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Articles / Applying to College / What should my college counselor be doing?

Feb. 10, 2002

What should my college counselor be doing?

Question: What kinds of things should my college counselor be doing for me?

High-school college counselors are responsible to see that you satisfy all of your school's graduation requirements and that you get the support needed to make an informed and intelligent decision about higher education. In some cases, the counselor's job is, indeed, challenging.


One of the challenges facing college counselors is the sheer number of counselees they have. It isn't at all unusual for counselors in larger high schools to each have hundreds of students under their care. The result can be very frustrating for counselors who are dedicated to providing timely advice and direction. The lesson for you here is don't wait for things to happen; make them happen. You have to be proactive.

There is a relatively orderly procession of events in the college preparation process. I won't review them all here, but be aware that certain actions need to be taken at specific times during your passage through high school as you prepare for college admission.

You must be aware of the standardized tests, the SATI and SAT II, Advanced Placement (AP) courses and requirements, the best colleges that fit your and your family's needs, among other issues. Your counselor should be there during each phase of your progress from ninth grade through college applications in your senior year to help you answer questions and make decisions.

If you get a new counselor from year to year, you need to be especially proactive. First thing each year, visit with your new counselor. Introduce yourself so that he or she will remember who you are. Express the fact that you want to get the most out the counseling program's resources. Ask to get a quick tour of the facilities. Are there computer programs to help with college selection? Are there any SAT coaching materials or courses available? When will you be scheduled for a formal counseling meeting? Will your parents be involved? These are the types of questions you need ask.

These are some of the issues your counselor should be helping you to resolve.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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