How to Help Your Students Choose Their College Team

Last updated: Nov 5, 2018

Counselors understand that the college application process is a team challenge. As a counselor skilled in the college admissions process, it’s your job to know how to help your students choose their college team. A good start is identifying the key players and showing how each can advance the process.

How Counselors Can Advance the Admissions Process

Counselors tell college-bound students as early as possible that the choices they make in and out of school will be the foundation that supports the postsecondary experience and life they want. Put in terms of the college hunt: The résumé a student presents to college admissions offices is a compilation of life experiences and academic accomplishments, and the best presentations are the ones tailored for each school.

When it comes to a counselor’s role in that hunt, students need to know that these advisers can:

  • Help you make choices on academics and extracurriculars that can open the door to your dream college.
  • Help you craft a list of target schools suited to your academic abilities and record, personal talents, and career goals.
  • Help you understand the intricacies of your target schools’ application processes, identifying the necessary qualifications, defining the testing and paperwork challenges, and positioning you to avoid problems.
  • Help you target and vie for scholarships and financial aid.
  • Help you fill out college applications in ways that meet each schools’ expectations.
  • Help you with the essay selection and writing process.
  • Help you ensure you have the best possible letters of recommendation. In most cases, that will include one from the counselor.
  • Help you get your transcripts to target schools.
  • Help you with the final selection and even enrollment.
  • Help you minimize the stress of the application process.

It’s worth noting that the application process is the culmination of what for most counselor-student teams is a yearslong effort that ideally begins in earnest in the freshman year of high school.

Counselor helping a student with college applications

How Family Can Advance the Admissions Process

When it comes to supporting students in the college admissions process, siblings can be a source of comfort and even advice, but parents are the load bearers, second only to the student. As a parent, you can lighten your child’s load if you:

  • Learn the application process and tactfully share what you know.
  • Help them take ownership of the process.
  • Know the application deadlines and milestones and discreetly check to see whether they are being met and observed.
  • Help the student understand any financial limitations and potential work-arounds.
  • Continually communicate, listening and responding but not lecturing.
  • Provide direction when it’s sought, after making it clear that you are there to help, not hijack the process.
  • Provide unwavering emotional support.
  • Provide inspiration.

The role parents play can be delicate, so knowing what not to do can make a huge difference. There are tons of warnings to heed, but here are the basics:

  • Don’t superimpose your wants and needs on your child. It’s about them finding themselves, their goals, and their school.
  • Don’t do their work. It’s their essay. It’s their college application. It’s their deadline.
  • Don’t forget that your child is stressed out and that your jitters will magnify theirs.

Knowing your child’s strengths and weaknesses means you know when to be available to help them make good choices. The emphasis here is on “help”; the decisions will be a family discussion to have together.

That doesn’t mean you can’t grab the wheel if they’re headed for a cliff. Just be sure you aren’t simply interfering in a survivable learning experience.

How Friends Can Advance the Admissions Process

Having a friend who is in college or going through the application process can be a source of valuable information and resources, from tips on filling out applications to loaner laptops to facts needed to get the paperwork done.

Friends also can proofread your essays and applications. Beyond editing for grammar and spelling, they can serve as a sounding board for essay ideas. They also can tell you whether you are selling yourself short in an essay or application or overselling yourself.

Most importantly, friends can provide the support you need to withstand the grind of the application process. They can help you beat the stress of waiting for responses from your target schools, overcome the heartbreak of bad news, or celebrate the good news.

A friend helping a student review application materials.How Reference Providers Can Advance the Admissions Process

Cultivating relationships with high school counselors and teachers is beneficial. The valuable guidance and knowledge they provide are the primary reasons. College reference letters are another, especially if to know you is to love you.

Choosing the right references is critical. Admissions officers can be swayed by references from people central to experiences that helped shape you. Those references can come from a boss at a summer job, the supervisor of a volunteer effort you undertook, or a teacher who was part of your academic achievements. Their input is even more powerful if the experience they represent is relevant to what you want to pursue in college.

You undoubtedly will compete with stellar academic achievers vying for limited space in your dream school. Solid references can make the difference when contenders’ SATs and other scholastic metrics are comparable.

You can put admissions offices on your college team checklist, too. The final phase of the college hunt typically includes admissions office staff members who are trained counselors.

Download Your Free Choosing the College Team Guide Here

Download Our Choosing The College Team Guide

The USF Office of Admissions is always ready with advice and answers. Contact us online or by phone at 813-974-3350.

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