When beginning the college admissions process, it’s important to work closely with your school counselor – he or she can serve as a resource for information on developing a college list, standardized tests and financial aid.
Because the ratio of students to guidance counselors can be as high as 500:1, however, working with just your school counselor is not enough. (In private high schools, the ratio can be 50:1, and in the best public high schools, 150 or 200:1.) A school counselor’s role also includes helping students with behavioral problems, mental health issues and administrative work, such as course scheduling. School districts need to hire more school counselors, and these counselors require training from college admissions officers to help guide students. Unfortunately, budgets today do not allow this.
There are many benefits to working with an independent admissions counselor:
- Inside knowledge. An admissions counselor who has experience working inside an admissions office will provide a unique perspective. What will admissions officers be looking for? What do admissions officers want to read in an essay? Admissions counselors can also direct you to universities that are well aligned with your interests and qualifications.
- One-on-one guidance. You’re not just a number – though it might seem that way if you attend a large high school. The best way to get the individual attention you deserve is through an independent counselor.
- Advice on standardized exams. Many students simply take exams for the sake of taking them – instead, it’s best to understand which exams you should take, and how many times, to maximize your scores and limit the number of tests you take. A former admissions officer will give the best advice on exams and exam strategies.
- Tracking deadlines. A private admissions counselor can help you stay on track. Over the summer, you will not be hearing from your school counselor about your essays and applications, or about completing your résumé. Preparing early and staying organized – well ahead of deadlines – is critical for success in the admissions process.
- Strategy. Application strategy is part of the admissions process. Should you apply early action? Early decision? Rolling or regular decision? Where will you have the highest likelihood of gaining admission, and why?
- Planning. An admissions counselor isn’t just for seniors and rising seniors. He or she can also help younger students as well – from planning which classes to take, to brainstorming ideas for extracurricular involvement, to summer planning. There is no set formula to advising students; instead, it’s important for students to find their passions, both academic and non-academic, to come across as interesting, unique and likable to admissions officers.
Most importantly, an independent admissions counselor will provide a sounding board for all your admissions questions and help to eliminate the stress that comes with the college admissions process!
Attending the right college is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make – an admissions counselor will ensure it’s the right one.