Most students aren’t making the most of their time with their high school counselors.
They aren’t armed with the right questions.
Ultimately, being responsible for your journey and asking the right questions can make you more successful as you plan for your future and start applying to colleges.
Below I’ve compiled a huge list of questions that you can ask your counselor during different times in high school. They’re arranged by topic and according to what you might ask year to year. Break them up according to what you need at different meetings.
You can also use it as a timeline to guide you through high school too.
Ready? Let’s go.
Why is it Important to Have a Good Relationship with My Counselor?
Your high school counselor is the key to a wealth of information and experience, particularly as it pertains to your high school and your community. They can suggest classes, programs, and other opportunities to you that fit your interests, goals, and personality. They will help you navigate high school, make sure you are on the path to graduate, help you plan for college, and can connect you with opportunities to get involved and grow.
If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or need to talk, they’re also trained professionals that can provide you with tools to help. Every high school counselor seeks to help their students in any way that they possibly can.
Your counselor is also likely the person who is going to help you with a lot of the school paperwork required for college admissions. Often they are the ones to attach transcripts, information about your high school, and write a counselor recommendation that accompanies your application. They’re also responsible for planning out college information sessions, visits from college reps, helping administer the SAT/ACT/AP tests...the list goes on and on.
What is a Good Suggested Timeline for Meeting with My Counselor?
Freshman and sophomore year, I would make it a goal to meet with your counselor twice per year. If possible, try to meet with them once per quarter junior and senior year.
Not all counselors have a wealth of time to meet with students (although they would love to). Because of this you need to give your counselor grace; across the nation, the ratio of students to counselors is overwhelming and extremely demanding for each individual counselor.
Because of this, make sure to ask your counselor how often they will have time to meet.
Before Your Meeting
- Schedule meetings a few weeks in advance.
- Bring all the materials needed.
- Do your research ahead of time and try to gather information about the questions you have before your meeting.
- Arrive on-time
During Your Meeting
- Don’t assume that they will remember everything from your last meeting, especially if that was longer than a few weeks ago.
- Take good notes, preferably on paper.
- Listen and be open to suggestions.
- Thank them for their time.
After Your Meeting
- Take action on what you discussed. If you were going to register for the PSAT, do it promptly.
- Document what you’ve done and questions that came up while you did so that you might want to ask next meeting.
- Write a quick thank you email and give them an update on what you’ve decided to do or what you’ve completed.
Questions to Ask When First Meeting Your Counselor
- What’s the best way to schedule a meeting with you?
- If I have more questions, what’s the best way to contact you?
- How often should we be meeting?
- What materials should I prepare ahead of time and give to you before meetings to make things easier?
Questions to Ask Early in the Process (Or Whenever You See This)
Class Schedule/Class Planning Questions
You should have mapped out a four year plan for your classes with your counselor either before starting high school or your freshman year. If you haven’t yet, this is a great time to start! Often, you can find information about four year planning and the classes offered at your high school in your orientation materials or in your high school handbook. Your handbook usually will also contain information on the classes you’ll need to take to be college ready.
- Do the classes in my 4-year plan fulfill college admissions requirements? Do they fulfill my high school graduation requirements?
- Do you suggest that I take any Honors or AP classes?
- Based on my major/colleges I’m considering, are there AP/Honors classes you suggest I take?
- Am I required to take an AP test if I sign up for an AP class?
- Does our school offer the AP Capstone program? Would you recommend that I consider it my junior and senior year?
- Based on my major/colleges I’m considering, are there electives or specialty programs/tracks that you suggest I should take?
- I’m still exploring/undecided. Currently, I really like doing _________ and my favorite subject is _________. Are there any electives you recommend that I might enjoy?
- Does our school offer any dual enrollment courses? What would those options look like?
- Would you mind reviewing my transcript to make suggestions on ways I can strengthen it based on what you know about me and my goals?
- Are there classes that you suggest I take in summer school to get ahead?
- Are there classes I can take in summer school to make more room for classes I can take over the year that will strengthen my chances for getting into the school/program I’m considering?
- Would you recommend that I look at any classes at our local community college over the summer?
Career Planning Questions
- Are there any surveys/assessments that our school offers to help me decide on a career track or a major?
- Are there any classes or activities here on campus or around town that can help me decide on what I might want to pursue?
- I’m leaning toward _______ as a major. Are there any activities or classes here that you would recommend that could help me explore or prepare for that major?
