This article is published in the 2014 I’m First Guide to College

By Mary Lee Hoganson

School counselors are one of the best sources of support for college-bound students. Whatever grade you are in, now is the time to start helping your counselor get to know you and your college dreams.

Introduce yourself and state clearly that it is your definite goal to attend college. Let your counselor know that, regardless of your test scores or grades to date, you are highly motivated. Also, make sure to tell your counselor about yourself: your interests, activities, college and career goals and family background — including what your parents do and whether or not anyone in your family has attended college. With this initial meeting as a good starting point, your counselor can help you plot a successful course for college.

Top 10 items to cover with your counselor:

1) Plan classes that will prepare you for college.

2) Review your academic record and suggest areas that need improvement.

3) Identify the questions you should be asking, like: Do I want to stay near  home? Does the college have my major? How important is size?

4) Get information about specific colleges and universities.

5) Identify opportunities like college fairs, weekend or summer programs on college campuses (often free for first-generation or low-income students), internships, or community college classes open to high school students.

6) Register for college admission tests and get fee waivers if your family can’t afford to pay for tests.

7) Write a letter of recommendation to colleges or universities.

8) Complete and submit college applications carefully and on time and ask colleges to waive application fees.

9) Figure out how to pay for college.

10) Compare offers of admission and financial aid from all of your colleges


There are a few other very important things to remember about working with your school counselor:

• Most school counselors have many, many students who they want to help. So make appointments early, show up on time and submit forms that require counselor completion well in advance of due dates.

• Make backup copies of everything you mail or give to your counselor.

• Make sure that you keep your counselor “in the loop” in terms of what you are hearing from colleges. If there are any problems which arise, your counselor can act as your direct advocate with colleges.

• If you think it would be helpful, try to schedule a meeting with your counselor and your parent(s). There are parts of the college process for which you will need a lot of help from them, such as completing the financial aid applications.

• Be sure to thank your counselor for assistance given. When you have made it successfully through the college selection and admission process, thank your counselor with a handwritten note (as well as any teachers who helped).

Mary Lee Hoganson has over 35 years experience as a high school counselor, 25 of those years focused on college counseling. She served as President of the National Association for College Admission Counseling in 2007.