When you start applying to colleges, you may find yourself inundated with information from family and friends. Their anecdotes and advice may be helpful, as might any assistance they can provide in doing research or providing necessary data for your forms. But you'll have to seek out one of the most invaluable assets: your college counselor. (You might also consider enlisting the help of an independent counselor.) Here are three ways your high school's on-site counselor can be of service to you.
There are students who know exactly what they want out of their college experiences — what kind of campus culture will help them thrive, which programs will best set them up for success in their careers, or even what kind of housing will make them feel at home. Others may be less certain.
Determining what you want out of your college experience is one of the most standard conversations you can have with your counselor. And it can happen as early as you want it to. Whether you're a first-year student or a senior about to graduate — and sometimes even after you've left the school — a high-school counselor is available to help you. The goal of those early chats can be to make a sort of college wish list that can help guide your search later on.
Using that wish list, you'll be able to sort through all of the colleges out there — and there are thousands! — to settle on the few that offer what you're seeking. Those schools might be a combination of the most talked-about Ivy Leagues and of schools that weren't on your radar before, and the only way to know is to sift through the masses to find what you want.
But that task can be arduous, and counselors are aware of the tools you can use to complete it in ways that the average student might not be. They can help you search for colleges online or use college rankings to nail down a few solid options to start the application process. Plus, the same process can be done again once your acceptances start rolling in, with your counselor helping you compare financial aid packages and program offerings as you come to a decision about which school you'll attend.
There's really no way to avoid stress entirely when applying to college. That comes part and parcel with any major step in life. In fact, 73 percent of respondents to our annual College Hopes and Worries survey gauged their stress levels as Very High or High. However, it can help to have someone like a counselor who's familiar with the process.
Even if your counselor does nothing more than serve as a sounding board for the ideas you're tossing around, knowing that you're guaranteed a pair of impartial ears should help to take some of the stress off. Their ability to help identify your best-fit school and tell you whether you're on the right track to getting into it can then reduce even more of that anxiety.
For more ways to have targeted conversations, check out this list of decisions to make with your counselor. And for help tackling any other part of the admissions process, check out our YouTube series, College Admission 101, or pick up the book that inspired it.
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