College enrollment is expected to grow more than 13 percent by 2022, creating more competition and a greater demand for support of prospective students. This continuous growth has shifted the traditional role of school counselors in high schools. Before, school counselors helped students with the preparation and scheduling of SAT and ACT exams. Now school counselors are required to assist students with the college admissions process from start to finish, including preparation of college application resumes and financial aid. They are heavily involved in the process and become college advocates for students.
Due to the complex nature of the college admissions process, there are many ways a school counselor can assist with the college admission process.
The College Application Process
As a school counselor, one of the best ways to help college-bound students is to keep them organized. There are lots of tools and resources available to help you and the student stay organized and on top of application requirements. This prevents missed deadlines and incomplete college applications. Here are some ways to tackle the college application process.
Start early. Set deadlines with your students weeks before the cut-off date for completing essays, gathering recommendation letters, and completing application forms. Use college websites and college boards to get accurate deadline information.
Be consistent. Do not miss appointments with your students or make false promises. In your work as a school counselor, it is important to earn the trust of your students; this is stressed when earning a Master's in School Counseling. Operate by the rule: “under promise and over deliver”. Your students trust you to provide accurate information and to help them get through this intimidating process.
Review all paperwork. After a student completes an application or an essay, proofread it for mistakes. Do your due diligence and make sure your student has completed the application in full and provided all of the supporting documents, such as academic transcripts and letters of recommendation.
Perfecting the College Essay
One of the biggest challenges of the college application process is working on the college essay. No matter the caliber of the student, the college essay can be a daunting process. School counselors have relationships with college admission officers and can help students conquer the essay. From highlighting a student’s strengths to proofreading, school counselors are often a key component to helping students craft strong, well-written essays.
The Financial Aid Process
Often the final challenge, and one of the biggest concerns for prospective students, is helping with the financial aid process. Typically, school counselors help organize college information seminars which include information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). School counselors work on helping students with their financial aid search, even going as far as to help parents fill out the FAFSA form.
The U.S. Department of Education provides a checklist for students that can be used by school counselors to help organize college financial aid steps. It also provides information for types of student aid such as federal grants, federal loans, and handling financial aid offers. The checklist also has items for parents to complete.
Scholarship and Grant Opportunities
In addition, school counselors work to help find student scholarship opportunities. School counselors have access to scholarship boards, and colleges in the area build relationships with school counselors. To continue to help students find additional money and financial resources, counselors can sign up for scholarship alerts that segment students based on grade point average, extracurricular activities, and assisting with scholarship essays.
New measures taken by the U.S. Department of Education have been implemented to prevent students from taking on unnecessary debt. Gainful employment regulations hold colleges and universities accountable for providing degree programs that will help students acquire gainful employment. Furthermore, the U.S. Department of Education has placed federal grant caps on students earning a bachelor’s degree. This is to help ensure that aid is not abused and students obtain degrees within a reasonable timeframe.
A school counselor’s role has quickly grown and expanded beyond helping a student be successful in the classroom. School counselors who work with college-bound students have a responsibility to advocate for their students’ successes after K-12 education.