Niche Resources

5 Important Questions to Ask Your Guidance Counselor

During the college application process, your high school guidance counselor is one of your best resources. Guidance counselors can ensure you’re on track for graduation, help you plan for and apply to colleges, assist with financial aid and scholarships, and more.

To help you make the most of your guidance counselor’s expertise, here are five questions you should ask.

But First: Keep Your Guidance Counselor in the Know

For your guidance counselor to give you quality advice, it’s important that she is informed about your interests, achievements, and educational and career goals.

Tell your guidance counselor about careers or majors you’re interested in, as well as some schools you’d like to attend. It’s a good idea to give your guidance counselor a copy of your resume so she knows about your involvement and any notable achievements or awards.

The better your guidance counselor knows you, the better the advice she’ll be able to provide.

1. What’s the best schedule for me?

Even if you’re an excellent student, it’s important to make sure you’re meeting all the requirements for graduation. Your guidance counselor can help you achieve this goal. He can also ensure your courses qualify you for college admission — and that they prepare you for college coursework.

If you’re considering taking AP classes, your guidance counselor can suggest some that would be a good fit. She can also help you determine if you’re truly ready to take AP courses, as well as how many you’ll be able to handle.

2. Are there any scholarships or awards I should work toward?

To answer this question properly, your guidance counselor will need to know about your interests, activities, and achievements. It can also help to know more about your background and religious affiliation (if applicable), as some scholarships are tied to these factors.

Awards can strengthen your college applications, while scholarships help you pay for school. Your guidance counselor is likely knowledgeable about national, statewide, and local scholarships and awards that you might qualify for.

Must-read: 5 Scholarships From Niche You Should Have Your Eye on 

Asking this question well in advance can give you time to plan and prepare for any awards or scholarships that you think would be a good fit. This may require you to participate or increase your participation in certain activities, meet a specific community service requirement, or improve your grades and/or test scores. To do this, you’ll need time!

3. What colleges do you think would be a good fit for me?

Your guidance counselor is likely familiar with many more colleges and universities than most people. Based on your grades, test scores, interests, and career goals, he should be able to suggest schools that would be a good fit for you.

You can also talk to your guidance counselor about whether you’d like to go to a large or small school (or maybe something in the middle?), where you’d like the school to be located, and any other factors that are important to you. Again, the more information your guidance counselor has, the better she can tailor her advice to your unique preferences and qualifications.

It’s helpful if you have a school or a few schools that already interest you in mind. This way, you can tell your guidance counselor, “Here are some schools I like. Do you know of similar schools that you can recommend?”

Additionally, your guidance counselor can determine if you have a good chance of getting into the schools on your list. She can help you categorize schools as safety, target, or reach schools and give you advice on how many schools you should be applying to. This gives you a strategic college application plan, ensuring you have somewhere to enroll in the fall (or several great options to choose from).

Paying for college can be complicated. Luckily, your guidance counselor can walk you through the process of applying for financial aid.

4. How do I apply for financial aid?

Paying for college can be complicated. Luckily, your guidance counselor can walk you through the process of applying for financial aid. This includes recommending scholarships or grants you might qualify for and giving you advice on scholarship/grant applications.

She can also tell you when and how to fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA determines whether students qualify for federal student aid in the form of loans, grants, or work-study programs. It’s a complex form, and many schools host events that teach students and parents how to complete it successfully. Ask your guidance counselor if your school has such an event. If not, she can offer you advice individually on filling out your FAFSA.

5. Is there anything else I should be doing to improve my chances?

Guidance counselors are resume pros, so provide your guidance counselor with a copy of yours. Then, ask if there’s anything else you should be doing to make your college application more competitive. Perhaps you should take the SAT one more time or, if time allows, add a few AP courses to your schedule.

Alternatively, you may need to deepen your involvement in extracurricular activities or find ways to serve your community. Perhaps some leadership experiences or awards would help you stand out.

If your guidance counselor feels that your resume is already highly competitive, ask what other steps you can take now to get ready for college. Should you start applying for scholarships, begin visiting schools, or get a head start on your essays? Your guidance counselor can help you build a plan for making the college application process as smooth and successful as possible.

Must-read: 5 College Essay Topics You Should Never, Ever Write About

The Bottom Line

Keep in mind that these questions are only a starting point. If you’re confused about other aspects of the college application process, your guidance counselor is an excellent source of information. In most cases, if your guidance counselor doesn’t have the answer to your question, he’ll be able to tell you where to find it.

Another important reminder is that your guidance counselor is likely very busy. And the busiest time for guidance counselors is college application season. When possible, schedule an appointment well in advance. This is helpful to your guidance counselor and gives you more time to implement her suggestions and advice.

Step up your college search on Niche

Author: Jason Patel

Jason Patel is the founder of Transizion, a college counseling and career services company that provides mentorship and consulting on college applications, college essays, resumes, cover letters, interviews, and finding jobs and internships. Jason’s work has been cited in The Washington Post, BBC, NBC News, Forbes, Fast Company, Bustle, Inc., Fox Business, and other great outlets. Transizion donates a portion of profits to underserved students and veterans in of college prep and career development assistance.