Why Should I Meet With My Guidance Counselor?

It may be difficult to understand the role of your high school guidance counselor. While you may know who your guidance counselor is, it could be unclear to you why it is so important to meet with him or her. The truth is, while you technically can get by in high school without visiting your guidance counselor often, it can be helpful to check in with them on a regular basis. But why is it important?

First of all, your guidance counselor can help you with academic issues. This can include setting up your schedule and choosing courses, along with figuring out your placement (and, sometimes, whether or not to switch levels) in courses with prerequisites. Additionally, if you are struggling in a class, your guidance counselor can help you locate resources at your school (some of which you may not have been aware of) and in your community. Guidance counselors can also help you prepare for the college application process (and can aid you in mapping out what your high school classes and activities will look like to help you achieve your college goals). Often, they play a big role in the application process as well, supporting you and sending in school documents, such as your transcript and class rank. For more information on what your guidance counselor can do, check out our CollegeVine guide, “How to Build a Relationship with Your Guidance Counselor.”

Additionally, your guidance counselor can offer help with behavioral or personal issues. This is not limited to just misbehavior (although they are great resources for those issues and want to help you get back on track). The kinds of non-academic issues guidance counselors help with also include concerns about stress, managing time, and dealing with conflicts with other students or teachers. Plus, if you are not sure about a decision or the gravity of a situation, talking to a third party for an opinion can help you better understand what to do. And if you need help locating out-of-school help, like a therapist or psychiatrist, guidance counselors can also help you with that search.

Note that every school is different in terms of what the guidance counselor’s role and responsibilities are. Before you meet with your guidance counselor, you should look into your school’s policies on the guidance counselor’s duties, especially their privacy agreement. That way you are aware of what your guidance counselor is required to keep confidential and what they may share with teachers and parents. No matter what their specific responsibilities are, however, a guidance counselor should at least able to direct you to more resources. However, the degree to which this is available will vary depending on the size of your school, and its emphasis and funding of counseling programs.

Some schools require meetings on regular basis or under certain circumstances (e.g. if they are concerned about your behavior or health). In these cases, you should understand what the meetings involve, and if you don’t, be sure to ask. You should also find out the expected frequency of such meetings and stick to it so that your guidance counselor can help you effectively (which is especially important because they will probably write your letter of recommendation for college – read our CollegeVine guide, “The Do’s and Don’t’s of Guidance Counselor Recommendations” for information about this).

Regular Meetings and Check-Ins

Why should you meet regularly with your counselor? When you meet more than once, your counselor is able to get a better idea of who you are, how you have changed throughout high school, and what you are like. By getting a understanding of how you have changed over time, your guidance counselor can better track your academic and personal progress. In order to do this effectively, however, they need to have an established relationship with you. The best way to create one is to schedule regular meetings and check-ins.

Meeting regularly will look different at each school, depending on how busy each of your schedules is. Some guidance counselors have few available appointment slots, and your meetings and check-ins may need to occur only occasionally. This is especially true at larger schools, where there are often few guidance counselors with huge numbers of students to serve. Regardless, as long as you are checking in as regularly as possible and maintaining clear communication, they should be able to see that you are making the effort.

Grade-By-Grade Breakdown

In Grade 9… You should meet with your guidance counselor early on (even the first few weeks of school is not too early!). This will help you get on the right track from the start, especially during your first year, which can be confusing and full of uncertainty. Furthermore, if you start talking to your guidance counselor now, you will have a strong foundation for when you need more assistance from them, especially during the college application process.

In Grade 10… You should check in with your guidance counselor a few more times. In these meetings, you should talk about your academic path – review your freshman year grades, assess your strengths and weaknesses, and discuss what you want to achieve in the rest of your high school career. This is also a key time to start planning for standardized testing, which will be coming up in junior year. If you need accommodations on standardized testing, it is especially important to start preparing that now, since that takes some time to set up.

In Grade 11… If you are able to do so, start to meet more frequently with your guidance counselor. This is a time when you will be experiencing a lot of stress, and it will be helpful to have an advocate. It is crucial that you discuss your standardized testing plans with them (especially if you need accommodations, as mentioned under “In Grade 10…”) and start preparing for college applications, which will arrive sooner than you think. Also, some college scholarship programs require you to apply during your junior year of high school, so you may need to start working on them now and discuss your plans with your guidance counselor. To get a head start on this, read our CollgeVine guide, “What You Need to Know for A Successful Scholarship Season.”

