As students try to figure out the college admissions process, it would seem their high school counselor is the logical go-to person.
Yet, a survey released last month showed that just 4 in 10 students said they received college information from their high school counselor. Students said they felt counselors were unapproachable and lacked adequate knowledge.
Just how can students best tap into the resources of their school counselor?
The National Association for College Admission Counseling suggests the following strategies for students:
• Don't settle for a group meeting with your counselor, set up an individual appointment and show up on time;
• Include parents in a meeting when it comes time for completing financial aid applications;
•Submit any forms that require counselor completion well in advance of due dates;
• Carefully follow school procedures for turning in applications and related forms or for securing transcripts;
• Make copies of everything that is given to the counselor.
• Keep the counselor informed of any word from colleges. If problems arise, counselors can act as a liaison with colleges.
• Express thanks. The counseling door is always open to students who show that they are appreciative of a counselor's time and effort.
Counselors can be especially helpful in guiding students to enroll in the right courses to be prepared for college.(See NACAC's list of classes needed to meet expectations at a majority of colleges here.)
Unfortunately, at a time when counselors are needed the most, many are stretched. On average, every school counselor has a caseload of 459 students, despite the recommendation by the American School Counseling Association of a 250-to-1 ratio of students to school counselors.
And too often counselors are bogged down with menial tasks when their talents could be better used helping students explore college and career options, according to a report earlier this year from Education Trust.
Recognizing the critical role that counselors play in helping students prepare for college, NACAC has called for additional training requirements for college-admissions professionals in a paper released this summer.