5 Tips on Working with Your School Counselor on Your College Search

According to the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the national student-to-counselor ratio, is 478 to 1, nearly double the number recommended by the American School Counselor Association. Some states, like Minnesota, have a ratio of nearly 800 students for every school counselor, giving it the second-highest ratio in the nation, behind California. 

Of course, you already knew that your guidance counselor was juggling a million other tasks, but that is little comfort to you as you embark on the daunting challenge of finding the right college. Some of you may have a great relationship with your counselor. Others, not so much.

But, the bottom line is, you need them, so here are some tips to help you work well with them and helping them to help you:

A school counselor pointing at a book while a student takes notes.

1. Always remember: The college search process is your job, not their job

Your counselor’s job is to guide and assist you, not do it for you. So, don’t go into your counselor’s office with blank paper waiting to be told what to do. Put some thought into what you might want in a college, your likes and dislikes, your strengths and challenges. Having defined some of these things will allow your counselor to take the ball and run with it, suggesting schools that match what you are telling them.

Of course, you can do some of this work too with internet resources like College Raptor that allow you to do your own college search using a multitude of parameters.

2. Gratitude is key

There’s an important expression, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar” that should be employed here. Sincere thanks, a short note, an email, or some other small act of kindness goes a very long way for someone whose help and assistance you will need over the next year (at least).

3. Organization is important

Keep your college-related paperwork in a folder, not in the lower-most recesses of your backpack. Keep your computer files in a folder together so that you won’t lose your work or spend valuable time sifting for it.

4. Pay attention to deadlines

You will want your counselor to do their part of this process by the colleges’ deadlines, so make sure you do your job by your counseling office’s deadlines.

If they tell you they want transcript requests submitted 10 days prior to the deadline, they really don’t mean they want it the day before. Imagine if every student did that. There would be no way for them to fulfill all of those requests on time. So, to help them do their job on time (and to help you as best they can), do your job on time.

5. R-E-S-P-E-C-T your school counselor

You may love them, you may not, but employ the Golden Rule in the way you treat your counselor and their office staff. Treat them exactly the way you would want to be treated. Not only is it the right way to conduct yourself, but, in the event that you do need an emergency favor, it becomes much easier to get someone to do it for you when you’ve been nice to them and not rude, impatient or irresponsible.

Above all else, just remember that counselors are making the best of what time and resources they have. Be respectful of their time, and they will do everything in their power to help you succeed.