MAHOPAC, N.Y.— The cliché everyone is mostly familiar with is that preparing for the future always starts in your junior year of high school, right? Wrong.

In an interview with Mahopac High School guidance counselors Marianna Callagy and Anna Boyle, they emphasized that preparing for college starts as early as kindergarten. “Anything educational is preparing you for college,” Callagy explained. “Skills such as social and academic start being built in kindergarten.”

But college is neither the only route nor the best route for everyone. The counseling department’s philosophy is to provide each student with a personalized plan for after high school, whether it’s committing to a four-year college, experiencing a gap year, enrolling in a trade school, or joining the armed forces. The opportunities are limitless and it’s through cooperation between counselors and students that those options are narrowed down to a concise plan.

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While each of the eight counselors in the high school is assigned an average of 200 students regardless of grade, no student is overlooked. Throughout the school year, the counselors meet with all the students grouped by grades, along with individual walk-in meetings.

Lately, the application process is becoming more and more stressful and anxiety-inducing as competition and expenses for schools escalate. This is where the guidance counselors come in. During the fall, mini college fairs are held in the library classroom during periods where students can get a taste for a selection of colleges.

In addition, students are encouraged to attend the Mahopac University College Night, which is comprised of workshops addressing topics about college, and the Financial Aid Night to discuss fiscal situations. Parents are welcomed to the school for the Coffee with Counselors programs to ask questions or share concerns about the college planning process and post-secondary goal setting.

Juniors, exclusively, have the opportunity to network with over 250 college and career representatives during the annual College and Career Fair at Putnam/Northern Westchester BOCES on April 25.

Mahopac students will be able to browse the fair with their peers and counselors while networking with representatives that may even be the ones to review their applications when they apply.

“The fair is a great opportunity for juniors to do some research, build on their target list for what they want to do after high school and shop for their best-fit colleges,” Callagy said. The best advice for juniors to take right now, she said, is to “stay focused, get on track with your academics, and finish strong.”

Alexandra Gaspar is a senior at Mahopac High School, where she on the staff of The Chieftain, the school’s newspaper.