Counselor, mother draws map through college application maze

With the end of summer comes the beginning of a new school year for high school students. The fall semester also reminds parents and students of the seemingly endless stream of standardized tests, college applications and personal statements that will be tackled in the next few months.

The college research, selection and application process is no light task. Many students feel they were not 100 percent prepared for their applications and encountered difficulties when applying. In response to this dilemma, Ricki de Wolff, a college counselor, mother and seasoned veteran of the college application process, has written a book to aid students in applying and getting into the college of their dreams.

“The Back Pocket College Planner and Organizer” is intended to help students and parents navigate through the complex world of college ranking scores, admissions requirements and application essays.

De Wolff, a La Jolla resident since 1977, has professional and practical experience in preparing students for college.

“I decided to write the book after a harrowing experience of helping my two older sons apply to college,” de Wolff said. “From missing ninth-grade paperwork to realizing they missed a critical course from sophomore year, there was so much disorganization.”

With a third son beginning high school, de Wolff wanted a book that they could use as a guide through the process.

“I wrote the book to help students, starting in ninth grade, to plan and organize efficiently so that the process of eventually applying to college would be much easier,” de Wolff said. “The book gives the student an edge in the college application process. By being organized and having a plan, they are able to apply to the colleges they most would want to attend.”

The book includes sample college applications to take the guesswork out of the process. It also helps prepare the student throughout their high school career for those final steps. De Wolff’s book cleverly doubles as a filing system and includes planning worksheets and other useful enclosures.

While the book is designed so students can use it beginning in ninth grade, students at any point in their high school career could use it to track their grade point average, awards and coursework, while concurrently planning their testing schedule so that all required tests are completed on time.

The book is full of helpful suggestions, guiding students to seek achievement and set goals which will give them an edge when applying to college.

With the increasing competition to get into college, students must prepare themselves by carefully planning their coursework, tests and activities, tailoring them to the admissions standards of their preferred colleges.

“The Back Pocket College Planner and Organizer” covers how to compare different colleges, finances, financial aid, scholarships, personal achievement, creating a four-year curriculum plan, the importance of academic planning, understanding standardized tests, admission timelines, worksheets for each year in high school, college application checklists and information on how to prepare for a college visit.

De Wolff said the chapter titled “Personal Achievement” is the most valuable.

“I believe all students should find something in which they excel and stand out so that when it comes time to apply, they have something that distinguishes them from all the other applicants,” de Wolff said.

She also encourages students to develop and maintain a good grade point average, take the most challenging classes their high school offers and get involved in leadership positions and extracurricular activities.

“The Back Pocket College Planner and Organizer” has been paving the way to college for students across the county.

Schools such as Cortez Hill Academy, Lutheran High School, and Marian Catholic have purchased copies for their entire ninth- and 10th-grade classes. The author also gave discounted copies to the Boys and Girls Club of San Diego, and plans to host free seminars on college planning.

De Wolff offers additional information on college planning and her book at and can be reached toll-free, (866) 382-5034. The Back Pocket College Planner and Organizer is available at Warwick’s Books in La Jolla, and also on The author will be hosting a free college planning workshop in La Jolla on Sept. 15.