Even if you have never had a discussion with your guidance counselor, you can still mine this valuable resource for information and support when it comes to applying to college and universities. Don’t know where to start? Try some of these time-honored questions at your next appointment:
1. What financial aid opportunities should I be applying for? Guidance counselors can give you help with all the standard forms such as the FAFSA. They may also know about unique scholarships and grants that will be of interest to you individually, whether you’re a gifted trombonist, specialized nursing program applicant, or first person in your family to go to college.
2. What schools would be a good fit for me? If your counselor doesn’t know you well already, sit down and have a chat first, so he/she gets a sense of your interests and abilities. He or she will be familiar with the academic programs at schools near and far and can tell you which ones are top-rated for your prospective major.
3. How should I research schools? Of course, you’ll want to read about your options here on StateUniversity.com, where all the relevant facts are laid out and you can compare schools, but your guidance counselor can help you decide what further questions to ask, who to talk to, and where to schedule visits.
4. What should I do in my remaining time in high school to make myself an attractive applicant? Community service, club leadership… or your counselor might surprise you, and say something like, “Read something for pleasure that you genuinely enjoy, then be prepared to talk about it in an interview.” Include a discussion of how to spend your summer.
5. Could you do a practice interview with me? Your guidance counselor should know what a typical college admissions interview looks like and sounds like, and can ask you questions similar to the ones you might receive. A practice interview will let you get experience answering admissions officer-type questions. In addition, your counselor may be able to give you valuable feedback about how to present your answers—and yourself!
6. What classes do you recommend for my remaining time in high school? Your counselor can help you pick out the best classes to prepare you for higher education, including those geared toward specific programs of study.
7. What should my strategy be for taking standardized tests? Some schools prefer to receive the ACT, some the SAT. Some weigh scores more heavily than others. In most cases, you have an advantage by taking standardized tests early, then reserving the option to take them again if you think you can improve your score. Your guidance counselor will be the best person to advise you on both an overall strategy towards standardized tests as well as a unique approach to your dream school.
8. What do you like to know about a student before you write a recommendation? A strong recommendation letter from your guidance counselor is a valuable addition to any college application. In order to write a convincing letter, however, your counselor needs to know you as a person and know about you as a student.
9. Can you review my application? It’s a good idea to have more than one person at your high school take a look at your application before submitting it—your guidance counselor can edit for content, while a language arts teacher can proofread and copy edit.
If you don’t find that you hit it off with your guidance counselor, ask to speak with someone else until you find a helpful counselor or faculty member. After all, learning to ask for help is one of the most valuable skills you might have in college, so you may as well start honing it now!
Have potential colleges at your fingertips during a meeting with your high school guidance counselor! Download the free StateUniversity.com iPhone, iPod, and iPad app in iTunes. Search for colleges and universities; set favorites; search by degree or program; or find schools that are nearby based on your device’s location.
Elisabeth Bailey is a freelance writer and editor with particular interests in academics, food,and sustainability . She is also the author of A Taste of the Maritimes: Local, Seasonal Recipes the Whole Year Round and writes regularly for Canadian Farmers’ Almanac and the National Wildlife Federation. Elisabeth and her family live and enjoy great local food in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
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