Step by Step College Planning

Exploration. Discovery. Opportunity. Strength.

Choose with confidence

Great Choices on Your Path to College

Serving students in Berkeley, the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond

Great Choices College Advising was founded on the belief that, with the right guidance and support, college planning can be motivating, effective, and fun! Think of it as an adventure – one full of exploration, discovery, growth, and opportunity.

Imagine there is a river crossing ahead with a series of stepping stones. Some stones are close together and easy to navigate while others are further apart requiring agility, focus, and determination.

We approach the steps ahead using a series of questions that guide our students to a deeper understanding of themselves and the opportunities around and ahead of them. With calmness and clarity, we help young people discover who they are, what matters to them, and which stepping stones will take them where they want to go.

At Great Choices College Advising, College Consultant Lea Baechler-Brabo personally guides and advises students and families through each step of the college planning process.

Guidance & Confidence with Each Step

Offering a guided journey to college that is personalized, organized, and informed.

Our goal is for students to feel confident and empowered. To achieve this, we start by establishing a clear understanding of the college planning, application, and admissions process and the series of steps ahead on the path to college and beyond.

Self-Discovery & Preparation: We spend valuable time early on getting to know each young person we work with and their unique interests and strengths. We advise students on how to pursue academic rigor in high school and seek opportunities beyond the classroom, discover why they want to go to college and clarify what type of college education and experience they are looking for.

Finding the Best Fit Colleges: The growing self-awareness helps students to narrow their search to a great list of colleges they can get to know and consider applying to. Together we work to find colleges and programs that are the right social, academic, and financial fit for each student, and that also offer the kinds of experiences each student seeks on and off campus. College affordability is an important concern for families and one that we face head-on by understanding college costs and financing options.

Strong Applications, Thoughtful Essays that Stand Out: In the final phase of applying to college, students are able to put their best foot forward by articulating what matters to them and why, while showcasing their strengths and achievements. Students are clear on why each school they apply to makes a great match and fit and are able to demonstrate this with confidence in the applications and essays.

We care about what our students and families care about and pay close attention to detail where it matters most.

When college acceptance offers come in, we are there to help students compare and evaluate the great choices available to them and prepare for the transition to college.

Self-Discovery & Preparation

High School Course Selection
Interest & Passion Profiles
Standardized Test Planning
Experiences & Extracurriculars

Finding the Best Fit Colleges

College Knowledge
College Research
Personal Fit Factors
Cost of College
A Balanced List

Strong Applications, Thoughtful Essays

Academics & Activities
Character & Values
Authentic Voice
Leadership & Impact

Knowledge + Support + Personalized Advice

Take advantage of a complimentary consultation and we'll help you choose the plan and timing that is right for you.

The Launch: 9th & 10th Grades

A 3-session package designed for 9th & 10th grade students resulting in a personalized college preparation plan.

  • College awareness
  • High school curriculum and activities advising
  • Personality, passions & aptitude assessments
  • Opportunities for growth and leadership
  • Standardized testing plan
  • Summer planning
  • Understanding admissibility & affordability

The Journey: 11th & 12th Grades

Comprehensive guidance from start to finish for 11th and 12th grade students.

  • College knowledge & research tools
  • Personality, passions, and aptitude assessments
  • Organized tasks, timelines, calendar & holistic application assessment and review
  • College list based on unique fit factors
  • Essay instruction, guidance, and proofreading
  • Transcript evaluation & course selection advising
  • Customized strategies and solutions
  • Comparison & assessment of college acceptances
  • Affordability & Financial Aid
  • Standardized testing timeline with recommendations & resources

Options for Individualized Services

This budget conscious package offers individualized advice and support where you need it the most. (Not being offered for the Class of 2025.)

  • College List Building
  • Essay Brainstorming, Guidance, Proofreading
  • Application Strategy Sessions
  • Summer Planning
  • Standardized Testing Plan
  • Customized Solutions

The Great Choices Philosophy

A message from Lea

I started Great Choices College Advising

because guiding and supporting young people in their college and career planning is optimistic, meaningful and impactful work that can help turn a potentially terrifying process into an exciting and fulfilling one. 

I’ve dedicated myself to working with students and families in educational settings my entire adult life. I am thrilled to offer my insight, experience, and expertise in ways that empower students and families with the information and guidance they need to successfully navigate the journey to college.

We are fortunate to live in a time when there are thousands of great institutions of higher learning in the U.S., and many more in our increasingly interconnected, global world. When young people lean in to self-reflection and self-discovery, they learn how to listen to their own inner compass and open themselves up to the possibilities.

The conversation changes from students asking “Where can I get in?” to “What schools make a good fit for me?”

When students are able to focus on what matters to them and approach their future with confidence, not fear, they find their path is full of great choices.

As a parent of two college graduates, and a third currently attending college, I’ve learned that it does all of us – students, parents, friends, families, teachers, coaches, counselors – a great deal of good to remember that there is value in taking this whole college thing one step at a time while building confidence and creating opportunities along the way.

