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Last updated March 13, 2024

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7 Questions to Ask Your School Counselor

Key Takeaway

Building rapport with your school counselor is important for college admissions. Schedule a meeting with your counselor and prepare questions to ask them. Establishing a relationship with your counselor can lead to personalized recommendations and enhance your college admissions knowledge.

School counselors are some of the nicest people I’ve met, even when they’re busy juggling a caseload of hundreds of students.

Building rapport with your school counselor is important when it comes to college admissions. Your counselor will be writing your counselor letter of recommendation, which can have a big impact on how admissions officers read your file, so it’s a big plus when they actually know who you are.

In this post, we’ll go over what school counselors do and why, what to do when they don’t know you, and what questions you can ask them to kick off a meeting with them.

What Do School Counselors Do?

School counselors are a really important part of your high school’s staff. They wear a lot of hats: helping you schedule classes, monitoring your progression toward graduation, guiding you through the college application process, and a whole lot more.

Some schools only have guidance counselors who do everything, while others have designated college counselors. There are even some schools that partner with Community-Based Organizations like College Possible to help with college preparation.

Whatever your school’s setup is, your counselor is familiar with the college search and application process, financial aid and scholarships, and the academic pathways that will help you the most.

Your counselor will also be writing your counselor letter of recommendation, which gives admissions officers important context about where your achievements fall in relation to your school and your peers.

One important thing to be aware of is which counselor will be writing your letter of recommendation. If your school has multiple counselors, figure out which one you’re assigned to (usually you’re assigned to a counselor based on your last name). If your school has guidance counselors and a college counselor, clarify which one will be writing your recommendations.

“Help—My Counselor Doesn’t Know Me!”

As an admissions officer, I always heard students say, "But my counselor doesn't even know my name!"

Admissions officers know that it’s not always possible for counselors to get to know every single student, especially at larger schools where each counselor has a caseload of hundreds of students. Because it can be an issue of equity, admissions officers tend to be relatively forgiving when counselors submit generic letters of recommendation.

But at the same time, getting to know your counselor in spite of the odds can really help your application. You’ll benefit from their admissions knowledge, and the admissions officers reading your application will be even more impressed by the fact that your counselor knows you so well, even with thousands of other students at your school. It may even boost your admissions chances.

Starting a conversation can feel tough, especially if it's your first meeting. To break the ice, come prepared with a few questions about the college search and admissions process. Your counselor will appreciate your initiative, and it'll pave the way for more in-depth discussions.

Seven Questions to Ask Your School Counselor

The first step to getting to know your counselor is booking a meeting with them. Starting this process as early as your first year is a good idea. You can probably find your counselor on your school’s website. There may be an option to book a meeting online, or you might have to email or call them to set up a time.

During these meetings, talk about your academic and career ambitions. Ask advice about your school’s curriculum, since your counselor can tell you what the most rigorous course pathways are. The more they know your goals, the more effectively they can support you.

Based on our extensive experience in college admissions, we've pinpointed seven important questions you should ask your counselor. These can help kick off your relationship and help you you make the most of their guidance.

  1. What are some safety schools students like me should consider? Your counselor can help you discover safety schools that match your academic profile and could be great fits. These options might not have been on your radar yet, but they can offer unique opportunities that you may not have been aware of.

  2. What are your favorite in-state schools students have attended? Counselors know a lot about local schools. They can share experiences of past students and highlight in-state colleges that you might be overlooking.

  3. Is there something you see students not do and regret later that I should be doing now? Counselors have seen it all. They know exactly what the most successful students do and don’t do. Because of that insider information, they can share common pitfalls from past students. This can help you avoid the same mistakes and take advantage of opportunities that others missed.

  4. How competitive do you think my GPA/rank in class/SAT/ACT are going to be at my top-choice schools? If you didn’t already know, admissions officers read applications in “school groups”—that is, they read your application alongside the applications from other students at your school. Knowing where your profile sits in relation to your peers is really important for accurately assessing your odds. Your counselor can give you a reality check on how your academics stack up. They can help you assess your academic competitiveness and set realistic expectations for your safety, target, and reach schools.

  5. Can you share with me any data about admission trends from our high school? Admission trend data is a valuable tool. You might look at historic acceptance rates, ED schools, test scores, and more. This data can provide benchmarks to assess your chances and help you make strategic application decisions. You can get a sense of where students from your school have applied and been successful, what stats they tended to have, and what activities helped set them up for admissions success.

  6. Can you share any success stories or examples of students who had similar academic interests or career goals as mine? This question can provide a clearer path forward and inspire steps you might want to take. It can also help you figure out what pathways will be most beneficial for you to continue on, what schools you might have better chances at, and even what major or career pathways you should be looking into.

  7. Are there any specific research opportunities or internships available for high school students that could enhance my college applications? Counselors often know about local opportunities that are otherwise hard to find. These kinds of activities can boost your application and get you real-world experience in a particular field. Counselors can guide you in taking your extracurriculars to the next level to stand out to colleges.

These open-ended questions won't just clarify the college admissions process for you. They'll also show your counselor that you're serious about making informed decisions. By understanding you better, they'll be able to write a more personal and persuasive letter of recommendation—and that’s really important when you’re applying to colleges.


School counselors play an important role in your college admissions journey. From offering guidance on course selection and college choices to helping you find scholarships, counselors know what needs to happen every step of the way. If you feel like your counselor doesn't know you well, remember, it's up to you to build a relationship. Cultivating a rapport with your counselor not only amplifies your understanding of the admissions process but can also lead to a detailed, personalized letter of recommendation. Counselors may seem busy, but they're there to help, and creating a bond with them can significantly boost your college application.

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