fbpx

High School Counselors and College Admissions

High school counselors fill many roles: they help students process their disputes and emotions, they manage the academic pathways of students through high school and beyond, and they fix myriad problems as they arise. Schools ask a great deal from high school counselors, and they perform their tasks admirably.

Unfortunately, some counselors must devote so much time and energy to the daily struggles of high school life that they don’t have the resources left to help students prepare for the college admissions process. Like any challenge, this too can be overcome with the right resources, strategy, and planning. In this article, we’ll examine why these challenges exist, and what resources high school counselors can turn to for additional help.

How Resource Disparity Impacts Students

Not all high schools are created equal. As we explored in a previous article, which high school a student attends greatly impacts where they end up going to college. This is due, in large part, to an uneven distribution of resources between high schools, including counselors. 

This disparity in counseling can be seen in two forms. The first is that high schools with more resources will often have a dedicated counselor to advise students on the college admissions process. Having a person or team with college admissions as their full-time job empowers them to build rapport with admissions officers, learn the ins and outs of college admissions, and devote their time and energy to helping students apply to colleges. While they are not inherently necessary, they are able to focus their whole attention on the college admissions process, and in so doing greatly aid their students’ success.

To make things worse, these disadvantages are compounded at under-privileged and under-funded high schools. In these settings counselors generally, focus on the goal of graduation for all students, and have less time and resources to help students plan what they will do after graduation. Students who don’t make waves are often left to slip through the cracks in these schools.

This is not the fault of the high school counselors in question, who are doing their best with the resources they have. Their struggles come through no fault of their own, and many go to great lengths to help their students succeed in spite of the challenges they face. That said, many students still struggle to succeed in the college admissions process, and counselors, in turn, struggle to help them.

College Admission Resources for Counselors

Fortunately, there are resources out there to help high school counselors help their students, in the realm of college admissions at least (which is the area we focus on too, so we’re going to talk about that). 

The major challenges in using these resources are twofold. First, counselors don’t know which resources they can trust, and second, they don’t have the time or energy to review every possible resource before distributing them to students. High school counselors don’t want to steer their students awry, and bad information can be far more detrimental than no information at all. Therefore, we’ll go through some sources of information on the college admissions process now, and talk about what we’ve found most useful, and what we know to be trustworthy.

Collegeboard

Creators of both the Common App and the SAT, Collegeboard is intrinsically linked to the college application process. They have their own collection of resources for teachers and counselors, covering everything from finding colleges that fit, to the application process as a whole, to finding and applying for financial aid. 

While Collegeboard is a for-profit company, they still produce myriad free guides and resources to help students and counselors alike, and we recommend you take advantage of them.

College Websites

Colleges themselves put out a great deal of material to entice students to apply. While we covered how to glean useful information from this deluge in a previous article, it is relevant here as well. While the information put out by colleges is often of less use for counselors than for their students, students do frequently need guidance in learning about colleges.

Non-Profits

There are a number of non-profit organizations dedicated to helping students get into college. Notable among these are Community-Based Organizations (CBOs). These organizations are dedicated to helping low-income and other underprivileged students with their college applications. Many of them have resources to help both students and counselors with the application process.

Notable in the Houston area is Breakthrough Houston, and the National Association for College Admissions Counseling has a directory of regional CBOs in cities across the country, so you can find help wherever you are.

Private Companies

There are a great many companies that provide college counseling services (like us!) Not all of these companies are created equal either, and some are far more helpful, and more knowledgeable than others.

Many of these companies put out free information, including guides to every aspect of the admissions process (we have ours here). Some high school counselors are hesitant to use materials from a paid consultant, however, this information can be a great resource. The trick is making sure the companies you are getting the resources from are trustworthy, and that the information they put out is valuable.

In addition, many of these companies will take on pro-bono students. While this will not be an option for every student, it is a good resource to keep in mind, as individualized help with a college application can be hard to come by.

Final Thoughts

We ask a lot of our high school counselors, and they often perform admirably in spite of their limited resources. We hope to help them in this effort and hope that the resources we’ve created will be a valuable addition to their arsenal. While we recognize our own limitations, we want to help all students achieve academic success.  

If you are a high school counselor and want to know more about the resources we can offer, or our pro-bono program, please set up a consultation with us. We are always happy to hear from you and want nothing more than to help you help your students.

5/5
Wendy Y.
Parent
Below is my son's review. He was accepted to his dream Ivy League school!

From an admitted student's perspective, I am incredibly grateful to have met Sasha - he has been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational dreams (Ivy League), all while being an absolute joy (he's a walking encyclopedia, only funnier!) to work with.

