What is the Role of a Guidance Counselor in the College Application Process?

Your college guidance counselor at your school is an instrumental person in your college admissions process. Though you mostly see them right now for occasional check-ins and receive emails from them, they will ultimately be someone who can be a true advocate for you throughout this process. Most important to consider, though, is that they will be writing you a recommendation letter. In the second round of admissions after grades and scores, their recommendation letter and your teacher recommendation letter are incredibly important factors. They write each student a recommendation letter, so it’s smart to get to know them early. While you can’t control the words that your counselor writes in their recommendation, you can certainly influence the content and tone with your actions. Here are some tips that we recommend for getting on your college guidance counselor’s good side.

  1. Introduce yourself to your guidance counselor as early as possible
    We know this sounds obvious, but the college counseling office can be intimidating and easy to walk by. Also, you might say to yourself, “the college application process doesn’t ‘technically’ start until after junior year, so what’s the use?” The use is, the earlier you introduce yourself (freshman year) and make an impression, the more substantial your recommendation will be, and the more they can and will advocate for you when it comes to writing the letter.

  2. Stop by and update them every other week
    Every couple of weeks, pop in during a time that you know they won’t be swamped with students and say hello, ask how they are, and update them on anything you’ve been doing. They’re interested in what you’re interested in. So, if you’re excited that you got an A on your English paper or that you completed your Introduction to Engineering online course, tell them. It’s an easy way to engage them and help them get to know you. If they see your face often, you will stand out.

  3. Make their lives easier
    During your check-ins, ask them how they are and if there is anything you can do to help them. They may quickly need you to run something up to the main office or organize their desktop. These little things add up and they will remember how generous you were with your time. We know that things get crazy junior year, but believe us, this is a worthy investment.

  4. Say thank you
    At the end of each semester, we suggest that our students write a handwritten thank you note and slip it in their guidance counselor’s mailbox. Just a couple of lines about how thankful you are for their patience and time will make a lasting impression.

  5. Make sure they have your complete, expanded resume for recommendation time
    Once senior year rolls around, it’s application time. You’re stressed, and let us tell you, your counselor is truly crunched for time. She has to keep hundreds of students organized, in addition to writing each letter of recommendation. It’s not a small or easy job, so make sure that you make her job easier by giving her your completed, expanded resume with a list of everything you have done and all of your accomplishments so that have all of your information (and a lot to write about!) at their fingertips.

We promise it’s really not that hard to get to know someone. And believe us, it’s much better to get to know someone before you ask them for a favor which you will undoubtedly be doing during the craziness of senior year. So get ahead and say “Hi.”