Don’t Blame Your School Counselor!

The college admission process does not begin in twelfth grade; it begins in ninth grade or even earlier. Yet, according to a NACAC survey, more than 50% of school counselors report spending less than 20% of their total time on college admission. Even if your school has a dedicated college counseling staff, chances are that each counselor has a caseload of hundreds of students. In fact, the average caseload for each counselor is roughly 500 students. If you do the math, you find that college counselors can only spend about 45 minutes with any one student over the course of three years, grades 10 through 12.

How much guidance can a counselor possibly give a student in 45 minutes? Perhaps they can show students how to use Naviance, how to set up a Common Application account, how to ask their teachers for college recommendations, and how to fill out the FAFSA and CSS forms. Maybe they can provide a little bit of guidance on writing essays. Perhaps your school has a college information night and a college fair. But these activities fall far short of what you actually need to know to master the college admission process. In all, there are approximately 20 factors that contribute to successful college applications. There is simply no way that school counselors can provide sufficient information about all of these activities in the limited time that they can dedicate to each student.

But don’t blame your school counselor. Instead, it is up to each and every student and family to take ownership over the college admission process. Don’t wait for your college counselor to contact you and don’t expect that your school’s counseling office will help your family to take full advantage of all opportunities. Matriculation to college is one of the most important activities families will ever undertake. Yet, most families spend less time preparing for college admission than they do planning a family vacation.

By the time most students reach twelfth grade, so many opportunities are already lost. Of course, even as a rising 12th grader, there are things you can do to maximize your opportunities. However, the earlier you start, the more attractive you can make your application to competitive colleges. Here are 20 suggestions for high school underclassmen (ninth through eleventh graders) who will be applying to highly competitive colleges:

  1.   Identify one characteristic that makes you an attractive college candidate, and choose activities that support that characteristic.
  2.   Create a multiyear test-taking and test-preparation plan, and stick to the plan.
  3.   Visit college websites and learn as much as possible. Request more information whenever possible.
  4.   Visit a number of colleges, and register with the admission office as a visitor.
  5.   Begin to tailor your school activities to liberal arts, science, business, or a career-related field such as medicine or law.
  6.   Get to know your teachers, and let them get to know you as well.
  7.   Ask to meet with your college counselor.
  8.   Set up your common application account early.
  9.   Choose summer activities wisely.
  10.   Improve your writing skills.
  11.   Maintain high grades. Use tutors if necessary.
  12.   Choose high-level courses whenever possible.
  13.   Prove that you are a person who takes full advantage of all opportunities you are given.
  14.   Show that you are responsible.
  15.   Stick with activities over a number of years.
  16.   Prove your leadership ability.
  17.   Work hard to earn high test scores.
  18.   Practice for your interview.
  19.  Take a public speaking course.
  20.  Prove to colleges that you are highly likely to be successful in college and in life.


Please feel free to contact us for more information.


NC Global Education

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