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How to Begin the College Planning Talk With Your Guidance Counselor

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Guidance counselors are among the most valuable yet under-utilized resources available to many high school students. Guidance counselors can help with academic planning, sourcing important resources to support your mental health, and preparing for the college admissions process.


For high school students who haven’t used the resources provided by a guidance counselor in the past, starting the college planning talk with your guidance counselor might seem confusing or even intimidating. Using your guidance counselor’s expertise is a wise choice, though, and it’s easy to get the conversation started. For our tips on beginning the college planning talk with your guidance counselor, keep reading.



When Should I Begin Discussing College Planning With My Guidance Counselor?

When it comes to meeting with your guidance counselor, earlier is always better. Meeting as early as the beginning of 9th grade is a good idea because it lays the foundation for a supportive relationship throughout your high school years. For more information, check out our free guide to 9th grade.


Of course, if you don’t meet with your guidance counselor during your freshman year, you’re not out of luck. Your guidance counselor is available to help at any point during your high school career, and while it’s ideal to start during your 9th grade year, your guidance counselor is used to helping students at just about any point during the college admissions process.


If you’ve been putting off your conversation about college planning, don’t delay any longer. During your junior year, you should begin to meet more frequently with your guidance counselor. At this point, your discussions will begin to include standardized tests, scholarships, and college applications. By your senior year, you should be familiar with these conversations and be prepared to dive right into the specifics of college applications, early decision choices, and more.

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How Should I Begin College Planning With My Guidance Counselor?

Your initial conversations with regards to college planning will probably focus primarily on your interests and strengths. Your guidance counselor might help you to think about these qualities in relation to possible careers and paths through secondary education.


You should also discuss your goals with your guidance counselor. If you are a student with a specific dream school or firm professional ambitions, your guidance counselor can help to point you towards the resources most appropriate for your goals. If you are still struggling to define your goals beyond high school, your guidance counselor can help to define these for you through conversations, personality tests, or even interest inventories.



Which Aspects of College Planning Can My Guidance Counselor Help Me With?

Your guidance counselor’s job is to help you with personal and academic challenges throughout your high school years. This most certainly involves college planning and nearly anything associated with it.


The role of a guidance counselor does vary from school to school, though. You can usually read about the role of the guidance counselor at your school in your school’s handbook. If you aren’t sure or can’t find it, don’t hesitate to ask your guidance counselor.


One way in which your guidance counselor can help with college planning is by helping you to identify schools to include on your college list. Though you might have heard of many schools that meet your needs and desires, your guidance counselor will inevitably know of even more. He or she may even be able to point you to a dream school you’ve never heard of before.


Your guidance counselor can also help you find resources about paying for college. Whether it’s sourcing scholarships or finding federal or private loans, your guidance counselor will likely know where you should begin. After you get into a college, your guidance counselor can also help you to review your financial aid package.


Finally, your guidance counselor can help with any academic or personal concerns that might affect your performance at school. If you have an academic issue or a personal problem, your guidance counselor has probably dealt with similar issues in the past and will know where to point you to find the support or resources you need.



Questions to Get the Conversation Rolling

If you’re preparing to meet with your guidance counselor about college planning, here are some questions that you might consider yourself and then discuss with your guidance counselor if you see fit:


What classes do I need to take to be ready for college?

What course track should I follow if I want to get into a school like _____?

Which electives would best suit my interests or be most valuable to me?

Should I take AP classes? When and which ones?

What schedule do you recommend for standardized testing?

Does the school have college planning sessions?

Are there any college fairs scheduled here or at nearby schools?

Do you know of any alums who attend or have attended ______?

Are there any scholarships that I’m eligible for based on my skills and accomplishments?

How can I begin to plan towards a future career?

Can I preview my transcript?

Am I am on track to qualify for the honor society? What requirements will I need to meet?

What should I do at home or over the summer to bolster my college applications?

How do students from our school generally fair in college admissions? Do we have a certain reputation?

Are there any other resources I should be aware of during my college search?


At some schools, your guidance counselor is readily available and always happy to meet with you as the whim strikes. At others, your counselor might be crazily busy juggling the needs of a thousand students. Whatever the case may be, your destiny is in your hands and if you want to build a relationship with your guidance counselor, you’ll need to take the initiative to start your college planning conversations early and follow through about it regularly.


Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Download our free guide for 9th graders and our free guide for 10th graders. Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from academicschoosing coursesstandardized testsextracurricular activitiesand much more!


Want access to expert college guidance — for free? When you create your free CollegeVine account, you will find out your real admissions chances, build a best-fit school list, learn how to improve your profile, and get your questions answered by experts and peers—all for free. Sign up for your CollegeVine account today to get a boost on your college journey.

To learn more about your guidance counselor, see these CollegeVine posts:


3 Ways Your Guidance Counselor Can Support You During the Admissions Process

The Do’s and Don’t’s of Guidance Counselor Recommendations

How to Build a Relationship With Your Guidance Counselor

How Often Should I Meet With My Guidance Counselor?

Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.