Health & Family

Guidance counselors can give key college help

For the most part, high school guidance counselors are overworked and under-valued.

Public school guidance counselors have an average caseload of 200-400 students, some of whom have learning disabilities, some who have had run-ins with the law and many with a disrupted home life. Add college and career guidance into the mix, and it's easy to understand how challenging their job can be.

Guidance counselors are a wealth of information, especially regarding the college admissions process. But they can't help you unless they know you.

Sometimes families feel that their children are overlooked because they aren't academic superstars and they're not “bad” kids.

In larger public schools, it's the family's responsibility to introduce themselves to and maintain a relationship with their counselor, beginning as early as their freshman year.

Don't be afraid to make an appointment to introduce yourselves and begin a discussion about future courses and the college search.

If you demonstrate how committed you are to working with your counselor, you may be surprised by how hard they will work for you. Tips:

Prepare for a meeting. Identify specific questions about future course selections, extracurricular activities, transcripts, test prep, financial aid and scholarships, recommendations for colleges, etc.

Attend workshops offered by your school. Many of the topics above will be covered, and some of your questions may be able to be answered in a group setting.

Be responsive. If there are forms to complete, send them back before the due date.

Let the students drive the process as much as possible.

Let the guidance counselor get to know your student. Have them share their activities, their dreams and even what makes them a little nervous.