When students start learning about the college admissions process, typically during their freshman year of high school if not before, there’s a lot of uncertainty around what their admissions journey might look like.
While every student will have the support of their friends, family, and teachers, it can also be beneficial to receive personalized guidance from a trusted source who knows the admissions process inside and out—which is exactly what your counselor can help you with.
College counselors can work with students one-on-one to guide them through every step of the process, from researching schools to finalizing their best-fit list. If you’ve ever wondered ‘what does a college admissions counselor do?’, keep reading to find out more about how they can help guide you during your college search.
What is a College Counselor?
College counselors are admissions experts who work closely with students to identify best-fit schools and help future applicants compile applications that showcase their strengths in the best light possible.
When you work with your college counselor, you can identify your admissions goals, create a plan of action, and evolve your strategy as you progress through high school. College counselors can serve as mentors to students, guiding them throughout their academic journey and answering any questions that arise along the way.
Ideally, you’ll want to choose a college counselor who possesses recognized certifications, such as those from the National Association of College Admissions Counselors and/or the Independent Educational Consultant Association. You should select someone you can trust and develop a rapport with, especially since your counselor should also help you manage college admissions stress.
What Does a College Counselor Do?
A college counselor’s role will vary depending on the student they are working with and their area of expertise. However, generally speaking, college counselors will have several responsibilities, including interviewing prospective students, conducting research, and discussing application strategies to make sure students present themselves in the best light possible.
When a student works with a college counselor, it is still the student who is taking the lead and assuming ownership of the admissions process. The counselor acts as a coach or mentor and is there to manage the college admissions process.
One of the main responsibilities college counselors have is helping students make the most of their college search. Some students start the application process with preconceived notions about where they should apply. This is where a college counselor is especially helpful because they can encourage students to move away from schools that might sound “good” and discover choices that are really the best fit for them.
Personality Profiling and Report Collection
College counselors don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to working with students. Instead, they learn about each student individually and assess their personality and strengths and weaknesses to determine the best admissions strategy.
Based on what the college counselor discovers, they will create a specific plan of progression that aligns with the student’s needs and goals.
Students can also work with their college counselor to choose which college to enroll in. Oftentimes, students may be weighing the pros and cons of attending several institutions, and find themselves with a difficult decision to make.
While the choice is ultimately in the student’s hands, the college counselor can help them consider every factor that goes into deciding, such as evaluating financial aid packages and extracurricular offerings.
How To Choose Your College Counselor
Once a student decides they’re interested in individualized guidance, the next step is choosing a college counselor to work with. However, since IECA estimates that there are approximately 8,000 full-time counselors in the United States, it’s not always an easy decision.
To make a choice that sets them up for success, students need to understand what to look for in a college counselor. First and foremost, it’s important to seek out application consultants who possess recognized certifications, such as those from the National Association of College Admissions Counselors (NACAC) and/or the Independent Educational Consultant Association (IECA), to ensure the counselor is reputable.
Students should also consider a college counselor’s background, location, and areas of expertise. Ideally, you want to choose a college counselor that has direct admissions experience and specializes in fields that you’re interested in, such as someone with expertise working with athletic recruits if you’re hoping to play college tennis.
You might also want to consider a college counselor’s location and decide whether you would prefer to work with someone face-to-face or virtually. While there are advantages to each, working with a counselor remotely broadens your options.
How To Work With Your College Counselor
Working with a college counselor is an entirely unique experience for students. While there might be some parallels between how you interact with your teachers, your college counselor is going to be able to give you a level of personalized attention that may be difficult to achieve inside the traditional classroom. To make the most of this one-of-a-kind opportunity, there are three steps students should aim to follow when working with their college counselor:
Step 1: Set Your Priorities
At the start of your work with your college counselor, it’s important to identify your priorities. Your college counselor is here to provide support and guidance, but they need to understand what you’re working towards to maximize their impact. Take some time to reflect on exactly what you’re hoping to achieve by working with a college counselor and write down a list of 3-5 goals you wish to accomplish. Ideally, your objectives should follow the S.M.A.R.T goals framework, meaning they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Sensitive.
Step 2: Communicate Your Wants and Needs
Once you’ve identified your goals, make sure to share them with your college counselor. They will be able to review them with you, offer any feedback on the objectives you’ve identified, and use this information to create a plan of action. Throughout your time working with your college counselor, it’s imperative that you develop a rapport with them. Be open about your communications preferences, any questions or concerns that arise, and how you’re feeling about the process.
Step 3: Listen to Your Counselor’s Advice
Make sure you’re taking the advice your counselor provides. If you have any questions about their recommendations, don’t be afraid to ask them. Remember that your college counselor is here to guide you throughout your admissions journey, so take advantage of their expertise and listen to what they have to say.
Why Do I Need a College Counselor?
The college admissions process is a multi-year journey and every student can benefit from support along the way. Students who choose to seek help when applying to college will enjoy a reduced sense of admissions-related stress and a self-esteem boost.
College counselors can serve as mentors throughout the admissions process, and help students identify colleges that are truly the best fit for their academic, social, and financial needs. If financial aid is a significant decision factor, your college counselor can also help you compare aid packages and identify scholarships opportunities.
If you’re still wondering how to begin your college journey, start with these 6 questions you should ask your college counselor.