Navigating the college admissions process isn’t easy. There are dozens of schools to research, various deadlines to track, and changing requirements to meet. Students might also struggle to decide on a major or choose classes for their freshman year. Thankfully, college-bound students don’t have to navigate the process alone. College admissions counselors are here to help.
With a deep understanding of what schools are looking for, experienced college counselors can provide strategies for meeting deadlines and advice on what might be your most successful course of study. Often, these experts have shepherded hundreds or even thousands of students from high school to college.
Once you’ve connected with a great college admissions counselor, you’ll want to be sure to get the most out of your time with them. Let’s look at some strategies to help you collaborate effectively with your college counselor.
What is a college admissions counselor?
A college admissions counselor is someone who guides students through the process of applying to college.
These professionals sometimes go by different names, including career advisors, guidance counselors, or college application counselors. All of them are there to help you on your road to higher education success.
Why should I work with a college admissions counselor?
For starters, the best guidance counselors get results. Students who work with the college admissions experts at Empowerly, for example, have a 98% acceptance rate at the top 100 U.S. colleges and universities.
Additionally, a guidance counselor or career advisor can give you useful personal development advice and support as you navigate one of the most challenging times in your life. Many students report feeling less stress and anxiety around the process if they worked with a college admissions counselor rather than going it alone.
Strategies for your college counseling sessions
Before your first session with a career advisor, you should think about how you want to maximize your time with them. Deadlines are looming, so it’s important to get the most out of their expertise and to use your time with them wisely.
Here are tips for effective counseling sessions:
1. Tell them about yourself
This might sound like common sense, but a lot of students forget to do it. That’s a mistake.
Guidance counselors can give their best advice when they know you, your interests, and your goals. Be sure to tell them more than the basics like your GPA or extracurricular activities.
For example, share your reasons for wanting to attend college, your career goals, or even something unique about your circumstances. (Are you a first-generation college student? Is your goal to move to a different part of the country?) Tell them about which parts of the process give you the most anxiety, or where you’d like the most help.
The more your college admissions counselor knows about you, the more personalized they can be with their advice. Sharing early will make the next steps with them more effective and more beneficial to you in the long run.
2. Ask the right questions
Admissions counselors will ask you questions, but you should be prepared to ask them questions as well. The right questions to ask will depend on your academic and career goals.
If you’re interested in pursuing an engineering degree, you might want to ask them for a list of the top engineering schools, or for guidance on what classes to take in high school. If you’re concerned about your grades, you might ask them for tips for improving them, or how to shine in other aspects of your college application.
Know your questions before you meet with them, and jot down any questions that arise in between meetings so you can be prepared the next time you see them. Other common questions for guidance counselors center around planning for the ACT or SAT, obtaining letters of recommendation, and effective college visits.
3. Have regular check-ins to make sure the plan is on track
To effectively work with an admissions counselor, think about prioritizing consistency. Meet with them on a regular, set basis to check in on your progress, update any goals or challenges, or discuss any new findings or information the counselor obtained.
One way to ensure consistency is to identify a day and time that works for you, and then set fixed meetings with the counselor. You might opt to meet once a week, once every two weeks, or whatever you identify as being best for your needs.
In other words: Get the meetings on the calendar from the start and stick to them.
4. Be open to new ideas or suggestions
You might have an idea in your mind of where you want to study, what you’ll study, and how you’ll get there. That’s great, and you should bring these ideas to your career counselor so they can understand your wants and needs.
However, it’s a mistake to stay so set in your ways that you miss out on new ideas or opportunities your counselor will present. After all, they have a larger view of what’s out there. After getting to know you, their recommendation could be something that leads you down an exciting path you didn’t even know existed.
Keep an open mind when working with an admissions counselor. It just might lead you to your dream school or career.
5. Take ownership of your college journey
The admissions counselor is there to help, but you have a role to play as well. As a college-bound student, your future is ultimately your own. Understanding this and taking ownership of the process and what comes next will make your time with the counselor more effective.
What does ownership look like? Students should be proactive along the entire road to college. Take the counselor’s advice and put it into action. Reach out when you need extra help or have questions. Remain fully engaged in the journey. You can do this!
More college admissions help for students
Writing college essays for different schools is a tough task for many students. Get tips on how to ace this element of the application.
Avoid the 5 most common SAT prep mistakes to increase your chances of getting your best score.
Read Empowerly’s experts handbook to college admissions for a comprehensive overview of what students need to know.