Your Counselor and the Application Process
Your school counselor is there to help you understand how to apply to colleges and to work with you to find a good college fit. Counselors want to make the college application process easier. And you can help by getting informed and being prepared.
Beginning the Application Process
Think of the college application process as a series of steps you need to complete. Your counselor can help you focus on the tasks you need to do and when. Here are some useful questions you can ask your counselor when you begin your college application process.
Your school counselor can help you explore your interests, understand your strengths and create a list of potential colleges for you to research. If there’s anything you don’t understand about a college’s requirements (or anything else), ask your counselor to explain. And if you’re trying to decide when to take an admission test, or whether to apply early, get your counselor’s advice. Your counselor also deals with the mechanics of sending your transcripts and writing recommendation letters.
A Counselor’s Work
Your counselor wants to help you and your fellow students successfully apply to colleges. However, it’s important that you stay on top of the process, since a lot of it is up to you. Although counselors are a good resource for you, they often have as many as 500 students to help at the same time. In addition to college counseling, counselors may be working with students with academic, career and personal issues; providing classroom assistance; administering tests; giving administrative support; and helping in many other ways. They are especially busy when it’s college application time.
Tips for Making the Most of Your Counselor’s Time
To make the most of your time with your counselor, schedule meetings and come to these meetings prepared. These five tips can help you be efficient.
1. Be Responsible. Ultimately, you want to go to a college that’s a good fit for you. Take charge of the application process. Find out your school’s process, know your deadlines, keep in contact with your counselor and perform the legwork necessary to get the job done.
2. Be Organized. Make a chart to keep track of different colleges’ requirements, and mark a calendar with your application deadlines. Have a separate folder for each application so you can keep materials organized and easy to access. Know your school’s process and schedule for asking for recommendations, and write your essays well ahead of the deadlines.
3. Be Early. In the case of college applications, on time might not be good enough. Essays, recommendations and transcript request forms should all be completed and submitted at least two weeks before the application deadline. Counselors and support staff members usually fill these requests on a first-come, first-served basis, so get in line as early as possible.
4. Be Ready. Even when you apply to a college online, some parts of the application must be sent by mail. Leave time for the U.S. Postal Service to deliver your application and for the college’s internal mail service to process it. And don’t wait until the last minute to submit online — the website could have technical problems if too many students are trying to use it at the same time. Finally, factor in some additional time for unanticipated errors and delays.
5. Be Positive. The college application process, although time-consuming, is a good chance for you to discover yourself, what you are interested in and your opportunities for the future. This may be one of the most complex tasks you’ve ever taken on, but it’s a good introduction to the multifaceted projects you’ll be handling in college and in life. Organization, communication, patience and reasonable expectations are the keys to making it a manageable and successful experience.