irvin-85The role of the college counselor during a student’s college process is one of extreme importance. I can honestly say that I probably would not be where I am if it wasn’t for the guidance, support, encouragement and patience of my college counselor. It was he who ignited the idea that college could be attained. Because of him, I had a list of colleges that I could apply to by the middle of my junior year. His constant presence made being accepted into college not a matter of “if I get accepted” but rather a situation where I found myself asking the question “where will I get accepted to and would I go there.”

I know that I was (and continue to be) privileged to have such a great college counselor. With this quick post, I want to reach out to any college counselor that reads this and let him or her know a couple of things that made my college counselor so helpful during the college process.

I think that the most important aspect of a college counselor is to get to know the student that he/she is counseling. What I mean by getting to know is going beyond the surface of name and interest and what classes they are taking. My college counselor made the effort to really get to know me, get to know my family, my situation, my passions and my weaknesses. The conversations with him could last hours and hours and there would never be any awkward silence. I felt that he was really invested in my success and that made me comfortable to talk to him about anything. I believe that this is something really important for college counselors to have. By knowing your student, you will be able to know how to best help him. Sometimes, there are things that you would not know on the surface, such as passions, fears, family situations, aspects that play an important role in the college process. Thus, it is important for you to get to know your student and for the student to see you as a resource but also as a friend. In addition, knowing the student well allows you to write better letters of recommendation that come off as a personal reflection on the individual rather than a generic letter, listing broad strokes of the personality of the student.

Another piece of advice that I would give college counselors would be to instill the idea of college as early as they can. Just having the idea of wanting to go to college can have a great influence on academic performance during freshman, sophomore and junior year. I have personally seen friends who had big dreams of going to top schools but their dreams were not fulfilled since a poor academic performance during the early days of high school did not sit well with admissions. I believe that if a student becomes aware that he has the potential to go to college (or rather, just simply knowing that college is an attainable dream) from the very beginning of his high school career, he or she would be a lot more motivated and more willing to do well academically. In addition, I feel that if the idea of college is planted into the student from the beginning and then this idea is watered by a constant presence of a counselor reminding the student about college and the importance of it, the idea of going to college would become ingrained the mind of the student. In the absence of a college-focused environment, the counselor plays an important role in making a student excited about attending college and as I have said before, letting the student know that he can go to college.