You may not realize it, but your high school has an invaluable resource that can make it easier to get into college and get financial aid: your high school counselor.
Most schools have counselors available to students; in fact, 85% of public schools and 48% of private secondary schools have at least one counselor on staff. But you may not realize how much help your high school counselor can give you.
If your school has counselors available, these are the best questions to ask your college counselor so you’re ready for college.
15 good questions to ask your college advisor
Although some schools may have counselors dedicated solely to navigation college admissions and financial aid, most counselors are more generalists and help with everything from choosing high school courses to dealing with personal issues.
The best questions to ask a college counselor depend on what stage you are currently in:
About High School Classes
You can start planning your college education as early as your freshman year of high school. As a high school student, ask your counselor the following questions:
1. What is the right high school schedule for me?
If you want to go to college, it’s essential to balance classes with extracurricular activities. Colleges look beyond grades; they want well-rounded students who can improve the campus. Your counselor can help you consider both your college requirements and your interests to develop a schedule that incorporates your classes, community service, and extracurricular activities like sports or drama.
2. What courses should I take to be ready for college?
Colleges consider your grades, but they also want to see that you’ve taken challenging courses. Top-tier colleges, such as Ivy League universities, often expect applicants to take AP-level and Honors courses.
Ask your advisor which courses to take based on your targeted list of potential universities.
3. Should I take the SAT or the ACT? Should I take both? Or do I have to take them at all?
The SAT and ACT are two standardized tests that most colleges require as part of the admissions process. Some schools have a preference for one test over another, and some schools require neither (also called “test-optionalapplications). Your advisor will determine which test is best suited for the universities you have selected.
4. How can I prepare for the SAT/ACT?
Your SAT or ACT scores can help you get into your dream school — and potentially qualify for merit aid. Ask your advisor about the best way to prepare. Your advisor may be able to recommend free books, online resources, and test preparation materials that you can use to study for the exam. They may also be able to direct you to practice exams that you can take to get an idea of what to expect.
5. Are my current grades high enough to get into my first choice college?
Some colleges are extremely selective; for example, Harvard University’s acceptance rate was only 3.41% this year, making it the hardest school to get into in the country.
Your high school counselor can review your transcript with you and tell you what grades you need to get into your college of choice. If your grades are not where they should be, your counselor can give you an idea of what you need to improve to increase your chances of being accepted or help you identify alternative schools.
About College Readiness
During your junior or senior year of high school, the college admissions process heats up. You will refine your list of universities, visit campuses, and complete and submit applications. Your advisor plays a central role during this time, and asking the following questions will help you prepare:
1. Is there a university fair nearby?
If you’re unsure where you want to go to college, college fairs are a great way to explore your options. Colleges from across the country come to these fairs to share information about their programs and campuses, and school representatives can tell you what sets their college apart. Your advisor can give you details of upcoming college fairs in your area.
2. When should I start applying to colleges?
When it comes to applying for your dream school, timing is everything. Some schools have strict deadlines, and your counselor will be able to tell you when those deadlines are and gather the right materials so you can submit your application on time.
In most cases, you have until January or February to submit your application. But some schools give preference to students who apply early action or early decision, which would require you to submit your application months earlier. the deadline for a quick decision and quick action is usually in November.
Your advisor can also remind you of important tasks before deadlines, such as requesting transcripts or asking teachers for letters of recommendation.
3. What do college admissions officers look for in a college essay?
Your college essay is one of the most important parts of your application; it’s your chance to tell your story and give admissions officers a better understanding of who you are. Your advisor can review the essay with you and give you feedback that will improve your essay.
4. What should I expect in a university interview? How should I prepare?
Some schools require – or recommend – applicants to complete an in-person or virtual interview. If you’ve never participated in a college interview before, it can be nerve-wracking. Your advisor can make sure you are ready; they can provide typical questions asked by interviewers and give you tips on how to give the best answers to showcase your talents and accomplishments.
5. What should I do when visiting a university campus?
If you have the opportunity to organize a campus tour, it is an excellent idea. There’s no better way to get a sense of campus. Your advisor can help you create a tour schedule based on your interests and goals so you don’t miss any important places on campus.
About Financial Aid
When it comes to paying for college, your high school or college counselor is an essential resource.
At the start of the financial assistance process, ask your advisor the following questions:
1. How does the financial aid process work?
The financial aid process is complex and many students find it overwhelming. Your advisor can explain the different types of assistance, such as Scholarships And subsidies, and identify resources that can help you find additional help. They will also outline the steps you need to follow to qualify for assistance, such as complete the free application for federal student aid (FAFSA) or state forms.
2. What forms should I use to apply for financial aid and where can I find them online?
All students must complete the FAFSA. But depending on where you live and the college you have selected, there may be additional forms to fill out, such as the CSS profile. Your counselor can tell you which forms you need to fill out to get public or institutional help.
3. Are there any good scholarships or grants I could apply for?
Many students are surprised to learn that there are billions of dollars available in scholarships and grants that you can use to pay for your college education. Your advisor will be able to share valuable resources on where to find these opportunities, such as College Board Scholarship Search Tool And Fast Web.
4. What is the deadline for financial aid?
Applications for financial assistance have strict deadlines. Although the federal FAFSA deadline isn’t until the end of June, many states and colleges have much earlier deadlines and some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so it’s beneficial to finish early. Your advisor can tell you when to submit your applications for financial assistance to ensure you don’t miss a deadline and get the maximum amount of assistance available.
5. What should I do if I am not receiving enough financial aid?
Unfortunately, this is a common problem: after receiving your letter of acceptance and financial aid package, you discover that you were not entitled to sufficient assistance to cover the total cost of your participation. If this happens, you might feel like your dream school is out of reach. But your advisor can work with you to identify other options.
In some cases, your advisor may be able to help you apply for additional financial assistance. Or they can help you find other financial aid opportunities, such as independent scholarships, work-study programs, or student loans.
Now that you know the best questions to ask your school counselor, you’ll be better prepared to begin the college admissions process.
Asking your counselor the right questions will give you the information you need to choose high school classes, select a college that’s right for you, and qualify for financial aid. Having these conversations with your counselor early in the college admissions process will make the transition much easier.