5 Ways High School Counselors Can Help Families Prepare for College

Don't overlook a helpful resource who is in your high school.

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When it's time to apply to colleges, it's advantageous for families to take advantage of as many tools and resources available as possible. One valuable source of information and support is the high school counselor.

JULIE:

The high school counselor is a resource that many parents overlook or underestimate. While an experienced counselor can make all the difference in the college search and application process, he or she is a busy professional whose efforts will probably match those of your student, so make sure to seek him or her out for assistance with the following:

1. Give you information about colleges that aren't on your radar: High school counselors have a lot of information about colleges. If your counselor knows something about the kind of school you're interested in or what you plan on studying, he or she can probably make some suggestions you haven't considered.

[Find out what to ask a high school counselor.]

Lindsey's counselor recommended a school where she ultimately won a full-ride scholarship. Although Lindsey decided to attend another school, it was very helpful to have an option we wouldn't have had without the counselor's suggestion. 

2. Help you navigate standardized testing: High school counselors have the 411 on whether you should take the ACT, the SAT, or both, and also where and when to sign up for those tests.

They can also advise you on what kinds of test preparations are available and how to strategize to raise your scores.

[See the role parents can play in college test prep.]

LINDSEY:

Involvement of counselors in each student's college admissions process likely depends on the high school and the student. There are ways, however, for students to engage any counselor and get the most out of the resource.

Here are some ways my counselor was able to help me that I hadn't anticipated.

1. Introduce you to important people: If you're serious about a particular school, ask your college counselor if there's anyone from admissions or financial aid you can talk to in order to increase your chances of getting in or getting scholarships.

Forming a relationship with a contact is a great way to learn more about the school, as well as make your name more familiar to those reviewing your applications.

2. Give previous examples of successes (and failures): Chances are your high school counselor knows someone who has applied to or attended the schools in which you are interested. Your counselor can explain to you how those who have applied before you fared, and how you can improve upon their efforts. In the best case scenario, those individuals can even mentor you and give you advice.

[Search the U.S. News college directory for schools.]

3. Provide off-beat scholarship opportunities: It's great to apply for those large, popular scholarships that everyone else is also going for, but your counselor can learn about your interests and activities and give you scholarship applications that are more well-suited for you.

Counselors are able to determine your chances for each scholarship and can advise you as to which applications are most worth your time.