From time to time I hear from parents and students who are frustrated with their guidance departments at their high schools. While every situation varies, I thought today I’d share some advice on dealing with guidance counselors that I’ve learned over the years. Whether you are trying to work out class schedules or discuss college, there is a smarter way.
1. Make an appointment.
Don’t assume that you can walk in and be seen. Make an appointment – either with the secretary (if there is one) or with your counselor directly. Most schools assign students to specific counselors (often by last name), so make sure to make an appointment with the right one.
2. Be Prepared.
Don’t waste their time. Guidance departments – especially at the high school level – are very busy places. High school guidance counselors wear a lot of hats – not only do they deal with students who need personal counseling, but they are often in charge of class scheduling, scholarships, and college applications. Know why you are there, what needs to be accomplished, and how you think they can help you achieve it. Bring notes along if they help.
3. Be Nice.
Common courtesy matters here. These people see a lot of students in a day for a whole range of issues. Remember that they are human beings too and a please and thank you and little patience does wonders.
4. Make an initial appointment.
I can’t stress this enough: don’t wait to see your guidance counselor until you need them! Make a short initial appointment to meet him or her and introduce yourself. Not only will you get an idea of what to expect, but you will put a face to the name – or student number – they have in a file. You will feel better approaching them later when you do need them, and they will have some idea who you are.
5. Take someone with you.
This is a big one! It may not be true of all counselors, but in my experience a lone student is treated differently than a student with a parent. It shouldn’t be the case, I know, and maybe it’s only my experience, but this really does matter. Students with a parent (or teacher, coach, etc) who can act as your advocate are given more time and attention than students who are on their own. If you can have someone attend an important meeting with you – do it! If a parent/guardian can’t attend, maybe a teacher or coach can – it never hurts to ask.
6. Follow up.
Just as with recommendations, go old school and send a simple thank you note or email letting them know that you appreciate their help. Not only will they remember you, but they may be more inclined to help you next time you need it because their interaction with you was a pleasant one.
7. Unhappy? Change counselors.
Nobody usually talks about this and I still have no idea why. If you and your assigned counselor don’t get along, ask to change to a different one. Sometimes personalities clash. It happens. But don’t let that interfere with you getting the help you need to organize your class schedule or work on college applications. If you and your assigned counselor clearly aren’t working well together, ask around (other students, teachers, parents) and see if they can recommend a different one in the office. This is often an easy change – usually a single sheet of paperwork – and happens often. Tread delicately as not to offend anyone, but get access to the resources you need.
8. Use this resource!
Counselors are the source for class selection, scholarships, and college applications! Get to know your counselor and talk to them often to ensure that you aren’t missing out any resources.
Readers, any tips I missed? Please comment below and let me know!