College Counselors Provide Advice For High School Seniors

As application season rolls around and many seniors prepare themselves to become freshmen once again, counselors have been working to aid students and parents by providing advice to reduce stress.

High schools, colleges, and universities across the country have several resources for students to utilize for information and help during this time of pandemonium. A great starting point for students is to attend events offered by their high school. Addison Trail is hosting four virtual college fairs in the near future. They are also working to provide information to students during the school day.

“We are going to be meeting with all of our seniors. They’ll all get an opportunity to meet with the counselors,” said Shane Cole, the College and AP testing coordinator at Addison Trail. “I’ll be speaking about four year and two year universities. All of the information is on our guidance webpage.”

Cole also stressed the importance of talking to counselors to obtain even more information.

“I would definitely have students try and contact their counselor individually. We can do an email or set up an individual zoom meeting. I’m hoping to be able to meet with each one of my seniors individually.”

Students can also reach out to admissions counselors at colleges and universities to learn more about admissions at specific schools that they are interested in. Students often have an assigned counselor that they can reach out to based on where they live. These counselors can answer specific questions about a school’s admissions process, opportunities, and more.

It’s important to find your admissions counselor at the schools you are interested in going to,” said Mike Melinder, a senior admissions counselor at the University of Iowa. “Sending emails and setting up a zoom meeting with a counselor can help alleviate a lot of fears by answering any questions a student might have. Getting in touch with admissions staff is definitely the best way to get information.”

Many schools also offer resources such as virtual information sessions and virtual tours of the school’s campus. These can be found on admissions webpages and are very helpful in providing students with the necessary information to find the school which is the right fit for them, especially during a time when in-person options for visiting are limited. Finding this ‘right fit’ ensures that students will be able to succeed and enjoy where they go.

“I think that every student has their own terms,” said Aston Karner, a regional admissions counselor at Illinois State University. “It’s important to have that conversation with yourself and figure out what your make or break points are.” 

These make or break points may account for factors such as location, cost, and opportunities that a school offers. Students should ensure that they choose a school with the right features for them. 

“For me, it was whether or not a school had a football program, “ said Karner, who majored in music education. “ I wanted to make sure that when I was a music ed major I could learn from a marching band, “ he said.

For some students, another one of these terms may be class size. 

“Some kids need that smaller environment. At a large university, kids often don’t have that personal relationship with their professors. It’s important that kids find what is most important to them,” said Cole

Rio Almaria, an admissions counselor at College of DuPage, expanded on the benefits smaller class sizes may provide for some students. 

“The student-to-faculty ratio here is about 19:1. The smaller classroom setting is a huge benefit for students that thrive with more personal attention from their instructors,” she said.

With all of these small factors in play, it may be easy for seniors to worry that they may be forgetting something important. Seniors also may worry that they need to know exactly what they want to do to find the best school for them. However, counselors seemed to agree that knowing every minute detail is not something seniors should worry about.

“I think it’s very important for seniors to know that they do not need to know everything just to start the application process. Many times students think they need to know what school they are going to and what classes they need to take even before the senior year ends. It’s totally ok to not know what major you want to go into or what career you ultimately will enter. Many times feeling the need to know the future can be debilitating and can cause unneeded stress and anxiety,” said Almaria.

Melinder built upon the idea that not knowing exactly where to go is not something to panic over. 

“If you do all of the necessary research now, you are going to find a school that you’re going to be happy at,” he said. “Oftentimes students feel that there is only one right answer to look for, When the reality is that there are probably 7 or 8. If you can do research to narrow down your list to a few schools, any of those that you pick will be a good fit for you.”

If students are struggling to narrow their list down from a large number of schools to only a few, they should consider the similarity and the differences between the schools on their list.

“Look for a diversity of institutions when you’re applying,” said Karner. 

He explained that when a list is narrowed to 4 or 5 schools that are all similar in admissions criteria, size, locations, and majors, there is not very much of a choice to make on decision day. 

“Illinois State was originally my backup to my backup, but when I got to campus, I felt I could be really successful here. Because I could be in their honors program and because of some scholarships they were giving me, I could really stand out. This ended up being the best fit for me, and I wouldn’t have ever been able to make that if I had just applied to the top four schools on my list,” he said.

Ultimately, seniors should remember that although it is normal to be stressed out, they will be ok if they are willing to take the right steps.  

“Start early, gather your resources, and make an informed decision,” said Cole.

This simplistic approach is the right way for many seniors. By taking advantage of resources, students will find success at their destinations. Counselors will continue to offer help to prospective students as they wish this year’s seniors the best of luck wherever they go.

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