When it comes to getting students thinking about college, counselors know that “better late than never” should be said with a deep sigh. Counselors know it takes time to build the academic record and log the life experiences that make the college admissions process easier and college years as productive as possible. As a college counseling pro, you know that it’s critical to help your students prepare for college early.
Put College Options on Youngsters’ Radar Early
If your school has a strategy for reaching students as early as elementary school to share possibilities and plans for a postsecondary education, all you have to worry about is marshaling resources and time to get the job done. That’s a tall order, but your time and resources will be well spent. A college counselors’ job gets easier when kids hit their high school campuses with an understanding of the college track, especially if the families also are engaged and aware.
If your school has no strategy or tools to make the early push easier, there are planning resources available. The National Association for College Admission Counseling has inked a how-to on guidance for students in the later years of middle school. Here’s an abridged version:
- Inspire them to make college a path to their dreams.
- Explain the importance of assessing their interests, strengths, and academic habits.
- Give them a basic understanding of college options and ways to finance college.
- Provide a template for a college preparatory curriculum that will get them to and through high school.
- Discuss the importance of a personal profile and support network that can help them achieve their college goals.
Get the College Conversation Started Early in High School
National Association for College Admission Counseling data show that a good performance in college preparatory classes is the best way to win over a college admissions office. That’s something your freshmen need to know, and it’s information you can pass on while advising them that they must use all four years of high school to position themselves for college.
Let Kids Know What You Can Do for Them
You know your duties in shaping your students’ college hunt, but they probably won’t unless you tell them. Let them know you are here to:
- Help them pick the right courses.
- Keep a record of classes and grades.
- Track graduation requirements.
- Recommend college admissions tests and provide relevant information.
- Point them to colleges suited to their abilities and goals, identifying safety, probable, and reach schools.
- Write letters of recommendation.
- Give them necessary information on financial aid, awards, and scholarships.
You Have to Know Them to Help Them
Helping them get to know you will facilitate what you absolutely must do to help them. You must get to know them, too. Their likes and dislikes. Their strengths and weaknesses. Even how their home life will affect their high school performance and their college and career dreams. Building that relationship is no small task.
USF can help a bit with getting to know your kids. We have compiled a questionnaire you can hand out to rising high school freshmen or hand them when they first enter your office as freshmen.
Download your free questionnaire to help your students here:
That’s not the only help counselors can get from USF.
About Joe Emerson
Joe Emerson spent 30 years as a magazine and newspaper reporter, editor and copyeditor who turned to freelancing after 20 years with The Tampa Tribune, which closed in 2016 after 125 years of serving the Tampa Bay area. Writing and delivering valuable information remain his passion.