Melissa Brock

Melissa Brock

Writer & Blogger

My name is Melissa and I’m a longtime admission professional, personal finance writer, editor  and parent of two (very!) busy kiddos. I couldn’t make it all happen without my husband, Steve.

I hatched my site because I’ve heard so many head-scratching questions from parents. I’ve journeyed in the footsteps of hundreds of families, trekked to dozens of college fairs and even weighed the (billions?) of college savings options for my own two kiddos.

8 Important Questions to Ask Your Child’s School Counselor Right Now

by | Aug 13, 2020 | Ask the admission office | 0 comments

College and career counselors are the unsung heroes of the college search process. They’re forthcoming about community-based scholarships, college prep courses and more. They’ve got a pulse on what’s going on at colleges and universities — because guess who talks to them before and after college visits? That’s right — college representatives! 

This year may be a little different, but going into it, I’d like to see school counselors hop on virtual visits with college admission counselors so they know exactly what’s going on at each college and university. 

Here’s what to a college counselor (also known as your child’s school counselor) this year.

1. Is it possible to work with you virtually?

You may want to jump on a conversation with the school counselor with your student this year. Classes may be a bit jumbled up because of the school schedule or required virtual classes. Eliminating electives like band and ceramics may also create openings (it’s hard to do band and choir over Zoom). The loss of electives can be a real burden for students, so if an alternative option is needed, now’s the time to talk with the school counselor. Try to schedule a meeting before school starts to discuss all the options available to your student. 

However, if you must meet in person, the school may have a specific policy about how to handle in-person meetings, such as social distancing requirements and wearing a mask in a large conference room. Make sure you come with a prepared list of questions!

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2. Is my child still on the most robust college prep schedule possible?

Certain classes may only be offered twice a week, other classes may have been cut — it may seem like your child’s schedule is slowly shrinking. Make sure these are on the schedule: 

English

Colleges like to see four years of English. Any class where your child will study writing and literature is a bonus because just about every career will require your child to write well. Four years of English also enhances your child’s reading, analysis and communication skills.

Math

Colleges also like to see four years of math. Math classes should include at least four of the following six classes (in order):

  • Pre-algebra
  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Algebra II or trigonometry
  • Precalculus
  • Calculus

Science

It may be okay to take just three years of laboratory science classes (check specific school requirements) but a fourth year is still a bonus. Make sure your child’s taken the following:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics

Social Studies

Most colleges require at least two years of social studies, including world history and U.S. history. Your child could consider other social science options, including:

  • Government
  • Sociology
  • Geography
  • Psychology

Foreign Language

Many colleges require a minimum of two years of foreign language while in high school. It doesn’t matter which foreign language your child chooses to study.

Arts

A small number of colleges require one year of visual or performing arts prior to admission.

Check with the school counselor to be sure your child is checking all the boxes. Pay special attention to the requirements at each college. The last thing you’d want is to let COVID-19 be the reason your child didn’t take a fourth year of English.

3. What’s the latest information you’ve heard from college representatives? (In particular, School X?)

When I visited schools in the fall of 2018, I made sure to talk to the college counselor at every high school I visited. I sat in that counselor’s office and made sure to spend a few minutes highlighting exactly why students should visit our college. I repeated my elevator pitch for the counselor, highlighted the exact programs and majors that were getting a lot of attention and described what the campus was like. I tried to give each counselor a goodie basket and always gave each counselor a bundle of materials to hand out to students.

Every time I visited high schools, I made sure to let counselors know that our college was a great option for the right type of student.

Now, not all admission counselors from colleges spend that much time with school counselors. However, remember that school counselors have their ears open — and still will during the pandemic. Maybe even more so, because they’ll be collecting information about which colleges have changed their requirements, like ACT and SAT testing and more. Be sure to ask this question, because you might learn a nugget of information you can’t get online.

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4. When will you hold virtual visits with admission representatives? How will my child get notified?

Since it’s likely that no in-person admission visits will happen this year, encourage your child to attend virtual college rep visits. It’s the next-best thing. Virtual visits are the perfect platform for your child to ask questions. I know it seems like something’s “missing” when your kid can’t meet with reps one-on-one, but what’s more important is asking the right questions. 

Here are a few key questions your child can ask: 

  1. Are there extra scholarships due to the pandemic? 
  2. What the campus is like right now due to COVID-19? Will this continue for the foreseeable future? 
  3. How has the pandemic affected the college process?

Admission reps should be as forthcoming with information as possible — it’s their job.

5. Which colleges do you think will be a good fit for my child?

Again, take advantage of the intel school counselors get from college representatives and ask about the colleges he or she thinks are a good fit for your child. The college counselor hears nuggets of information, such as:

  • All of College X’s students got into medical school last year.
  • College Y may switch to all online offerings next year. 
  • College Z’s exercise science program is really popular.

Obviously, these are random examples but you may learn more through the school counselor than a random online search.

6. Which classes are the best college prep classes the high school has to offer?

Does your child’s high school offer college coursework? Does your student want to take AP classes? If so, your child’s college counselor should be able to suggest some options that would be a good fit. Here are a few great follow-up questions:

  • Is my child ready to take AP courses?
  • How many are available and how many do students typically handle at once?

7. Are you aware of my child’s achievements? 

I personally love this question because it gets to the heart of whether the school counselor really knows your student. It’s important that the college counselor has a firm grasp on your child’s interests, career goals and achievements (both in the classroom and out of the classroom). Obviously, it’s impossible to expect your child’s school counselor to remember extracurricular activities for every student, so that’s where a resume comes in handy. Include:

  • Notable achievements or awards
  • Leadership positions held
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Community involvement
  • Higher-level classes taken and special projects 

Make sure you and your student are as warm and friendly as possible toward the school counselor. Doesn’t it motivate you to work harder when someone brings you cookies for doing a great job? (I’m not saying you need to do that, it’s just a reminder that we’re all going through stress and a little “thank you” goes a long way.)

8. Can I switch to a different school counselor? 

Technically, this isn’t a question you may want to ask your child’s school counselor. However, the question may need to be asked if your child’s school counselor doesn’t seem to fit your family. Does the school counselor push back meetings with your student or not answer your questions thoroughly? Ask for a counselor change — you want to be sure your child is getting the best help possible, especially now that colleges are changing everything.

Ask Great Questions

Your child’s school counselor may be overworked and overwhelmed, but it’s also important to give each other grace during these turbulent times. Take advantage of the precious time you get with the school counselor by getting ready: Prep those questions ahead of time. Write them down, make them a priority and have a great conversation, whether it’s on Zoom or in person.

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