How to Make Your School Counselor Your Best Ally and Advocate

Here are three things you can do
March 23, 2020

Your school counselor has a big job, and part of that job is helping you (and all of your classmates) navigate the college admissions process. In that way, your school counselor is your ally.

But that is not all your school counselor does in the college admissions process. Your school counselor can also be your best advocate through the recommendation they will write for you and and through their conversations with admissions officers.

Many applicants do not appreciate how much influence your school counselor can have on the admissions officer’s evaluation. Admissions officers place a good deal of weight on what school counselors have to say about an applicant, and a negative report from a school counselor can be the kiss of death.

Here are three things you can do to make your school counselor your best ally and advocate throughout this process.

1. Do your part to make their job easy. School counselors work with LOTS of students, and the only way they can do that effectively is to use tools and systems to handle the load. You need to do your part by educating yourself about those tools and following the rules in the counselor’s system. Does your school use Naviance or some other online tool to help you with making your college list or handling your applications? Log on and explore what’s there. Are you required to turn in forms on certain days? Turn them in on time and fully completed.

2. Help your school counselor get to know you. It is easier to be an ally and an advocate for someone you know. So help your school counselor get to know you. If your school counselor offers individual appointments, schedule an appointment (likely online at the moment, for example on Zoom).  If your school counselor distributes questionnaires, fill them out completely and thoroughly. If your school counselor holds group sessions, attend them and participate. Take notes throughout so that you don’t have to ask your counselor to repeat information.

3. Communicate any special requests respectfully and with as much lead time as possible. School counselors want to help you – that’s why they got into this profession. So even though they are busy, they are usually willing to grant special requests if you ask respectfully and give them as much lead time as possible. Respectfully means recognizing that your school counselor is obligated to follow policies and the law. Lead time makes it possible for them to squeeze your request into an already packed schedule. Need a recommendation for a summer program? Ask as soon as you know, not the day before the application is due!

Anna Ivey is one of the founders of Inline. An experienced admissions consultant and a frequently cited media expert on the topic of college admissions, she is also co-author of the college admissions bible How to Prepare a Standout College Application. Learn more about Anna's background here.

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