- I’m thinking about job shadowing and exploring different career options. Do we offer any programs or resources to help me do that?
- Are there any programs in the community that you would suggest I should explore to get more experience or exposure to different majors/careers?
Questions Regarding Your Interests/Activities
- I want to play sports in college. Aside from working with my coach, is there an earlier timeline or resources that you recommend I follow to do this?
- I’d like to get more involved in the community. Are there clubs or activities here on campus that might help me to get more involved?
- Are there any opportunities here in town that you would recommend that I get involved in based on what I’m interested in?
- Do you have recommendations for how I can best spend my summers? Are there any programs or opportunities here at school or in our community that I can take advantage of?
- How do you think that colleges will view my interest/activities on my application? Do you have any suggestions on what I can do to improve my list?
- Are there opportunities here at school where I can gain more leadership experience?
- What’s a gap-year? What would be the advantages to me considering a gap year?
- What are the rules for taking a gap year?
Questions to Ask Mid-Sophomore Year
Testing Questions (PSAT/SAT/ACT)
- Have we had any National Merit Scholars from our school? Do you have any advice on qualifying for National Merit Scholars?
- Are there any schools I’m considering (or should consider) that offer National Merit Finalists scholarship money?
- When is the PSAT offered here at school?
- How do I sign up for the PSAT?
- Based on my current class schedule, when would you recommend I should plan to take the SAT or ACT?
- Do you have any guides or free practice tests for the SAT and ACT to help me decide which test to focus on?
- Based on what you know about me, which test would you recommend that I take? The SAT or the ACT?
- Do you have any suggestions for study resources or guides for the SAT and/or ACT to help me study?
- Are there any programs here at school that I can take advantage of in order to get ready for the test?
- Are there any outside resources that you recommend I look into if I need extra help studying for or raising my SAT/ACT score?
- How can I figure out what my goal score should be based on the colleges I’m considering?
- Does the school offer any proctored practice tests outside of the PSAT or Pre-ACT?
- Do I qualify for any fee waivers for the SAT or ACT?
AP Testing Questions
- Do most of the colleges I’m considering accept my AP credit?
- Are there colleges on my list that will expect me to take AP classes/have AP test scores?
- Are there resources here at school to help me study for the AP tests?
- Am I required to take an AP test if I sign up for an AP class?
- What’s the average pass rate for AP tests here at our school?
- When are AP tests and how do I sign up to take them?
- What are the fees associated with AP tests? When is that due?
- What happens if I change my mind about taking an AP test?
- Can I retake an AP test?
- Can I take an AP test for an AP course I haven’t taken?
- Do I have to report my AP scores on my college applications?
- When would I send my AP scores to colleges? How should I send them?
College Search/College List Building Questions
- When do you recommend I start developing a college list?
- Are there any resources that our school offers to help me prepare a college list?
- I’m not sure what I’m looking for in a school. Do you have any resources/suggestions on how to start? What should I be looking for?
- Are there any websites that you suggest I use when searching for schools?
- Are there any upcoming college fairs you suggest I attend?
- Do college admissions reps visit our school? How would I sign up for those sessions? When should I start attending?
- Are there any colleges nearby that have open houses or special events to help me get a better understanding of what I should look for in a college and/or what might fit me?
- Are there any college guidebooks that you recommend that I reference?
- Based on my interests/major and what you know about me, do you have any suggestions for colleges I should consider?
- How can I create a balanced college list?
- What’s the best way for my parents and I to evaluate college costs for the schools on my list?
- Are there any specialty scholarships or early start programs at colleges that you would suggest I look into?
- When do you suggest I should start visiting colleges?
- Do I need to travel far to visit colleges?
- Do I need to visit all the schools I’m considering?
- Are there any clubs or programs I can join here at school that go on college visits/tours during the school year?
- If I were going to visit colleges, may I inform you ahead of time to ask for a few suggestions on other schools to consider visiting in the same area?
- What are the biggest mistakes that you see students make as they’re putting together their college lists?
Questions to Ask Junior/Senior Year
General College Admissions Questions
- What is a good timeline I should plan to follow for working on my applications?
- When do we start talking about the college admissions process here at school?
- What resources are available here at school that I can use as I’m working through the application process?
- Are there any college planning/application sessions that our school offers? How would I sign up?
- What are the biggest mistakes that you see a lot of students make with their admissions process? How can I avoid those mistakes?
