At high schools that are on top of the college process, the guidance counselor meets with juniors and their parents during the spring. This gives teachers and guidance counselors time to write letters of recommendation for students over the summer.
Unfortunately, in many schools it is not unusual for the guidance counselor not to meet with students until senior year. That’s because on average there are 500 high school students per counselor. What’s more, one in five US high schools have no guidance counselor at all, as schools aren’t required to hire them.
The more ready you are, the more likely you are to get helpful, timely advice. This is especially important given the fact that you may only get one shot at it. So what should you do to prepare to meet with your counselor?
Before You Meet with Your Guidance Counselor
The first step in securing a great letter of recommendation from your counselor is to send your brag sheet in advance. Here’s how it works:
- List your high school activities, experiences, and awards on a single sheet of paper. Include SAT/ACT scores and class rank, after-school and summer jobs.
- Then rank them from most to least important.
During Your Meeting
Your mission is to carry out these 7 tasks during the course of your 15 to 30 minute meeting with your counselor.
Get the inside scoop on your high school’s admission history. Specifically, ask how your test scores, class rank and GPA compare to students from your high school who’ve been admitted to your top choice schools.
Let your counselor know what criteria you’re using to test schools. Remember, a school that is a good academic and financial fit for one student is a reach for another.
Believe it or not, guidance counselors are not trained in college admissions and financial aid. Even so, your guidance counselor will play a key role in your college admissions process.
What does this mean for you? Prepare to explain your family’s position on reach and financial safety schools so that everyone on your team understands the game plan.
Put schools that your counselor recommends to the same test as all the other schools on your list. Prepare your college list as a spreadsheet or table with all the vital stats you used to test schools on your list.
Bring two copies to your meeting–one for you and the other for your counselor. No electronic snafu can stop you if you come prepared with hard copies!
Ask your counselor for a letter of recommendation. An important part of your college application includes a great recommendation—that often comes from your guidance counselor.
Discuss your early admission options. Review the pros and cons of each option.
Discuss your positioning and your hook. How will you ever get noticed with so many applicants with credentials like yours? Simply put, your positioning and your hook make you memorable.
Leave the meeting with a to-do list. What do you have to do? By when? What does your counselor have to do? By when?
Plan How to Meet Admission and Financial Aid Deadlines
If any piece of your application falls through the cracks, you will not get a fair hearing. That said, it’s up to you to make sure you and your referees send all application materials to colleges on time.
Provide gentle reminders to your counselor and teachers as needed. Be polite and considerate. Give your counselor and teachers plenty of time to write recommendations for you.
Finish strong with handwritten thank you cards from the student to everyone on your team. On your mark. Get set. Go!
How will you prepare for your meeting with your guidance counselor? What helpful tips do you have to share?
Share your thoughts in the text box below.
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