,” Vazquez said. “For students who do find that they are going to be applying to a college that is expecting a test score or they want to have that little extra advantage…we’re going to find ways to do that.”

Junior Spencer Bergland is excited for the bolstered college and career support, particularly the test prep services. 

“I think the school helping with [test prep] is great,” Bergland said. “Having the ability to like work on it with someone can be really helpful because working on stuff alone, such as through Khan Academy, in some cases just isn’t enough. Having someone that can give you advice, and help you through your mistakes…could build people’s confidence in their ability to score well and be more confident in the process.”

Bergland raised another important point. The varied access to resources of Woodside’s students makes the new college resources all the more important. 

“The access people have to resources outside [of Woodside], like [private] college counselors, [is important], but obviously [most people] cannot afford a college counselor,” Bergland said. “[The new resources] are really helpful in that people that don’t normally have access to [these resources] now have the ability to run an essay by someone.”

With Woodside having over 30% of its students on free or reduced lunch plans, supporting under-resourced students is a core mission of the college and career center, according to Porter. 

“There’s always the goal to close that gap, to find the students who are less resourced,” Porter said.

However, Vazquez insists that the college and career center is important for students even with extensive access to outside resources. 

“We’ve encountered situations where folks had spent quite a bit of their own personal income to work with private counselors,” Vazquez said. “But then [we] find out that sometimes the personal or independent counselors are not giving accurate information, especially when it comes to interfacing with Naviance, transcripts, and so forth… that is a very school-specific procedure.”

One thing is clear, according to Vazquez. With the help of new funding, passionate counselors and administrators, and expanded resources, Woodside’s college and career center is more effective than ever. 

“The fact that we know that we have the funding to be able to do the field trips, to do the additional support, means we can get so much more on the plate for everybody,” Vazquez said. “It’s just a matter of getting [students] to take advantage of it.”