40 Questions to Ask Your High School Guidance Counselor

Padya Paramita

40 Questions to Ask Your High School Guidance Counselor

So, you’ve begun thinking about college applications. The process can be intimidating, but there is no shortage of resources on the Internet or even at your own school in the form of your high school guidance counselor. Your college counselor should be the go-to person who helps you understand the basics of the process, organize school visits, help make your school list, and assist with any issues that might come up. Your counselor will also be writing a recommendation letter on your behalf, so it’s very important that you get to know this person and vice versa.

The question on your mind may be: where do you start? Once you’ve introduced yourself, it’s time to sit down and pick his/her brain as you gear up to decide what classes to take, where to apply, what the different application components entail, and how to succeed in the process. To guide you through making the most out of the resource that is your high school guidance counselor, we have outlined questions that can help you get the conversation started along with tips to take advantage of their support over the four years.

Choosing Your Classes and Scheduling

  • What classes should I take if I want to be an X major?
  • Which elective courses or AP classes do you recommend?
  • Do my courses show that I’m challenging myself?
  • How do I maintain a balance between juggling classes and extracurriculars?
  • Do you have any organizational or scheduling tips?
  • Should I take the SAT or the ACT?
  • When would be the best time to take the SAT/ACT?
  • Which SAT Subject Tests should I take and when?
  • How often should I meet with you to make sure I’m staying on track?

Exploring Your Interests and Pursuing Extracurriculars

  • What are some of the most impressive activities for a student interested in X?
  • Do you have any ideas for pursuing this activity in a way that is different from my peers?
  • Would X activity look good on my application?
  • How can I make the most of my leadership roles?
  • How can I take my participation in an activity to the next level?
  • What activities can I do at home while things are still online to get ready for college?
  • Are there any scholarships or awards I should work toward?
  • How do I decide whether I want to turn an interest into a career?

Building a School List

  • How can I decide between a college nearby or one far away?
  • How much should I consider rankings?
  • Which colleges do students from our school commonly apply to?
  • How have our admissions results been from school X?
  • Do you think I’d be more suited for liberal arts or a large national university?
  • Do you have college handbooks or other guides that I can browse or borrow?
  • What are suitable reach, fit, and safety schools for me?
  • What are the admitted student profiles like for the schools I have my eyes on?
  • Will you host any college fairs in the upcoming year?
  • Can you put me in touch with recent alums from our school who attend the colleges I’m interested in?
  • What should I look for when visiting campuses?
  • Do you know of any schools similar to the college I’m interested in?

Applying to College

Financial Aid and Scholarships

  • What forms do I use to apply for financial aid and where I can find them online?
  • Where can I find scholarship opportunities?
  • How does my family’s income affect my financial aid and scholarship opportunities?
  • Are there any scholarships you think I qualify for?
  • How do I appeal for more financial aid if necessary?

Counselor Recommendation

  • Do you need a brag sheet from me or my parents?
  • How can I help you know me better, so the letter can be more personal?
  • Could you please highlight X qualities in your letter?

How to Take Advantage of Your High School Guidance Counselor Over the Years

9th Grade

You should definitely start getting to know your high school guidance counselor as early as possible. Even though most students don’t look at colleges until the 10th or 11th grade, your high school counselor can be a valuable resource in helping you choose your classes, figure out your extracurricular activities, and codify your interests. As the semester continues, set up a time to talk with your counselor about which classes might be available to you in the upcoming semesters based on the courses you are taking today. If there are prerequisites necessary or certain grades you need to maintain to enroll in those courses, it’s helpful for you to be aware of them ahead of time so you can plan appropriately.

10th Grade

Many students start taking the college application process more seriously in the 10th grade. Sophomore year is also the time for you to prioritize your extracurriculars and take on leadership roles. If you’re considering dropping an activity, go over the pros and cons with your counselor. Discuss how you might step up as a leader in your favorite club, or how you can take on your own initiative to create an impact in your school or local community.

11th Grade

Ask your high school guidance counselor whether you should take the SAT or ACT — and with their help, register for a date that can allow you plenty of time to study, as well as retake the exam if necessary.

Once you start visiting colleges — whether in-person or online — make note of factors that stand out to you so that you can later discuss them with your high school guidance counselor. What did you like about what the college had to say? What majors did they talk about that you gravitated toward? How would your counselor suggest that you pursue courses and activities in a way that helps you stand out to the admissions officers from schools you’re interested in? Carefully consider their suggestions and use these to formulate a preliminary college list.

12th Grade

This is the year that you’re applying to college — so make sure you bring any last-minute questions that come up to your high school guidance counselor. If you started building the relationship early, your counselor should know you very well by now and can assist you with advice that’s specifically tailored towards you. Whether your questions revolve around little issues you’re facing with the Common Application, or how you believe a school might react to a certain personal statement topic, your counselor will continue to be your go-to throughout the application process. 

Since your counselor will write you a recommendation letter, it’s important to make sure they’ve been regularly kept up to speed on the things you are doing. Likewise, if you face any sort of challenges during your high school years, it’s important for your counselor to know this as well, so that they can help paint the best picture of any situations you’ve had to overcome while in high school.  

Your high school guidance counselor is there to advocate for you. Trust your counselor to be a resource you can turn to and ask questions that come up as you navigate the college application process. Building a strong relationship early in your high school career can help your counselor understand your personality, likes, and dislikes as well as support you in building your profile all throughout high school.

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