Wes Caruso – College Counselor
I am pleased to be a part of the PLHS counseling staff. My goal is to better equip students, staff, parents and the community with the positive skills, tools and information needed to make informed decisions. Students have unique needs and goals that are considered in their preparation for life after high school. My role at PLHS is to help with post-secondary planning and anything that contributes along the way. I view my appointment as school counselor as a privilege and treat the appointment with ever renewing respect.
The primary communication devices the Counseling Center uses are bulletins. Senior Bulletins are emailed weekly. The PLHS Counseling Center is available using this link.
For a review of the slide show during the 9/19/23 presentation, click here.
Testing for Post-Secondary
Standardized testing is powerful factor in college admission and scholarship. Although some colleges are choosing to be “test optional”, solid test scores only enhance your attractiveness to schools and scholarship committees. All juniors in Nebraska are expected to take the ACT in April for state testing purposes. The results of this state mandated test can be used just like a national test. Beyond state and district use, students use results for college admission, course placement and scholarships.
The ACT is the most popular standardized test for postsecondary planning for our students. However, the SAT is an alternative. Both are generally accepted by admission and scholarship committees. Visit the College Board for more information. Talk to a school counselor to see which test is right for you.
Registering for ACT
For the state ACT for juniors, on April 4th, students will be led in class to match their account with a Student Code that the school will give them. This can be done independently but students will need their code. The April 4th ACT for juniors is free for students. Once logged in, students will select the blue box that says "Student Code" that is to the right of the screen on a computer or the bottom of the screen on a phone.
Philosophy on Taking the ACT
Generally, we suggest taking the test multiple times because students that do, typically improve their scores. Three times is what we like to see.
The goal is for a student to have their best score going into senior year if possible. This may mean taking it a couple of times in the spring and/or summer. Some take a prep class and prefer to do multiple tests in the spring. There is a national test date in February and another one in April, near the state test date. Some students like testing close to each other.
Other students would rather take it in June. As the spring semester ends, the stressors of school and activities are behind them and they can focus on the prep leading up to the test day.
Summer, for others means more activity, work, travel etc. Planning accordingly is helpful. A fall test is not bad. Fall often sees the highest scores but it sure is nice to settle on a score before that so you do not have to wait for scores before college applications (even though you can add better scores to most application files afterwards).
In the end, the best times to take it depends on preparation and preference.
There are many ways to prepare for the ACT. PLHS curriculum aligns with what is covered on the test. Students mastering teacher set standards is the best way to prepare. However, to supplement course work, other prep can be helpful. There are many books and classes available. This is an opportunity to be a good consumer. Below is by no means an exhaustive list nor do we endorse one prep over another.
PLCS does offer a quality test prep that allows students to prep for individual parts of the test. These sessions will be promoted and offered before the October test and again before the April test.
Advanced Placement (AP)
Not all students taking AP courses take the AP exams in May. However, AP Exams are a great way to transition into college with a better standing, i.e. starting with college credit.
Information about AP exams and payment will be posted soon. There will be a fall ordering and payment window for first semester and all year classes. Then there will be an ordering and payment window for 2nd semester classes. This will open in January.
Exam dates: Let Mr. Caruso know as soon as you know there will be a conflict in your schedule.
PLHS AP Exam Ordering Information at https://aptsusa.com/plhs/
For students to access their AP Class they can sign into AP Student.
Advanced Placement (AP) classes are rigorous classes taught in our building that students can take advantage of for many reasons. AP classes are globally recognized under the governance of the College Board. These classes prepare students for higher education, can translate into college credits and boost GPA.
In the spring, AP provides a standard way to test students in each class. This is commonly called the AP Exam. AP exams can be a way to earn college credit. AP exam scores range from 1-5, 5 being the best score. Individual colleges determine what scores, if any, they will recognize for which class. To see what score would yield which credits, visit this link:
The College Board sets the AP exam schedule. You can view it on their website at this link:
Some students may qualify for a reduced price exam. To qualify for this reduction, students/parents will have to complete the district's waiver/fee reduction application. It is commonly referred to as free/reduced lunch. This will have to be completed each year and indicate that you are willing to share your status, confidentially, with the school. Visit this site to fill out the application. If you have an application on file, contact Mr. Caruso and he will give you a discount code.
To apply for a dual enrolled class, apply here.
By taking dual enrolled classes, student can earn credit that will go on a college transcript. That credit can be applied to a degree at that institution or be transferred to other institutions. To learn more about our dual enrollment partnership with UNO look at their brochure or visit their site.
- ACE- Many students may qualify for a program to help student with financial need cover the cost of dual enrolled classes. They can apply for an Access College Early Scholarship. "ACE" Scholarships are state managed funds for high school students taking college level classes. Visit their site or ask either Mr. Caruso or Mrs. Koester for more details.
This is a service designed especially for students and families. Maia Learning has replaced Naviance. Maia Learning is a comprehensive website that guardians and students can use to help in making plans about courses, colleges, and careers. Maia Learning is a service that we use in our office to track and analyze data about college and career plans. It provides up-to-date information that’s specific to our school and has these features the students can take advantage of:
- Career assessment tools
- Career research and organization
- Resume builder
- College searches and organization
- Requesting and sending Letters of Recommendation
- Transcripts-sending to colleges and scholarship committees
- Signing up for college rep visits to PLHS
- And more
Students simply find Maia Learning under "My Apps".
Students can also use their browser to connect: https://www.maialearning.com/v3/
Common App is an effective way to apply to multiple select institutions with one application. Individual schools may have supplemental steps but this can be a time and money saver. There are a few extra steps with matching to Maia Learning and letters of recommendation. Talk to a school counselor for more information and to see if Common App is right for your situation.
Linking Maia Learning and Common App
Maia Learning simplifies the process the counseling department and teachers follow to send school reports, midyear reports, and recommendation letters to Common Application colleges. You can help make sure your forms and recommendations are delivered promptly by signing your FERPA waiver on Common App. This will allow the two accounts to "match".
Follow the steps below to match your Common App and Maia Learning accounts:
Step 1: Go to your account on Common App:
- Register for an account, if you haven’t already.
- Click the Common App tab and enter your high school information in the “Education” section.
- Click the My Colleges tab and add at least one college.
- After a college is selected on the left, click “Recommenders and FERPA”.
- Sign the FERPA Release Authorization
Step 2: Go to your Maia Learning "dashboard"
- Click the profile image in the upper right corner.
- Select Settings.
- Select Common App and then push "Click to Link your Account".
- Read the instructions and "Continue".
If students are interested in playing sports in college, it is very important that they are eligible academically. There are two entities that govern eligibility, NCAA and NAIA. Different colleges abide by their standards and students will need to be registered with one of these organizations to compete at the 4 year collegiate level.
Visit these sites for details and eligibility requirements: