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How To Work with Your High School College Counselor

A high school guidance counselor can be very helpful when applying to college. Guidance counselors are there to help students succeed.  They may help students plan their high school schedules, find “best-fit” colleges, fill out applications, write letters of recommendation, find scholarships, and more.

Students, at your meeting, be friendly, but respectful, and let your counselors know their efforts are appreciated.  Most counselors deal with many students each day, year after year, and whatever a student can do to make herself or himself stand out in a positive way can motivate counselors to give them extra assistance.  The relationship with the counselor should be treated as the kind of personal network-building that will help a student succeed in college and in their professional career.

Freshman and Sophomores
Students in their Freshman and Sophomore year should stop in or schedule a quick appointment with their counselor at some point during the school year. At the meeting students should:

  • Introduce themselves.
  • Briefly go over their goals.
  • Review their schedule and make sure they’re on track to graduate.
  • Ask for recommendations on extracurricular activities.

Students in their Junior Year should meet with their counselor in the spring.  A twenty-minute appointment should be scheduled at least two weeks in advance.

What to Bring to a Meeting 

Counseling time is limited, so come prepared!

  • Preliminary resume – Students should bring a resume to their meeting.  The resume should outline their goals, both in and out of the classroom, what they’ve done during the summer, and their college goals.
  • List of qualities the student is looking for in a college. The school college advisor may help build the college list.

Some Questions to Ask

  • What is my current academic standing?  Students should review their current transcript with the counselor, identify any weak spots, and discuss how to maintain or raise their grade point average or improve themselves in any other areas.
  • Do you know of any good scholarships available for me?
  • Am I on track to complete the core requirements for graduation?
  • What do you think of my target school list?  Do you have any other school suggestions?
  • Should I take the ACT? The SAT? Or both? If a student has already taken one or both tests, then the scores should be reviewed with the counselor.  A guidance counselor can help students weigh the pros and cons of each test, offer constructive advise on the scores, and recommend resources for test-prep.
  • Do you review essays and applications?  If so, what is the timeline?
  • Will you be writing me a letter of recommendation?  If so, what materials would you need from me?
  • What should I do to make myself more desirable to college admissions officers? Students should ask about community college courses and summer opportunities including internships, jobs, and summer programs.

  How to get the Best Recommendations From a High School College Counselor

  • Talk about accomplishments, hobbies and plans for college and the future.
  • Discuss any “red-flags” on the transcript, like low grades during the sophomore year.  Student should explain why they had difficulty and discuss how they’ve changed and improved since then.
  • Let the counselor know EXACTLY which college a student wants to get into.  A counselor can often make phone calls on a student’s behalf.  Also, if the college is coming to the high school, a counselor may help schedule a private meeting with the admissions reap.

As a reminder, many high school counselors do not love independent college counselors (IECAs); so students do not need to tell their high school counselors they are also seeking outside help.

ABOUT INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE COUNSELORS: This year, college advisors at International College Counselors helped more than 300 students find, apply to and gain acceptance into the college of their dreams. The expert college counselors at International College Counselors are dedicated to helping students and their families successfully navigate the college application process.  For help from an experienced college advisor who can help a student in English or Spanish, please contact the expert college counselors at International College Counselors at 954-414-9986.