Applying to College: Your Counselor’s Role

Video transcript: The first in my family to go, I made my own path [Alex, college senior] When I was a senior in high school I basically had to find my own resources. Since I’m the first of my family to go to college in the United States, I had to find everything myself. From, basically, how to apply to schools, how to take the SATs, where to take them. I basically relied on my high school counselor. I would go to the financial aid office. There’s tons of resources there. They have scholarships for every single race, culture, religion you can imagine. I would spend a lot of my lunch breaks, actually — because we get an hour for lunch — I would eat and then go to the financial aid office, talk with people there. I think that’s what I learned basically, what I would advise kids today. [End of video]

The first in my family to go, I made my own path

Alex, college senior

Alex did his own research on how to apply to colleges and find financial aid.

When it’s time to fill out college applications, your school counselor plays a central part. You’re the one in charge, though — it’s up to you to ask your counselor for the help you need.

Help your counselor help you.

What Your Counselor Can Help You Do

Your counselor is the one who sends important parts of your application — such as your high school transcript — to colleges. And that’s not the only role your counselor plays in the college application process. He or she can help you do all of the following things.

Find Colleges

Your counselor can help you create a list of colleges to research that is based on your interests and on the characteristics of each college. He or she can also help you narrow down that list later on.

Understand Requirements

Colleges have different application requirements. Most require applicants to submit an essay. Many ask applicants to send scores from an admission test, such as the SAT or the ACT. Your counselor can explain the requirements of each college and help you register for admission tests, if necessary.

Send Your Transcript

Your counselor is responsible for sending your high school transcript to the colleges you apply to. Some college applications come with transcript-request forms for you to give to your counselor, or you may simply have to ask your counselor to send your transcripts.

Get Recommendations

Some colleges specifically ask for a recommendation letter from a high school counselor. Even if the college doesn’t specify, consider asking your counselor for a letter of recommendation as long as he or she knows you well enough to speak about your strengths and character. Learn more about getting great recommendation letters.

Make the Most of Your Time with Your Counselor

College application season is an especially busy time for high school counselors. You can help your counselor help you by staying on top of the application process. Here’s how.

Be early. If you start doing tasks — researching colleges, collecting ideas for application essays, making requests for recommendation letters — well ahead of time, you’ll make it easier for your counselor to give you timely answers when you need help.

Be organized. Figure out a system for keeping track of application components and deadlines yourself. Read Applying to College: FAQs for tips.

Be responsible. Your counselor can help in many ways, but this is your project and your responsibility. It’s up to you to ask your counselor for the help you need. Schedule appointments when you need to talk to him or her.

Be prepared. When you do meet with your counselor, have a list of questions ready and know what you want to discuss.

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