As we move into the last twelve weeks of this year for seniors, I have a couple of concerns ruminating in my head that I have become aware of over the years. The first one is seniors who believe there is a need to make senior year harder than they have done in the past in order to get into college. The second one is kids who have college counselors who did not get good advice or the help they needed, especially when the advice and help was available at school.
There is a grapevine among college bound hopefuls and their parents that goes against the advice by school counselors. The result has been students senior year with D’s or even F’s in classes first semester that becomes a problem. Sometimes, kids step it up and think that they are ready to work harder without the foundation needed and they look at senior year in glowing terms and expect to magically do well. It really is best to consider current grades, standardized test scores, and the class(es) the student is thinking of taking and making the indicated choice. Students may be better served by staying with their college prep, but not honors/AP classes, and not take the leap. D’s and F’s are messy and graduation could be jeopardized. Even worse, the kids don’t realize that the course direction they are already in is going to get them accepted to numerous good universities.
As far as college application counselors are concerned, I don’t think it is a good idea to hire one in order to have the person fill out the student’s applications for them. The kids can do that and their school should offer some kind of help if needed. We did office hours in the computer lab in the fall and students would drop in, work on their apps, and ask questions. I know of other counseling departments who do application workshops as well as one-on-one help. Kids need the skills that come from doing the applications themselves and they become connected to the process and the school they are going to attend.
The reasons to hire a college application counselor would be if the parent feels the student needs more help with the exploration process and does not want to utilize what is already available, for the person’s vast knowledge of different colleges (which I would hope they have), to help the student choose classes that are a match for their interests, time, and ability (since many disregard the advice from their school counselor who is one voice competing sometimes with their friends and parents), and to look over final applications to polish the wording of essays and short answers and choice, order, and wording of activities (English departments often step in here.) The college counselor should always have the student at the helm of the computer explaining the reasoning behind everything as they go.
I have seen students with college counselors who have missed some key things. One would be that the student absolutely needs to be vigilante with checking their email because the college admission offices communicate that way. Sometimes, students have not set up accounts as directed to and missed to do lists that include sending 7th semester transcripts or taking placement tests. Some students with D’s don’t follow through with contacting the schools they applied to or have already been accepted to. These messages are often delivered by the high school counselors in student and parent presentations, individually, and in list serves and a student with a college counselor should never miss this step.
There is a lot of anxiety for students and parents in the quest to get into a good college and common sense can get lost in the process and flurry of activity and concern. Kids don’t realize that outside of the extremely competitive colleges and universities, there really is a place for everyone who wants to go to college. There are schools that will be a great match for them and hold the promise of a wonderful four year experience.