Just like you have coaches for sports and teachers for classes, you also have college counselors for academic planning and college preparation. They are the expert in your corner. Their purpose is to help you make the most of your high school experience and aid you in preparing for your future. For many students, that future takes them to college.
Unlike your coaches and even some teachers, college counselors have a much larger student population to serve. They may be serving dozens to hundreds of students at the same time who are all at different stages in their college preparation and looking to their counselor for help. In fact, college counseling may only be one facet of the counseling they provide. They may have a larger counseling role which requires them to work with students and families pertaining to school disciplinary issues or personal problems at home.
To ensure your meetings with your college counselor are productive and run smoothly, it is important to explain some best practices. Following these best practices will make a good impression on your counselor and show them that you are serious about your future as well as showing them respect for their role and their time. This will work in your favor when asking for a Letter of Recommendation from your counselor as those are held in high regard by most colleges when making admission decisions.
It is important that you first understand that your college counselor is there to assist you, not do your work for you. It is your hard work along with their guidance that will accomplish your goals. High school is stressful, even without having to prepare for college, but you don't want to take out your frustration on them. Venting is one thing but treating your counselor poorly will only hurt you in the end. When meeting with your college counselor you should have an open-mind, listen, and be respectful. In your meetings, it is also in your best interest to be open and honest about what you want. From time to time, this will lead to some disagreements. Disagreements happen and are a part of the ongoing communication between you and your counselor but be sure to avoid being combative or argumentative. Finally, remember to thank your college counselor for their time after your meetings.
With the volume of students your college counselor has to see on a day-to-day basis, you will most likely have to schedule time in advance to meet with them. Early on in the school year you will want to find out how your counseling office handles scheduling. You should find out how long they usually allow per appointment and if they have days and times that they take walk-ins. Try to schedule your appointments at least a few days in advance so you can prepare ahead of time. Just dropping by will rarely work in your favor unless you are told to do so beforehand. If your school has more than one counselor, don't be afraid to ask if you can schedule a meeting with another counselor if yours is busy (especially when you have a deadline to meet). Finally, feel free to send your counselor an email or other note ahead of time letting them know what you would like to cover during the meeting. This gives them time to prepare and they may appreciate it.
Since you only have a short time to meet with your college counselor between classes, you want to come prepared. Below are some tips you should take advantage of so that you can make the most of your brief time together:
- Prior to your very first meeting, you should read their page on your high school website to learn more about them, their office hours, and their contact information.
- Have a calendar with all of your course homework, projects, and test dates already entered. This can help you when determining the best times for you to prep for an admissions test, visit a college, or attend events like college fairs.
- Bring something to take notes. You won't remember everything you spoke about after the meeting.
- At a minimum, you should be meeting with your college counselor once per semester (preferably at the beginning). For more information on what should be covered in your meetings, you can review the following College Prep Plans: