An Eligible College Student must make the most of their time During School Hours. This includes having a relationship with your High School Counselor, who can help you with problems and give you advice. Your Counselor will also be writing a Letter of Recommendation that they will send to your potential Colleges, along with your transcript.
YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR HIGH SCHOOL (HS) COUNSELOR CAN BENEFIT YOU IN MANY WAYS, BUT HERE ARE TWO OF THE MOST IMPORTANT:
- The more time you have spent with your HS Counselor, the less surprises down the road, and the better prepared you are to apply to College.
- Meeting regularly with your HS Counselor is an opportunity to tell them your plans for after High School, and for them to give advice on what you should be doing to facilitate those plans. Do you want to attend a College with a strong Engineering program? Your HS Counselor will make sure you are taking the right Math and Science programs in order to qualify for those types of Colleges’ High School academic requirements. They also might tell you about former students unusual strategies for how they prepared for an Engineering degree. Did they take an Engineering class at the local College their Senior year, to give them a taste of College-level Engineering classes, and as a stand-out resume item?
- KNOWLEDGE IS POWER, and HS Counselors are a wealth of knowledge. The best way to get the focused help you need is to share your story. Are you the first person in your family to attend College? Is there no money available from your family to pay for College? Are you feeling pressure from your family to become something you don’t want to be? A HS Counselor is a great resource, with access to lots of other great resources. It is unlikely they have not encountered a student with a similar background or issues, so they can help streamline solutions and target advice to your need.
- To the best of my knowledge, ALL Colleges require a Letter of Recommendation (LOR) from your HS Counselor.
- Your HS Counselor will write a LOR that they send to your potential Colleges, along with your transcript. LOR from your Counselor and Teachers are the only opportunities for someone besides yourself to talk about you. Colleges are very aware that many HS Counselors have too high of a workload to have much of a relationship with their students. If the HS Counselor states in their LOR that they honestly can’t tell the College much about a particular student, a College will likely not discount that student, particularly when they are familiar with the High School and understand its counselor-to-student ratio (Colleges assign Admissions Officers to geographic regions; they become familiar with the nuances of the High Schools in their region).
- The best way to understand how highly a College values LOR is to ask an Admission Officer. An easy way to get an idea of how highly a College values Letters of Recommendation is to go to collegedata.com. Type in the name of a school, choose the Admission tab and scroll down to Selection of Students. Recommendations may be listed as Very Important, Important, Considered or Not Considered.
MAKE AN EFFORT TO THANK YOUR COUNSELOR FOR ALL OF THEIR HELP, INCLUDING THEIR LOR
Send a hand-written thank you note to anyone who writes you a LOR, preferably along with a small gift. Starbucks gift card? Homemade cookies?
During those long chats about your future, make a point of learning a little about your HS Counselor – they will like you better (I forsee the word personable showing up in your LOR) if you remember to not be too self-absorbed in your meetings. And they will appreciate that you didn’t get them candy as a thank you, because you noticed they are a diabetic, or that you got them a Starbucks gift card because you know they are addicted to lattes.
Does your High School have their own nuances to the LOR process? Better ask your upperclassmen – time to acquire information via Word of Mouth!
Do not underestimate the importance of Letters of Recommendation. How well you handle this process has a direct impact on your eligibility.
A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR COUNSELOR IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD
If your school has a high counselor-to-student ratio, and you have 2 classmates also applying to XYZ College, you can stand out if your Counselor’s LOR talks in detail about your attributes, while the other students’ LOR includes the standard “I don’t know much about this student.” verbiage.
If you have established a relationship with your HS Counselor, when it comes time to write their LOR, your HS Counselor will not only be able to talk in detail about you as a student, they will also rave about your proactive approach to College preparation. This approach reflects the importance you place on the College experience. Which student would you rather attend your College?
What are some of the other benefits of a strong relationship with your HS Counselor?
HOW DO YOU MAKE THIS HAPPEN?
Starting your Freshman year, you should make an appointment to meet with your HS Counselor at least once a year, to discuss your plans for classes you will take and to make sure you are not missing any pieces that are graduation requirements. Is there a reason most students don’t take a certain AP class until they are an upperclassmen? Does your school allow you to waive PE if you participate in 2 years of varsity sports? Do they deny that waiver if you are a Teachers Assistant? There are many nuances to scheduling your classes and Graduation Requirements that will be difficult for you to track on your own.
Beginning your Junior year, you should try to meet with your HS Counselor on a monthly basis. Don’t pop in to have a chat and walk away when your HS Counselor is not available. This will likely mean stopping by the Admissions Office and scheduling an appointment that might not take place for weeks. This will require planning and organization, which is why your efforts will make you stand out with your HS Counselor.
If your HS Counselor does not have the time to help you make this happen, you should consider hiring a College Counselor. You may decide to hire a College Counselor with a long-term contract to walk you through the entire process, or you may just hire a College Counselor for a couple of hours, to make sure you haven’t missed important steps. The College Search is very important, and attending College is very expensive – the knowledge you gain from a College Counselor means this will be money well spent. Don’t assume the more you spend on a College Counselor, the better the experience. Ask other students (parents, ask other families) about their experiences with College Counselors in your area.