Putting Your School Counselor to Work
The college counselor at your high school is an important resource for planning for and applying to college. The counselor is there to help you, but it’s key that you prepare for any meetings to make the best use of your time. Your counselor is also helping tons of other students apply to college at the same time -- the national student-to-counselor ratio is 1:482 -- so doing a little research on your own and approaching your college counselor with a plan can help you work together to find the best school for you and build a competitive application. Get a jump start on your college planning process with these essential questions.
1. When Should I Start Thinking About Applying to College?
While you should be thinking about your high school transcript when you register for your ninth grade classes, you don't need to map out a full plan for applying to college until 10th grade. If regular check-ins with your college counselor are an option, use them to review your academic progress and class choices.
2. How Do I Find A College That's Right for Me?
Work with your counselor to identify your interests, strengths, goals and challenges. These will provide a set of criteria you can use to compare colleges and find the schools that suit you academically, financially and culturally. College counselors are pros at helping you research schools and then narrowing your list to the schools that will fit you best, and where you have the best chance of getting in.
3. Which Classes Should I Be Taking?
Working with your college counselor on a smart high school plan (which courses to take and when) will help you balance your time and coursework, and will build a strong high school transcript for your college apps.
4. Should I Take the ACT or SAT?
Most colleges accept scores from either test, so you can take the test on which you will earn the highest score. Your counselors can help you understand the differences between the ACT and SAT and identify the tests that will best display your strengths. They can also help you find the best test prep option for your needs and budget.
5. Which Extracurricular Activities Will Help Me Get Into College?
What you do with your time outside of class shows college admissions officers who you are and what qualities you’ll bring to campus. Your college counselor can help you find the opportunities best suited for you and help you use them to present the real you — beyond grades and test scores — to colleges.
6. What Do Admissions Officers Look for in An Application Essay?
The college application essay is your chance to show schools who you are. Your English teacher can help you with grammar and style. Counselors can help you choose a topic that will convey your maturity and perspective to the admissions committee. Your counselor may not be able to read every draft of your essay, but can help you craft an outline and provide constructive feedback.
7. Who Should I Ask to Write My Letters of Recommendation?
Selective colleges use letters of recommendation to assess how you respond to challenges and your overall character. With your counselor, make a list of potential recommenders who can best speak to your abilities.
8. What Should I Expect in A College Interview?
Many colleges encourage you to interview with an admissions representative or alum as part of the college application process. Your college counselor can help you prepare for your interview. Depending on your school, part of your counselor’s job may be arranging for interviewers or admissions reps to visit your high school and meet with prospective students -- a great opportunity to indicate interest in specific colleges.
9. Will Applying Early Decision Increase My Chances of Getting in?
Applying Early Decision can sometimes give you a competitive edge -- with the emphasis on sometimes. This will be unique to your applicant profile and the school to which you are applying, so it’s something you will want to discuss in detail with your counselor.
10. How Do I Apply for Financial Aid?
Applying for financial aid can be overwhelming. Your counselor can break the process down for you (and your parents!), including when to fill out the FAFSA and how to search for scholarships.
Looking for more college advice? Get one-on-one help from former Ivy League and top-tier admission officers. The Princeton Review’s College Admission Counselors can help you find, apply and get accepted to your dream school.