In Grade 12… At this point, you should be in frequent contact with your guidance counselor to coordinate submitting college applications and recommendations, especially during the early fall when you may be sending in Early Decision and Early Action applications to colleges. Even if you are applying later, you should be meeting with your counselor earlier in the fall so that you don’t rush or miss any deadlines.  Later, when you have received your acceptances and are choosing which college you will attend, your guidance counselor will be a helpful resource in figuring out financial aid, submitting final transcripts to your college, and making high school graduation preparations.

Even after you graduate, many guidance counselors from high school are still happy to talk to you and often want to hear how you are doing. If you are having issues with transitioning into college, he or she might be able to offer advice. Again, this will depend largely on your school’s size and program funding, along with the availability of your guidance counselor.

Meetings With a Specific Purpose

Aside from regular meetings and check-ins, you may want or be required to meet with your guidance counselor on other occasions. If certain issues arise – low or dropping grades, behavioral problems, and other similar reasons for concern – your school may ask you to meet with your guidance counselor. You also might have your own reasons for setting up meetings.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or excessively stressed, meeting with your guidance counselor can alleviate some of those feelings. If you have fallen behind on schoolwork because of these issues, guidance counselors can often help you communicate with your teachers about the situation to arrange extensions and make a plan for getting back on track.

Additionally, guidance counselors usually have a good understanding of the courses offered at your school, along with the teachers, so they can help you create a balanced schedule. This is especially true if you have been meeting with them regularly; then, they they will have an idea of how demanding a course load you can handle. This is also true with standardized tests – they can help you choose the right one for you and create a testing plan.

When applying to colleges, guidance counselors can help you with your college search and, if you are interested in pursuing less traditional educational opportunities (such as graduating early, taking courses online or at a community college, and so on), they should be well-versed in your options and the steps you must take to do so.

Finally, if you have paperwork (for a summer program, scholarship, award, and the like) that requires your guidance counselor’s involvement or signature, you should schedule a meeting as soon as possible. Don’t leave it until the last minute – give them plenty of time to help you.

Should My Parent(s) Meet With My Guidance Counselor, Too?

At many schools, it is a normal and appropriate request for either the school or the guidance counselor to request that your parents meet with your guidance counselor. These meetings may occur routinely (e.g. at the beginning of a new quarter or semester), as well as for specific issues.

It can help your parents meet your needs and help you achieve your goals if they are well-informed. Guidance counselors can help them understand the stress that you are facing in applying to colleges and taking classes, if you have discussed it with him or her, which may help parents be more understanding and supportive. Also, parents can be useful allies when dealing with problems and concerns, and you may find that having another voice in support of you will help.

However, it is a good idea to get used to managing these sorts of issues on your own, since when you go to college, you will be solely responsible for most of your academic and administrative issues. Treat this as an ongoing learning experience – learning how to be responsible for yourself and your studies and scheduling meetings with people who can assist you.

Conclusion

Guidance counselors can be a great resource, but you have to be proactive about forming a relationship with them. Read our CollegeVine guide on How to Build a Relationship with Your Guidance Counselor for further tips and tricks. Ninth grade is not too early! In fact, the longer you know them and the more regularly you meet with them, the better it is for you and for them, since their job is to help you succeed. Furthermore, since guidance counselors are so often overbooked, especially at large schools, be sure to start scheduling meetings are early as possible. Do not miss out on your opportunity.

For more information on the specific ways your guidance counselor can help you with your college application process, read our CollegeVine guide to 3 Ways Your Guidance Counselor Can Help You For College Applications. And if you are planning on asking your guidance counselor for a letter of recommendation for college, be sure to check out our CollegeVine guide to The Dos and Don’ts of Guidance Counselor Recommendations before you ask!

Julia Mearsheimer

Julia Mearsheimer

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Julia Mearsheimer attends the University of Chicago. She is considering majoring in Philosophy, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, or Political Science, but remains undecided. In addition to writing, she enjoys listening to Nina Simone and baking bread.
Julia Mearsheimer