HOUSTON - High school students are facing new challenges this year as they prepare to transition to college during the pandemic.
"All of us collectively are feeling extremely overwhelmed, " says Milan Clay.
Like most high school seniors, she's trying to make the most of her final year and still meet important deadlines before heading off to college.
"I would get to a point where my body would just completely shut down just thinking of the whole college, applying to college process," says Milan.
The already daunting task became even more difficult during the coronavirus pandemic.
"There was a time where we weren't really able to travel, so visiting colleges was a little bit harder. I just felt so unorganized and unprepared."
Milan is one of five children. Although her mother, Shawna Mead, has traveled this path before, sending her oldest off to college years ago, times have changed.
"I felt like I had dropped the ball, to be completely transparent, " says Shawna.
She says she knew school guidance counselors were already busy helping students plan for the future, so she decided to look for some additional assistance and reached out to Chiante Deal, a high school counselor she knew through a friend on Facebook.
"She asked if I would, you know, help (because) Milan was detached," says Chiante.
It's part of the reason Chiante launched her "Ideal" business in June. Her goal is to give students, like Milan, some one-on-one attention to help them get organized and come up with a comprehensive plan, starting with a binder.
"In the binder there are tabs, it really walks you through the whole process, it builds your college resume," says Shawna.
From the application to the essay to financial aid assistance and meeting key deadlines, Chiante is there every step of the way. As a mother of a senior in college, with years of high school counseling under her belt, Chiante knows just what to do to meet each student's needs. But the key to success is starting early.
"It's better to start as a freshman, because then you're not really looking for college, but you're looking at your activities and building your resume," says Chiante.
She encourages juniors to take the practice SAT seriously and advises seniors to beware of colleges not requiring SAT or ACT test scores.
"If they do decide to go test optional, some of the schools are saying well you may not get your major, or we won't consider you for financial aid and scholarships. So, it hurts and it helps," Chiante said.
Her final advice is to the parents of seniors; keep your opinion to yourself, something even she admits was a little difficult to do.
"I learned that our voices are so loud in their ears that sometimes students have a hard time figuring out where their thoughts end, and the parents begin," says Chiante.
As for Milan, things seem to be looking up.
"I'm actually feeling really okay about it, only because I have Ms. Chiante. She's my saving grace."
If you'd like some additional guidance to better prepare your child for college, you can go to Ms. Chiante's website by clicking here.