If you follow my timeline for college planning (and, well, you certainly should), you know that the start of the school year is a good time for your teen to visit the school counselor.
Counselors at high schools can be a great resource for students in the college admissions and planning game. And one of my earliest recommendations to families is that they utilize the school (or guidance) counselor as a resource for college admissions often.
But let’s get real for a minute.
You may or may not have noticed that the school counselors at your kid’s public school are, well…more than just a little overloaded.
According to the National Association of College Admissions Counseling, the average student-to-counselor ratio for public schools in the U.S. is 471:1. And some states show ratios that are borderline ridiculous: California’s ratio is almost 1,000 students to one counselor.
Ok, not borderline. Just ridiculous.
How are these poor folks able to give your special snowflake the attention he needs in order to plan the right way for college admissions? A great question. We’ll talk about it. I’ll also tell you what you and your teen need to do on your own to make sure you’re on track with things.
But first, wouldn’t it be fun to see how your state stacks up?:
Be the squeaky wheel.
I’ve mentioned on my blog before that the best way to get attention from the counselor is to actually ask for it. Pursue it.
So many high school students wait for the school counselor to reach out to them to schedule that one routine half-hour meeting (to look over classes, usually). That’s just not going to cut it. The counselor is there for that coursework guidance, but also for help with college planning.
Your teen should initiate a meeting, and then a follow up meeting, and continue the relationship throughout his high school career. Once your teen shows this initiative, the counselor will take notice and will form a solid relationship from the start.
Use this college planning timeline to know exactly when your teenager should be making those appointments with the counselor, and when you should be connecting. And use this checklist to know exactly what to do when you get there.
Take on the school counselor role yourself.
You and your teenager really should know what you need to do for college planning. It’s not an intuitive process, so you’ll need to do a little research to understand exactly what’s involved and when certain items really need to be done.
If the counselor isn’t able to help, here’s a short list of things that you’ll need to know and things your teen should be doing to prepare for college admissions:
- Build a great college list. Sure, I’m biased, but my ebook’s the best resource for great help here: 8 Steps to Finding the Best College Fit.
- Take challenging classes. Colleges look at the rigor of each student’s courses as a barometer of how they challenge themselves in school. Consider honors, AP and IB courses to show drive.
- Get involved in extracurricular activities. Participating in activities outside of class and developing as a leader within them is important to admissions officers.
- Know which standardized exams to take, and when. The SAT or ACT are a requirement for most colleges, and other exams like SAT Subject Tests and AP exams are a reality for some students. Junior year is prime time for taking the exams.
- Find scholarships. Read my post 4 Easy Ways to Find Scholarships to learn how to do this.
- Understand how financial aid works. Read my post What You Need to Know about the FAFSA.
- Track deadlines. Check the College Board and ACT websites for testing registration deadlines, and individual college websites for application deadlines.
Refer to the College Planning: A Checklist for What to Do in High School for a full overview of exactly what to do at every step of the process.
Don’t get me wrong. I love me some school counselors.
They’re an amazing resource for students…when they have the time to devote to them. But it’s important for you and your teen know how to get the attention of the school counselor and work toward learning about how to plan for college on your own.
Let’s continue the conversation! Leave a comment below.