As most of you know or have heard, obtaining guidance counselor letters of recommendations can be an extremely stressful process and it can be very difficult to form a relationship with one’s guidance counselor at a large public school. So we’re here to give you some advice on forming a relationship with your guidance counselor. First off, why is forming a relationship with your guidance counselor important? Read on for more guidance counselor tips.
Guidance counselor letters of recs are extremely important in the college admissions process because your guidance counselor helps an AO (admissions officer) place you within the context of YOUR school. An admissions officer can have a hard time figuring out what kind of student you are based on the classes you took or what impact you had on your school. Your guidance counselor acts as that AO’s guide to help them understand the aforementioned topics. Hence, getting a solid counselor letter of rec is an oftentimes neglected, yet an extremely potent way of bolstering your application.
With that being said, how can you foster a relationship with your guidance counselor to ensure you get that amazing letter of recommendation. The first step is to find out what kind of counselor you have. Some counselors are solid and really care about students. Others… not so much. I’m going to give you a plan on how you can deal with either kind of counselor so you can ensure you get an amazing letter of recommendation no matter what!
Scenario A: Guidance counselor is receptive, does their job, and cares about students
This situation is fairly easy to handle. You need to ensure that your counselor knows you and understands you. You should reach out to your counselor as early as possible (definitely sometime junior year) for quarterly check-ins with the intention of them getting to know you better. In these check in-ins, emphasize the following:
Make sure your counselor knows you are challenging yourself as much as possible given the classes offered. You want them to note that you took the most challenging curriculum offered at your school.
2. Clubs/student government/in-school impact.
Make sure your counselor understands the impact you’re having on campus. Are you creating new opportunities for students? Or are you being a campus leader? Are you mentoring students? These are all important things your counselor should know.
3. Out of School Activities
They should also know what you do out of school- especially if it can build a theme for your application. Are you involved in the Science Olympiad in school and also do research out of school? Let them know that you’re the school’s resident science “kid”!
Through these check-ins, your counselor will have a solid understanding of who you are and will be able to accurately convey that through their letter of recommendation!
Now, situation A. is the ideal scenario. But I’m not naive. I understand how it is in large public schools with overworked guidance counselors who oftentimes just don’t have the time to invest into students. So… how do you deal with these individuals?
Scenario B: Not the greatest guidance counselor
You need to find a way to convey the critical information about you on a quarterly basis in a way that doesn’t seem to be a check-in at first glance. If you email this type of guidance counselor for the sole purpose of them getting to know you better, you will likely get denied. You need to phrase check-ins as a quick 30 minute sit down for advice/help with something. What would these quarterly check-ins in disguise look like?
1. Help figuring out a course load.
A quick check in on your courses might be a good time for you to inject a bit of info about your academic interests, course rigor, and aspirations college wise.
2. Help figuring out good fits for a college visit.
Great place to show a bit of your personality and explain ways you impacted campus as a means of helping your counselor better help you find some matches to visit.
3. Help finding summer programs.
This is a solid place to share some info about your extracurricular interests.
Scenario C: Worst case scenario of guidance counselor
I would hope your guidance counselor is at least willing to have a short meeting with you if you need help with something. However, I know there are some guidance counselors who still can’t invest time to meet with students. In this situation, the solution is to ensure you give them a sheet of facts about you so they can craft their letter of rec. Show don’t tell! However, make sure they understand the rigor of your coursework, impact on campus, and extracurriculars.
Good luck everyone! Let us know if you have any questions.
If you truly feel that you are not able to connect with your guidance counselor, we highly recommend seeking outside help. Even if you do have a good guidance counselor, working with an independent advisor can provide more individualized, one-on-one support. Book a consult and let us know what help you need to succeed.