Ten Questions to Ask Your Guidance Counselor

Guidance Counselors
Guidance Counselors are There to Help You. Blend Images/Getty Images

It is a sad fact of life that high school counselors are often overworked. Often, one beleaguered counselor is responsible for hundreds of students. For this reason, you should plan counselor visits carefully, and know the right questions to ask when the opportunity arises.

It is the student’s responsibility to inform the counselor of his or her career and college goals. Smart students will visit the counselor’s office early and as often as possible.

Why? The more familiar you are to a counselor, the better advice you are likely to receive. It’s not that the counselor will play favorites, it’s just that (s)he is more likely to think of you if your face shows up in the office frequently, and is more likely to call on you when a scholarship offer appears in the mailbox .

This list can help you determine the questions that are relevant to your education goals.

1.Which diploma type is best for me?

This is one of the first decisions a student should make in high school. The type of diploma you earn will determine your choices after high school. Learn more about diploma types.

2. How can I improve my grades?

If you run into problems early in your high school career, you may be able recover your GPA in time for college consideration. Ask your counselor what courses you should take to achieve your goal. It might be necessary to change your diploma track—so ask.

3. Should I take AP courses?

AP courses can help you if you do well, but they have a down side. These courses are rigorous and they require a lot of hard work and commitment. At the end of the course, you can take an AP exam, and by passing, can earn credit toward college courses. On the down side, if you take an AP course and can’t handle the heavy work load, you may damage your GPA.

4. What activities impress college reps?

Discuss your college goals with your counselor. If you want to go to an Ivy League college, then your counselor can help you decide what activities will make you more attractive to admission representatives. If you’re only interested in one specific college, the counselor may know precise information about that college’s preferences.

Some colleges award scholarships based on leadership activities. If you are concerned about financing your education, you may want to determine how your participation in clubs and sports will demonstrate leadership.

5. How can I prepare for the SAT?

The counselor will provide books and/or computer programs to help you prepare. Sometimes students forget to ask!

The counselor will also keep a schedule of test dates and may inform you when it’s time to sign up.

6. Can I review my transcript?

It’s a good idea to take a look at your transcript from time to time, just to make sure the information is accurate. Everybody makes mistakes—even computers! Sometimes a transcript can lack important information like certain credits, courses, or grades that were changed upon completing a requirement. Also check to make certain that your class rank is accurate.

7. Where can I find my preferred major?

Your counselor may know off-hand what colleges offer a program you’re looking for, especially if you’re looking for a degree that is widely available. Some programs are more difficult to find, however. If you’re interested in finding a program that’s a little unique, your counselor will direct you to books or programs to help you with your search.

8. What should I ask a college representative?

College counselors will visit your school and they will travel around to college fairs. Before you speak with a college rep, do your homework! Determine the right questions to fit your specific needs.

For instance, you may want to limit your search to colleges that offer a degree in nursing, but also offer water polo scholarships. Talk with your counselor and develop a list of questions before you talk to the college rep!

9. When do I apply for college?

Some students will apply for college during their junior year, while some will wait until late in their senior year. The decision will depend on many factors, like your program of choice, your grades, and your target college. The counselor will help you make the right choice.

10. How do I apply for financial aid? When should I apply?

Don’t make the mistake of waiting too late! The counselor will help you determine the best time for applying for aid. The basic application will be available in the counseling office and online. Also, the counselor will receive notification of scholarship offers each month. Watch for announcements in newsletters, or just ask!