Selecting the Right High School: Tips from a High School Placement Counselor

I interviewed Christina Calderon, a high school placement counselor at KIPP SoCal Public Schools (formerly known as KIPP LA) about her job and some resources that she thinks students and families should have. 

Christina’s role is absolutely crucial to ensure that students and families are receiving the support and guidance necessary for them to thrive in high school, college, and in life. Christina also happens to be one of my best friends and my former colleague. I hope that this piece can help families who are not part of KIPP’s network as they prepare for their child’s next big step in their education: high school! 

1. Tell me more about your role at KIPP?

I am a high school placement counselor, part of the KIPP Through College Team for KIPP SoCal. KIPP SoCal only operates elementary through middle school, which is why it is crucial as counselors to help families in their search for a strong high school option. 

I work closely with 7th and 8th grade families as they navigate their high school options. Los Angeles’ high school landscape gives families the option of choice: charter, magnet, traditional, private, and the list goes on. It can be a lot for families to navigate through their different school options, and I help educate parents and students and give them the tools and support necessary to successfully transition into high school.

2. What is one of your favorite things about your job?

I grew up in Los Angeles, and I love being able to support my community when it comes to education. Through meeting and working with families, I am able to build relationships and see the bright future that lays ahead for them because they will be attending a high school that best fits their needs. 

3. When do you begin working with students and their families in preparing for high school? 

My work with families begins in the 7th grade. Starting in 7th grade, we have one on one meetings with families a year before they start applying to get the conversation going and to get into gear. 

In my role, I am responsible for providing families with high school exploration opportunities through programming, such as high school tours, and information sessions hosted at our middle schools. Additionally, my team hosts and facilitates monthly high school readiness lessons between 7th grade spring semester to the end of 8th grade. During these lessons, our students learn about high school options and eligibility, how to write professional emails, college knowledge, and how to navigate the social and academic challenges that might arise during the transition to high school.

4. For students who may not have access to a counselor such as yourself, what are the 3 main resources that you would like to share?

Aside from resources, something we always share with families to have at the forefront of their search for a high school is to look at certain factors. When we recommend schools, we always look for high graduation rates, A-G completion rates, and college and career indicators. All of this data is collected directly from the state and can be found in the 2nd link above.

5. What should students and parents entering the 7th grade begin to ask themselves now about high school? 

Student Specific Questions: 

  • What does your son/daughter’s academic transcript look like? 
  • What are your son/daughter’s special interests? Are they involved in extracurricular activities already? 
  • What is your overall academic or educational goal for the year for your scholar? 

High School Specific Questions: 

  • How far are you willing to travel to school? 
  • Is private school an option? If so, how much are you willing to pay? (Some schools offer financial assistance)
  • Would my son/daughter thrive in a smaller school or a bigger school? 
  • Will my child need a sports department? (Small schools do not always have a sports department but there are always outside organizations where students can still participate in sports.)
  • Will my child benefit from going through a specialized school that focuses on art/math and science/tech/etc.?  

6. What high schools are you most excited about in the Los Angeles area?

In LA, we are very fortunate to have so many high school options. Below are some of the schools that have unique opportunities from academics to extracurriculars.

What do you think?
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Melissa Salgado

Melissa Salgado

Melissa Salgado, raised in East Los Angeles by her single mother and older siblings. She graduated from James A. Garfield High School and received her Bachelor's degree in Chicana/o Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2013. She currently works at KIPP Bay Area Schools as the Community Engagement Manager and provides families with the resources and tools they need to advocate for their children’s education and other important local initiatives. Through her work she hopes to activate power within each parent and/or guardian. Her ultimate dream is that all children will have access to high quality education no matter what zip code they live in.

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