Many people are dissuaded from seeking a college counselor because they think they can get into their desired college(s) either way. Honestly, going that route is a bit short-sighted and can jeopardize your odds of acceptances after years of hard work. The sad truth is, the American education system (even if you attend a fancy private school and ESPECIALLY if you go to a public school) doesn't really tell students how to write a compelling and authentic application. Going into the admissions process alone, without speaking with an advisor, is like going to court without a lawyer - you put yourself at a significant disadvantage because you don't have all the facts in front of you, or the help you need to negotiate the system.

That said, you need a good lawyer just like you need a good college counselor. And that's where Sasha distinguishes himself from the crowd of people claiming they'll get you into Harvard. I came to Sasha worried about and frankly dumbfounded by the college admissions process. I was unsure what to write about and how to go about drafting the essay that perfectly captured my passion, interests, and self. And I was highly skeptical that anyone could really help me. But, damn, did Sasha prove me wrong. From the beginning, Sasha amazed me with his understanding of the process, and ability to lend clarity and direction to me when I desperate needed it. After interviewing me about my background, experiences, activities, outlook, and vision, he helped me see qualities about myself I had not previously considered 'unique' or 'stand-out.' This process of understanding myself was so incredibly important in laying the groundwork for the essays I eventually wrote, and I'm certain I would've drafted boring, inauthentic essays without it.

Looking back, Sasha's talent is that he can see where your strengths lie, even when you don't see them. The truth is, although we don't always realize it, everyone has a unique story to tell. Sasha helped me see mine, and with his big-picture insight I was able to write the application that truly encapsulated my life and vision. He inspired me to dig deeper and write better, challenging me to revise and revise until my essays were the most passionate and authentic work I had ever written. As clichéd as that sounds, that's really what universities are looking for. In retrospect, it makes sense - in the real world passionate (not simply intelligent) individuals are the ones who make a difference in the world, and those are the individuals colleges would like to have associated with their brand.

In the end, I was accepted to the college of my dreams, a feat I could not have achieved without the direction Sasha lent to me. Essays (and the personal narrative you develop through your application) matter so much, and can literally make or break your application. I have seen so many of my 'qualified' friends receive rejections because they wrote contrived essays that didn't truly represent who they were; conversely, I have also seen so many friends with shorter resumes accepted because they were able to articulate their story in a genuinely passionate and authentic way - I fall into the latter category.

As a former admissions officer at Johns Hopkins, Sasha knows what types of essays jibe well with universities, an invaluable asset to have in the admissions process. He is responsive, flexible, creative, positive, and witty. For anyone who is serious about going into the college admissions process informed and prepared, I highly recommend Sasha.
5/5
Arda E.
Student
I used Ivy Scholars to mainly help me with college applications. Within weeks of using this service, Sasha was able to simplify the already complex process. When it came to writing the Common App essay, Sasha didn’t just help with grammar and syntax, he brought my essays to life. Sasha also worked tirelessly to help solidify my extracurricular activities, including research and internship opportunities. Without his help, I would have never had an impressive resume.

Sasha is not only an extremely knowledgeable tutor, but also a genuine brother figure. His guidance, throughout my last two years of high school, was everything I needed to get me an acceptance letter from my dream schools (UC Berkeley, Tufts, Emory).

When it came to testing, Ivy Scholars worked like a charm. Sasha offered a very comprehensive plan when it came to completely acing my standardized tests. Without his test taking strategies I would have never gotten straight 5s on my AP tests and a 35 on the ACT.

Working with Sasha, I didn’t just become a good student, I became a genuine scholar.
5/5
Samson S.
Parent
We worked with Ivy Scholars during my son's senior year. I was concerned that we may be too late to take advantage of college advising but the Ivy Scholars team quickly and confidently directed us through the steps to ensure no deadlines were missed. Sasha's knowledge about schools, what they looked for in candidates, and how to maneuver the application process was invaluable. Mateo and Ryan worked with my son to help him create an essay that would get noticed and I am so appreciative he had their guidance.

Prior to securing Ivy Scholars, we tried using a less-expensive online service which was a terrible experience. As a parent, Ivy Scholars brought peace of mind to an area that was frankly overwhelming. This service was invaluable in the knowledge that we gained throughout the process. He has also met with my freshman daughter to provide guidance for her high school courses, career paths, extracurricular activities, and more.

Prior to signing with Ivy Scholars, I tried a less expensive online service and was very disappointed.

As a result of our work with Ivy Scholars, I am pleased to say that my son will be attending Stern Business School at New York University this fall! I highly recommend Ivy Scholars. Highly recommend!