Wednesday’s Parent: School counselors and the parent/student team

Meet with your school counselor. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Meet with your school counselor. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

School counselors are often the first professional who introduces the college process to students and parents. They may bring outside speakers in to supplement their own in-house programs about admission and financial aid. With cutbacks in education funding, there is even more pressure on high school counselors, college-bound students and their parents to find expert info to navigate the complicated college process.

When I speak at high schools, middle schools, public libraries and private groups, my favorite part is the Q&A session. The comments reflect parent and student consistent concerns. They are worried about the coming changes, stressed about the increased to-do list, and scared about the financial and emotional costs.

When the parent/student team partners with a school counselor, they have access to a valuable resource. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) explains the credentials of professional school counselors, formerly referred to as guidance counselors, as state certified/licensed educators with a minimum of a master’s degree in school counseling. As vital members of the education team, they can help students in the areas of academic achievement, personal/social development and career development.

School counselors may meet with students alone and/or with their parents to form a plan of classes, programs and services to satisfy student immediate needs and future goals. For the college-bound, school counselors play an important part. They are often responsible for submitting school transcripts, general school information and specifics about class ranking, and teacher and school recommendation letters to the colleges students indicate they are submitting admission applications.

When going to any professional for advice, it is helpful to prepare. Use the parent-student team meeting to brainstorm questions and think about different scenarios. School counselors have limited time to spend on an individual student so maximize the chance to pick their brain.

Here are ten questions and topics for the college-bound to ask and explore when meeting with their school counselor. The last one is a biggie:

  1. How can I improve my academic standing, extracurricular choices, and college admission chances?
  2. I don’t know what to study in college. Please help me match my interests and skills to career possibilities and colleges with the best programs for me.
  3. What websites and other resources should I use to help form a college list?
  4. I prepared this resume of my skills and accomplishments in addition to what is in my school records. Please look it over and ask me any questions before writing the school letter of recommendation about me. What are your suggestions for teacher recommendations?
  5. What local and other scholarships do you recommend I apply to and have a good chance of winning? Any tips?
  6. Please proofread my college and scholarships essays.
  7. I am so stressed and pressed for time. Can you offer any guidance on study strategies, stress management and test preparation?
  8. When attending school sponsored college fairs and information sessions, what questions should I ask?
  9. What else should I do to prepare for college?
  10. How can my parents and family best help me?

After the meeting, the parent-student team may discuss the school counselor’s suggestions and form their own plan of action. As the college process moves forward, students can assume increasing responsibilities and leadership. They can keep the counselor updated on their progress and continue to ask questions.

Read Suzanne’s post: Cultivate the Counselor Relationship


Tonight is Wednesday’s Parent night (the fourth Wednesday of each month) on #CampusChat, Wednesday, August 27, 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will talk with Shelley Kraus @butwait about the role of school counselors in the college process. Shelley served as director of admissions at @PreviewingPenn,  associate director of admissions at @TCNJ_Admissions and is in her tenth year as a member of the college counseling team at @RutgersPrep, New Jersey’s first independent school. She is the lead curator of, a counselor ­curated collection of over 250 college lists. Please join us and bring your questions and comments.

UPDATE: RECAP (For those who missed the chat or want to review the important tips shared). 


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

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