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Why Befriending Your Admissions Counselor Is So Important

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

I was an admission counselor for 12 years, and I firmly believe that it’s important to have admissions counselors in your corner during the college search.

Why? 

Easy: Your computer can’t completely help you navigate the drastic changes the college admissions landscape has undergone this year. In fact, as technology develops, many families believe they don’t need to get to know actual people. Big mistake.

You need a person at each school to help you pinpoint these (potentially confusing) changes.

I know you’re saying, “You mean I have to get to know admissions counselors at every single school on my list?! What if I’m looking at 10 schools?”

I hear you, but it’s worth it! Here’s why.

Why Get to Know Admissions Counselors? 

First of all, who are admissions counselors? 

Admissions counselors are the individuals at colleges and universities who work in the admissions office. They help facilitate the admissions process and distill the college search process into as few steps as possible for students. Admissions counselors often do the following: 

  • Meet with families on campus
  • Communicate with students via text, email and phone calls
  • Attend college fairs
  • Meet with students at their high schools
  • Communicate with school counselors
  • Help applicants through the admissions process and offer a timeline and checklist
  • Read applications
  • Communicate students’ needs to other individuals at the college or university 
  • Help families understand scholarships and financial aid
  • Manage a territory 
  • And more!

In other words, admissions counselors do everything they can to work “their” students through the admissions process so they matriculate, or become students at the colleges or universities where they work.

So, why get to know them? Well, for all the reasons listed above. They’re there to help you choose your best fit. A good admissions counselor will help you find the best fit for you (even if it’s not at the college or university where they work).

 

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How to Get to Know Admissions Counselors 

It’s relatively easy to get to know admissions counselors because they’re pretty peppy individuals. (A college won’t hire someone who’s not overly ecstatic about the college during the interview process.) How to get to know these awesome individuals:

 

Step 1: Figure out who your admissions counselor is at each school.

This is pretty easy to do! Search online to figure out who your admissions counselor is. Usually, you can find this under the “admissions” tab on the college or university’s website. Next, click on a map of the United States or click on your state or area and write down the name of your admissions counselor for that particular college.

You can email or call the admissions office if you prefer or if you can’t decipher who your admissions counselor is from the admissions office website.

 

Step 2: Introduce yourself to your admissions counselors.

You must introduce yourself!

Think about how many students admissions counselors work with on a daily basis. Sometimes hundreds, sometimes thousands, depending on the admissions counselor’s territory and the size of the institution.

Unless you make your name well known to the admissions counselor, he or she will not know you. 

Email or call your admission counselors. It’s the best way to get a hold of them!

 

Step 3: Add questions to your email or jot them down before your phone call. 

You probably have a few questions for your admissions counselor, such as the admissions requirements for that particular school, whether you need to take the ACT or SAT and more. 

If you haven’t formed a lot of questions (particularly if you’re just getting started on the college search), you can always table that conversation and use your first reach-out as a simple introduction.

When is the best time to reach out to an admissions counselor? 

Anytime! It’s a great idea to start that process right before you start senior year. If you have questions as a junior in high school, feel free to reach out then, too.

 

Step 4: Get out of class and see admissions counselors!

Admissions counselors traditionally visit lots of high schools in their territories every fall and make themselves completely accessible for about an hour at each high school they visit. They usually offer handouts, answer questions and try their hardest to encourage you to visit campus. They almost always paint an exciting picture of what it’s like to go to that particular college or university.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this isn’t as easy-peasy as it used to be. However, if admission counselors are visiting your high school, get permission from your English teacher and schedule your meeting or fill out the sign-up sheet in your college or career counselor’s office or school counselor’s office. Mask up, use the hand sanitizer — do whatever’s required, because this is a great way to get to know admissions counselors.

Admissions counselors may conduct Zoom meetings instead. You can still get to know your admissions counselors this way — and it’s to your advantage to do so. 

 

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Step 5: Visit with admissions counselors during college visits.

Visiting with admissions counselors during a personal campus visit on a college campus is often the best way to get all of your individual questions answered. So take advantage of it!

Request to meet with your admissions counselor at each college you visit. Each admissions counselor will be able to give you insider details on campus life, classes, the best professors, admissions requirements and much more. Get to know these remarkable individuals!

 

Step 6: Follow up.

Did you understand everything after your college visit? Of course not. You thought of about 1,000 questions on the way home, and that’s perfectly natural. 

Luckily, you’ve started developing a relationship with your admissions counselor! You have that business card in hand, and now’s the time to reach out with any follow-up questions, whether they’re related to admissions requirements, SAT/ACT questions, admissions deadlines, financial aid questions, campus culture and more.

Pro tip: Scribble down a few questions in the car ride on your way home so you don’t forget. 

 

Step 7: Develop a relationship — yourself.

Unfortunately, students (yes, you!) aren’t engaged enough in the process — I noticed that parents called, emailed, followed up and built the relationship in many cases. Parents and family members play important roles in the college search process, but who calls when a student gets denied admission?

The parent.

Get engaged in the process — your parents aren’t going to college! You are. Talk with your parents about your college search and ask them for help getting to know admissions counselors, but make sure that you ask questions, reach out and make phone calls — not your parents.

The admissions counselor is there to give great advice. An admissions counselor can be a mentor, a sounding board and even a friend. 

In fact, an admissions counselor can be the reason you choose a particular school. 

 

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Long-Term Benefits 

Did you know that getting to know your admissions counselors can have long-term benefits, too? Admissions counselors typically know a lot of people on campus and can get you connected. For example, this actually happened when I was an admissions counselor:

Professor: “I really need a new student assistant for my microbiology lab.” 

Me: “Really? Have you met Sarah Smith? She’s a new first-year student planning to major in biology. She also won our environmental science scholarship last semester. She’d be an excellent candidate.”

Professor: “You don’t happen to have her contact information, do you?”

Me: “I sure do! In fact, I’ll send an email introducing the both of you right when I get back to my office.”

See how that can benefit you in the long term? 

Get to Know Your Admissions Counselors

Is it in your best interest to get to know them? You bet. And you’re missing out if you don’t bother.

In fact, you might want to go the extra mile. Send thank-you notes. Send a plate of cookies. The students I’ve never, ever forgotten (and who I wanted to do more for all the time) were the ones who truly appreciated the work I did for them.

That’s the same with anyone you work hard to appreciate. Have you ever noticed how a teacher bends over backward to help you when you bring her brownies? Have you noticed how your next-door neighbor chose you to mow her lawn (over all the competition of other teens in the neighborhood) because you bring treats for her cat?

Trust me, when you do this kind of stuff altruistically, it makes a difference. If you truly care about building a relationship, it’ll pay dividends in the long run.

Author: Melissa Brock

Melissa Brock is the founder of College Money Tips and Money editor at Benzinga. She loves helping families navigate their finances and the college search process. Check out her essential timeline and checklist for the college search!