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Why You Should Get to Know Your High School Counselor



It was my years as a high school counselor that sparked my passion for college admissions advising, and understanding the inner workings of a high school counseling office is a unique advantage to my work as a consultant. For the college applicant, it is also valuable to understand the part your counselor plays in the admission process and why getting to know him or her is in your best interest.


At most high schools, the counselor is managing class scheduling, academic advising, test administration, social-emotional counseling, possibly 504 Plan writing and management, and general problem-solving for a myriad of unforeseen events that arise. All of this in addition to delivering a college planning curriculum. So there are many opportunities to see your counselor for any of the above reasons. Why should you make a point of doing this?

  • Because there is a reasonable chance the colleges you are applying to will require a counselor letter of recommendation.

  • And your counselor is required to complete a school report that accompanies your transcript where they rate you on a scale comparing you to your peers for Academic Achievement, Extracurricular Accomplishments, Personal Qualities and Character, and an Overall rating. 


Knowing this, the savvy high schooler will give their counselor some good material to write about.


The counselor letter discusses how the student took advantage of opportunities offered at their school, both academic and extracurricular. They discuss the student's impact at their school. And they discuss character. So when you meet with your counselor, be engaging and show interest in maximizing your opportunities. Demonstrate responsibility and maturity. Even if you don't feel the need to see your counselor, find a reason to visit with them at least 2-3 times.year, even if it's a quick question. Meeting to discuss your college and career plans and to get their advice is the icing on the cake. They want to get to know you. The most memorable of my former students are those who sought my help for the purpose of using their time in high school wisely. Doing these things will give your counselor authentic material to write about, and admission personnel can tell the difference.


Your counselor is also the person who can share insight to your academic performance and any events that may have affected it. If something happened to negatively affect your grades, or you've had to overcome something to get where you are, with your permission, the counselor can and should write about these to give context.


Keep in mind, however, that every high school is different in how counselors are made available to their students. Some have caseloads of over 500 students and are are limited in the time they can devote to one-on-one conversations. So if your school doesn't provide the opportunity to meet with your counselor as discussed above, then you are no different in that regard than your peers. Colleges will be aware of this and will not expect these insights in the counselor letter. Again, it comes down to taking advantage of what is available to you. And if you are able to make your counselor your advocate, there is nothing but upside.


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