Getting Ready for College: Helping your college counselor help you!

Students often complain that their college counselors didn’t help them- or at least not as much as they would have liked! However, students and parents must acknowledge how involved their counselors’ jobs are. Before cursing their counselor, families should read on and be reminded of these facts about counselors:

1. College counselors are extremely overworked!

Although ASCA recommends a 250-to-1 ratio of students to school counselors, the national average is actually 457 (2008-2009 school year). See how the individual states stacks up. So, remember to do your part, as well. Even if he or she wanted to, your counselor can’t do everything for you.

2. Counselors typically make general recommendations that will be refined later.

Counselors do try to get to know their students, and they recognize as well as anyone that advice for college changes from student to student. However, in the interest of reaching out to as many students as possible, they start out by giving general advice- advice which needs to be later tweaked for each student! The more your counselor knows about you and what you want, the better he or she can advise you. So, make sure to let your counselor know the needs that are specific to you.

3. Counselors have many competing interests to manage.

College counselors aren’t just dealing with students; they also have to manage relationships with parents, students, college admissions officers, scholarship programs, and other faculty members at their school. Each of these parties often has a different view of what a student should do. Counselors must try to balance all of these factors and give students objective advice. And remember, students, everyone is fighting for you, and everything about college is ultimately your decision. So, when your parents disagree with you, your counselor will have your back, and if your counselor has a different opinion from you, have your parents help present your case. But, be nice about it; you need your counselor!

4. They’re marketers, not producers.

College counselors are marketers and sales people, whose jobs entail selling a product (students, that’s you!) to potential clients. Students are responsible for producing themselves; the quality of their product is judged by their record of grades, scores, and extra-curricular activities. At the end of the assembly line is the college counselor, waiting to package this scholarly bundle so as to seem attractive for each college. So, make sure you produce a quality product, and one that they can market well.

5. They work for you, so work with them!

A simple, but important last bit of advice is that students and parents should work with their counselors as a team. Counselors need your answers before they do anything, and overworked as they are, they often don’t have time to ask the questions. This means that families should be proactive, reaching out to their counselor and asking what they (students and families) must do, and when they must do it.

Good luck and good learning!

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