The Next Step…

Year after year, students walk across the Deschutes County Fair stage, grabbing a diploma in a silky cap and gown, smiles on their faces.

According to the Bend-La Pine School District, 1,280 students representing six different high schools graduated last year. Although it took 12 years to earn their diplomas, many graduates only have one thing on their minds—what they’ll be doing the following year. This coming June, more students will do the same. 

There are many options for the class of 2023. While some include trade school, apprenticeships or a gap year, many Bend-La Pine graduates chose to continue their education at a college or university. According to Stephen Duval, the Bend-La Pine Schools’ Director of College and Career Readiness, 64% of Bend-La Pine graduates enrolled in a college or university. In 2020, 60% were enrolled.

“Our goal is to make sure students are prepared for whatever path they choose to take,” said Duval.

Because of different application deadlines, types, financial complications as well as the sheer amount of options, the process is daunting for many. Numerous students, or their parents, chose to seek private counseling, an option with plenty of benefits but one that’s not attainable for every college hopeful.

According to an off-the-record source, private counseling is beneficial to all, however, it can be especially helpful for those wanting to go to extremely selective colleges or international students, who have a unique application process. Additionally, this counseling provides one-on-one attention to students, keeping them accountable and on top of deadlines—which is particularly helpful for those who deal with procrastination or management trouble. The service is tailored specifically to student and family needs, as well their unique goals. These counselors help create college lists, perfect personal essays, navigate financial aid and so much more.

“A college counselor made it easier for me to narrow down my options and help with my organization on meeting deadlines for college. I got some very useful information on schools and support on my essays,” said Sam Beidschied, a senior at Bend High School. “The only times I think someone would really need a counselor would be if they’re hoping to get into very selective schools or don’t know what type of school they want to apply to.”

Although these resources are extremely helpful, it comes at a price—often a steep one. At select places within the community, college counseling packages range from $6,000 to $11,000 based on student needs for an entire admission season. For many families, this cost is not attainable or doesn’t make sense financially. 

Because of super pricey rates and often those attending, a stigma has formed throughout the high school community. Those who often participate in this resource are the ones in Patagonia jackets, driving Teslas around town, although this isnt on always the case. Ivy league hopefuls are another reason private counseling has obtained a bad reputation. 

“If you apply to 10 colleges, that’s like $700 itself because of application fees,” Elliana Bowers, a student at Summit High School, said. “I think it’s so prestigious, at Summit especially, to have a college counselor. Most kids are paying $3,000, even $10,000, for a college counselor to get them into Yale.”

“I think there is a reasonable stigma that college counseling is sort of decadent. It’s unfortunate that the education system does incentivize for-profit advising on college applications and that some people feel forced into participating,” said Beidschied. 

Alternatively, there are other options available that are often significantly less expensive than private counseling or completely free. 

The Future Center is a service offered throughout the Bend-La Pine School District, available at high schools like Caldera, Mountain View, Bend High, Summit and others. This center provides opportunities for all career paths, and is not solely limited to college applications. It is a completely free program, funded by the district to support students regardless of economic background or career interests.

“I went to Jeff [Rankin] a decent amount, especially last year as a junior. This year, I visited him a couple times to look over my essay and my activities list,” said Bowers.

Jeff Rankin is the School to Career Program Manager at Summit High School’s Future Center and has been there for two years, helping students discover their future career path. 

“[The Future Center] provides ways to pay for college and pursue college on a community college level as well as a university level, it also provides career internships, apprenticeship information, career rotations, otherwise known as job shadows, for students in both healthcare and engineering, and we are branching out into career and entrepreneur lectures of mostly parents of students in unique positions they can share with students,” said Rankin. “We are multifaceted.”

Career options, not including college, have not been as accessible in former years. Across the Bend-La Pine District, more and more students are opting for a “non-traditional” path.

“The narrative has always been, you go to high school then you go to college, but I think we’re finally starting to see that narrative change—which is a good thing. There are a lot of viable options and paths out there,” said Duval.

“Summit has been traditionally more college oriented where the visits to the future center are concerned. I think the essay is the most important part of the college application process. It has so much to do with how a college views that student. It’s why we have so many essay seminars and essay specialists. You have to come across as yourself, not a textbook or an intellectual,” said Rankin.

Other college resources can be found in hallways throughout the district, including in every counseling department. 

“Students are used to seeing us for schedule changes or emotional support, but we are available for college support,” said Jess Calbreath, Bend-La Pine Schools’ District Lead Counselor and counselor at Caldera High School.

“The district offers really good resources to students within the building, but there are students that want the hand holding or extra support of private counseling. When you have a caseload of 400 students you can’t always provide that,” said Calbreath.

The Office Group is a nonprofit organization that helps students start and finish their path to college, all for free. Founded in 2014, The Office Group takes student applications for participants, evaluating them not only on their academic abilities, but also on students’ financial status. 

“I build relationships with school counselors, coaches and teachers so they can nominate specific students that fit our mission,” said Corben Hyatt, the Executive Director of The Office Group and one of Summit’s football coaches. “We want to identify kids that are hardworking, whether through academics or sports, and we’re gonna support students who can’t normally afford college resources.”

This counseling option is competitive and limited, as students must have a nomination from a school administrator, maintain a 3.0 GPA minimum and get accepted by the program. It’s a safe alternative for students—and is also free. Additionally, the program continues helping students once they are moved onto campus, providing virtual tutoring and discovering internships for former members.

College alone can be overwhelming, and figuring out how to apply is even more difficult. Although there are many options, the best fit is different for everyone. Regardless of how you apply, with help or alone, every individual figures out their path eventually.


  • Bayla Orton

    Bayla Orton is a magician of the media. A necromancer of news. A warrior wordsmith. When Bayla isn’t dining with worldly mentors or hunting misinformation, she’s defeating the oxford comma. One could refer to her as the “James Bond” of journalism. Borton. Is. Eternal.

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