4 Ways to Utilize Your School Counselor
To begin your college process, there are multiple ways to ease the anxiety that comes with college admissions. One of the key ways is to know how to utilize your high school counselor efficiently and effectively.
1. College Visits- this is the time of the year that many college admissions representatives are coming to individual high schools to speak with students about their college, programs, and what they offer overall. This is a great opportunity to start finding unique schools that may be a good “fit”. A suggestion is not to just go to schools that you know of or are thinking of applying to. I have had students go into a visit completely oblivious to the school, to walk away with multiple scholarships and deciding it was their perfect “fit” school. Also, by listening to what the admission representatives are saying, as a senior you will begin to understand the application process and key words to look for when looking at all schools. See the link College Terminology: Admission Process (http://www.unmaze.me/community/2016/6/30/college-terminology-3-admissions-process) for more of these words and definitions . Ask your counselor which schools are visiting and which ones would fit your interest areas.
2. Scholarships- Every parent and student I have ever met with have asked about scholarships. There are a multitude of institutional, national, local, state, and even micro-scholarships available for students right now. But where to begin can seem like a daunting task. Often times, school counselors have heard of scholarships that their students have earned in the past, and also have the ability to nominate certain students for different scholarships. At a former school, we had a robust Dollars for Scholars program of local scholarships available to our students. The school counselors actually had a book full of these scholarships with information about deadlines, type of scholarship, awarded amount, and even links to the applications. Asking your school counselor about the different scholarships available for your high school and area, along with any good websites to use would help you greatly.
Here are some other links to UnMaze articles that go more in-depth about scholarships:
3. Recommendations- More colleges and universities, as well as scholarships, are asking for counselor recommendations as they play a pivotal role in the application process. According to the National Association for College Admissions Counseling’s 2011 State of College Admission report, “nearly two-thirds of colleges and universities attribute considerable or moderate importance to counselor and teacher recommendations to determine which academically qualified students they would choose for admission” (CollegeBoard.org, n.d.). Why is this letter so important? Particularly with students with mediocre or low scores or dips in their grade point average, a counselor recommendation can help give an honest assessment of their potential success in college. It also helps paint a more robust picture of the student comparatively to their peers. Counselor recommendations can also make a difference explaining a background of a student such as family or personal hardships along with grit and determination. As seniors, this recommendation can help you get into the school of your dreams. While you may attend a large school and may not know your school counselor, schedule a meeting to discuss the letter recommendation. To aid them in writing the letter, provide them with your student resume (list of activities and accomplishments), and suggest a few teachers they may want to talk to about you as a student.
4. College Resources- There are many parts to the college admission process that a school counselor can help a student with. Just as students are going through the college application process, counselors are also receiving information from their school district on college fairs and tours, scholarships, community resources, and college brochures. I often post or send out upcoming dates, fliers, and resources around my office and through email for students to know what is going on. Recently, I provided each senior with a packet of financial aid brochures I received from a national finance program, their student transcripts, information on the Common Application, and PowerPoint slide of a parent presentation I had done. Forty percent of my students have yet to even pick their folder up! If you are not one to frequent your school counselor, now is the best time to check-in with them to see if you are missing any important information or paperwork you need for the application process.
I often hear from parents, “I don’t want to bother you. I know you have a lot of students you work with.” My job, which I love, is to help the parents and students be as successful in their academics as possible, part of that is helping in the college process. If you have yet to meet with your school counselor, I highly suggest you stop by their office to check out the many resources they have available to you and even to schedule a meeting to get more one-on-one information. They are there to help you and can be a huge asset when it comes to applying to college.
CollegeBoard (n.d). Recommendations: Counselor Tips. Retrieved from https://professionals.collegeboard.org/guidance/applications/counselor-tips