Ready to take the first step? Let’s talk.


Counselor & Coach

Today's high school students need both.

College Counseling is…

Helping young people figure out
who they are and what they care about.

It’s developmental, educational,
relational and process oriented.

College Coaching is…

Helping students and families navigate
a process that is dynamic and complex.

It’s strategic, individualized
and results oriented.

Frequently Asked Questions

A college consultant provides individualized college counseling and coaching that is independent from any school or college. 

These are some of the reasons why working with Lea is valuable, effective and rewarding:

  1. The college admissions and selection process brings new changes every year. Lea tracks these changes closely and engages a national and international network of college counselors, admissions officers, and consultants to be sure she provides families with up-to-date, accurate advice. 
  2. High school counselors are often responsible for a large number of students and support students in a myriad of ways beyond college counseling. Because Lea has more time to dedicate to each student, she can provide college lists, essay support, advice and task lists and timelines unique to the needs of each student. 
  3. A guided college application process can build confidence and reduce much of the stress for students and families. Most parents don’t have time to help students track all the requirements and keep on top of the many critical deadlines. Parents often admit that their students are not open to their feedback or help on applications and essays. Lea offers the right balance of experience and guidance at a time when students are trying to individuate and become more independent from their parents.

As a member of the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA), Lea abides by and promotes HECA’s Standards and Ethics. She is focused on serving the needs and interests of each student with care and professionalism.

Nowadays, it’s easy to be flexible on when and how to meet students’ needs and how to keep parents engaged and informed.

Lea offers in person and video conferencing consultations and uses a customized online college planning portal to share tools, resources, information and to help keep students organized and ahead of schedule. She stays in close communication via text, email, and consultations throughout the planning process.

In addition to earning a Masters degree in Education and many years in the field, Lea completed rigorous coursework in college and career planning through UC Berkeley that helped her hone the knowledge and expertise she brings to her work with students. She regularly participates in professional development activities and follows the newest trends in higher education.

Lea is also a parent who has successfully crossed the river to college with her own college-aged sons. In the process, she has developed a healthy perspective on college planning and the college experience that benefits her students and families.

Read more about Lea’s path to college consulting.

Fall of a student’s junior year is a good time to get started with active college planning, but there are also some advantages to working with Lea sooner.

A growing sense of self builds confidence and serves as a good foundation for the decisions students will make during the college planning process. That’s why Lea prioritizes self-exploration, brainstorming, and career interest exercises early on. Reality is that students don’t have enough time for this important reflection work during the regular school day.

Rather than talk too much about college, Lea encourages students in 9th and 10th grade to focus on taking advantage of the many opportunities available to them and making the most of their high school experience. The earlier students start reflecting and identifying their interests, the better prepared they are to make informed decisions in high school that may affect college planning later. This includes, for example, what high school courses to take, how to use after school and summer times to develop their passions and interests, and when to take standardized tests.

Contact Lea today for a  complimentary 30-minute consultation. She’ll explain her approach and answer your questions.

A quick “college planning advice” search on google results in a dizzying array of links to websites and chat forums offering up advice and answers to frequently asked questions. It’s no surprise that students and parents can feel quickly overwhelmed.

We’ve posted links to some valuable online resources that come in handy. Take a look.

Even with these good resources, the answer to many important questions students and parents seek is, “It depends.”

Do I apply early action or regular decision?

Is a large public university the right place for me?

Should I take the SAT a third time?

How many schools should I apply to? And is my list balanced?

These are just a few of the questions that come up when crossing the river to college. Lea can help you customize your answer to each one.

Want to Know More?

Start with a complimentary consultation.

Let's talk.

Contact Lea

The Landscape, a blog for you

Lea uses this space to share insight and advice on the ever-changing landscape of college admissions and higher education.


Read what parents and students say about Lea's guidance and support.

Lea lives by her mission to guide young adults through a potentially highly stressful process and turn it into an insightful and positive experience.

— Parent

I always enjoy our meetings and they are super helpful for keeping me organized and having a clear head throughout this whole process. I really appreciate how personal this experience is and I feel like you are the best person to find the right places and programs for me.

— Student

Working with Lea was a wonderful partnership, both for our son and for us as parents. She was super pro-active, highly responsive, knowledgeable, thoughtful, empathic, and calm.

— Parent

By really getting to know me, Lea helped me discover my top choice school, which I got into and am excited to attend. She helped make the whole process less stressful and more enjoyable.

— Student

Lea completely changed our approach to college applications by helping us break down the process into manageable chunks. She spent hours getting to know my teen, provided thoughtful feedback and opened her eyes to colleges she hadn't considered. Lea's knowledge and guidance took out the guess work which allowed my daughter to be realistic and dream big. We are so grateful that we had the opportunity to work with her.

— Parent

Get in touch today.

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