Questions for Specific Pieces of Your Applications
Letters of Recommendation Questions
- What’s the process here at our school for asking for a letter of recommendation?
- When is the best time to ask for a letter of recommendation?
- What materials should I prepare for my recommender to make it easier for them to write me a recommendation letter?
- Based on my major/interest/colleges, are there specific teachers that I should consider asking?
- If any of the colleges on my list request a counselor recommendation, what materials can I provide to help you to write my recommendation?
Questions About Essays
- Will we be working on our college admissions essays in our English classes at all?
- What makes a good admissions essay?
- What main essays should I expect to prepare, based on the colleges on my list?
- Do you have suggestions for who I should ask to give me notes on my essays?
- Can I use the same essays for scholarships that I used for admissions?
Questions About Applications
- What applications should I be planning to complete? Where can I find resources if I have questions on filling it out?
- Are there certain applications I could fill out that cover more colleges that are on my list?
- What information should I have ready when filling out my applications?
- What’s the best way to request my official transcripts be sent to my colleges?
- Would you have the time to look over my applications before I send them? If not, do you have suggestions for who I might ask?
Application Deadlines Questions
- What is the usual timeline for college application deadlines that I should be prepared for?
- What’s the difference between the different application deadlines? (Early Decision, Early Action, Restricted Early Action, Regular Decision, Rolling Admissions).
- I’ve heard that for some schools, there might be an advantage to applying early either with early action or early decision. Could we talk through what might be a good plan based on my situation?
- Is there an advantage to applying early?
- What would be the process for applying early decision? What would be the timeline you recommend that I follow?
- Is there any additional documentation that I need to submit if I’m applying early decision?
- What does a “Binding Agreement” mean for early decision?
- If I’m applying for financial aid or hoping for scholarships, should I plan to apply earlier?
- Do I qualify for any college application fee waivers?
Follow Up After You’ve Applied/Admissions Decisions Questions
- How do I know that colleges received everything?
- What should I keep track of after I’ve applied?
- What’s a mid-year report? How should I go about having that submitted?
- Can colleges rescind my admissions offer if my grades drop?
- Is there anything that I can do if I’m waitlisted at my number one college choice?
- What does “deferred to regular decision” mean?
- Will I know my financial aid award/final college costs before I have to decide where I’m going to go to college?
Financial Aid Questions
- How do I apply for financial aid?
- What financial aid applications should I prepare for based on the colleges on my list?
- What materials should my parents gather to apply for financial aid?
- Does our school offer any workshops for filling out financial aid applications?
- Our state offers grants and scholarships. What’s the process for applying for those opportunities?
- Where can I find scholarships?
- Are there any scholarships that our school or community offers that you suggest I consider?
- Are there any special awards/state aid/or awards that you recommend I consider?
- What are the deadlines for financial aid in our state?
- With my current college list, are there additional scholarships that you know of that I should consider?
- Considering my family circumstances, will there be any additional steps or documentation that I’ll have to provide to colleges?
- Do you have any guidance on understanding financial aid offers?
- What happens if the colleges I applied to don’t offer me enough financial aid to attend? Are there steps I can take to appeal that decision?
- What should I know about student loans?
- Are Parent Plus loans a good choice for college?
- What happens if I can’t pay my student loans?
- Do you have other suggestions/advice for college funding?
Questions to Ask If You’re Thinking About Going to Community College First and Transferring
- When should I register at our local community college?
- Are there classes I can take now for dual enrollment that will get me ahead in my general education requirements?
- What should I know about transferring to a university that can help me plan now?
- Does our local community college have any specialty programs or opportunities in the major/career I’m interested in that I should consider?
- What financial aid applications should I fill out? How can I estimate costs?
- Are there any scholarships particularly for students planning to go to our local community college that I can apply for?
Questions About Enrolling at a College
- When do I have to tell a college that I’ll be attending?
- How do I enroll at the college I choose?
- What happens if I can’t attend college in the fall? What are my options?
- What’s deferred admission? What are the rules of taking a semester or year off before attending the college I chose?
Naturally, these questions are just a start! Definitely add your own questions, especially as you’re progressing through high school.
Armed with more information, you’ll be able to better plan, prepare, and make great decisions for you and your journey. Most importantly embrace the research, ask questions, and apply the advice you're given and you’re on your way to a successful, well-informed and planned future.