A guidance counselor can be your advocate, providing advice and support throughout high school and the college application process.
Your counselor can help you:
- organize your class schedule
- research and choose colleges
- obtain fee waivers for exams and college applications
- write letters of recommendation for your college applications.
- navigate financial aid forms
- serve as your guide in knowing what else is out there. You don’t always know what you’re missing, and your counselor can help alert you to opportunities which you may not have found on your own.
Guidance counselors are not required in all states, so in some cases you may need to serve as your own counselor.
Even if you have a counselor, remember that you are still
ultimately responsible for keeping yourself informed.
Your counselor may be overwhelmed with the large number of students that he or she needs to work with. It may be difficult for your counselor to get to know you, your goals, and your needs, and help you figure out what would be best for you. You can help your counselor get to know you, for instance by being proactive about scheduling appointments.
Additionally, since counselors can be very busy, it can be difficult for them to keep up on all of the opportunities that might be relevant to you. You should always do your own research rather than relying upon others to bring opportunities to you. Often, counselors learn from their students, and any information you send their way can be used to help others.
Recognize the demands your counselor has on his or her time,
and consider how well he or she knows you. These things influence
how effective your counselor can be as your advocate.
- Counselor to student ratio. Nationally, the average ratio of high school counselors to their students is 1:500. This means one counselor must assist in organizing class schedules, and choosing and applying to college, for five hundred students. The American School Counseling Association and the American Counseling Association both recommend a minimum counselor to student ratio of 1:250, with the ideal goal of 1:100. Your counselor may be overwhelmed by having to juggle hundreds or even thousands of students, making it difficult to know the personalities, goals, and needs of each student.
- Counselor’s knowledge and support for you. This is something that is more difficult to determine, but for a number of reasons, you may sense that your counselor may not be able to provide the information or support you need.
What can you do if your school does not have a counselor?
Or, what if your counselor is not your most effective guide or advocate?
- You will need to serve as your own counselor, utilizing a variety of sources to keep yourself informed. Lots of information is available on the internet, from information on what classes are required by colleges, to how to pay for college, to how to select a college.
- In addition, you may wish to look to favorite or inspirational teachers who may assist you as your advocate and guide. These individuals can provide support as well as wisdom from their experiences.