If you are a senior, you know that you are playing for all the marbles this year. You know that it is important that you take proper time and care with the application process. You also know that this process is to be respected and taken seriously. There is no doubt in my mind that you are ready to get down to business. So, your first step is…? (Hint: see the title.) Aren’t you fortunate that I’m here to help you answer this most deep and profound question?
It’s all about the Guidance Counselor – or, as we call him or her in the admissions business – the GC. In case you didn’t know, the GC is the guardian and gatekeeper of the college process for most high school students. How important is your GC? Outside of your parents and teachers, your GC is one of the most important people in your life during your senior year.
So what is it that GCs do that make them so valuable to you? For starters they:
- Help you register for standardized tests.
- Help you complete and mail you college applications.
- Help you with the financial aid process.
- Help you apply for outside scholarships.
- Plan college visits/college fairs/ college nights for you and your parents.
- Write letters of recommendation for you.
- And most importantly: give YOU solid advice about the college process.
As you can see, your GC has a very important role in the College process. So what can you do to maximize this relationship and make it work the best for you? Great question! I’m so glad that I asked it. Here are some ideas that may help you build a great working relationship with your GC.
- Do you even know who your GC is? If not, find out now. Usually this information can be found on your school’s website. Once you find out the identity of your GC, be sure to introduce yourself post haste. In fact, if you are able to get his or her email address, why not drop a note introducing yourself.
- Do your homework! Many schools have websites that give very detailed instructions explaining the college guidance process for seniors. Learn it. Know it. Adhere to it. Remember, GCs have many, many students to assist. The better you know the rules, the better the process will be for all involved.
- Never be flaky. Make sure that you are taken seriously. Although you may not have narrowed your college choices down to, say, less than 30 schools, it doesn’t mean that you should be seen as flaky. How do you avoid being seen as a flake? Again – do your homework. Even if you have 30 schools on your list, be able to explain why. If possible, divide your choices into categories. Categories may include: public schools vs. private schools; or reach vs. middle vs. safety. It is up to you to create the categories and to be able to explain them.
- Respect the process and your GC will respect you. Enough said.
- Zen is your approach when dealing with your GC. Be firm in your convictions yet open to suggestions. Bend like a reed in the wind. If not, you will snap like a maple tree in a hurricane. (I have no idea what that means but it sure sounds cool!)
- Know what you don’t know. This process can be overwhelming. Be honest with yourself and with your GC about your interests, hopes and dreams for college. Most of all, be honest about what you don’t know or understand about the process. This admission to your GC will show that you are mature and willing to seek assistance. Both are really cool characteristics that we love on this side of the desk!
- Trust your GC. If there is something important going on in your life that impacts your application or your high school career, tell the GC. The GC will in turn tell us. When it comes to the details of your college application, less is not always more.
- Create a working, professional relationship with your GC. Your GC is not your mom/dad. My GC’s name was Bernie Cohen at Cardozo HS. We had a real love/hate relationship. He’d suggest and I’d ignore. He’d strongly suggest and I’d strongly ignore. Wisely, he told me that he had nearly 1000 other students to help and that I should come back when I was serious. Somehow I expected him to keep nagging me the way my parents had. I took his advice and we began a great relationship that lasted almost 20 years. How proud was I to visit Cardozo as a College rep some years later knowing that he had a hand in my success.