Nearly every student attending a public school has encountered it; you go to have a meeting with your guidance counselor, and they’re already busy with another student. You may be waiting for ten, fifteen, twenty minutes, perhaps even more, but the door of your guidance counselor remains shut. What’s taking them so long? Doesn’t your guidance counselor know that you sit outside, waiting to pour over your schedule and college options?
The fact of that matter is that the majority of guidance counselors are gravely overworked. It is difficult enough to manage your own college application; imagine handling many more (possibly hundreds more), keeping all of the information straight, remembering to make the right calls, attending all of the meetings, creating schedules, and performing all of your job’s other duties.
What does this tell us about the college application system for public schoolers?*
For one thing, do things independently of your school’s guidance office whenever you have the chance. Probability tells us that you will not mess up on your own applications or forms: you are only filling out one form, and you know yourself pretty well. The chance that a guidance counselor will slip up is much higher. No matter how hard a guidance counselor tries, you are still just one of many students, and they have that aforementioned pile of work to get back to. Also, doing things on your own relieves some of the guidance office’s workload, which is always nice.
A second useful tip when dealing with the guidance office is to employ Darwin’s concept of the “survival of the fittest“. At my school, the guidance counselors are all very reliable, but this is by no way the norm. I have heard horror stories of vanishing applications, missed deadlines, and scheduling snafus on the part of schools’ guidance offices. Ask around, find out who the best guidance counselor is at your school, and consistently approach this counselor with your admissions and scheduling queries. Also, don’t feel guilty for employing this tactic; if you’re taking the trouble to seek out the most reliable counselor, than you deserve the best.
Finally, if your guidance counselor wait is approaching the half-hour mark, I’d recommend that you take your question to a different guidance counselor. During my freshman year of high school, I would rotate between my school’s five guidance counselors nearly every week. I’m fairly certain that, for most of that year, the guidance office was in constant doubt as to which of them I was actually assigned to. The lesson here is that, if you need a simple question answered, guidance counselors will not discriminate between their assigned students and concerned answer-seekers.
If you remember these three ideas (do things on your own, try to find and utilize the best guidance counselor, and ask questions to any and all guidance counselors if need be), your experience with your school’s guidance office will be much more satisfying than if you were to wait in line.
*Note: Due to an emphasis on sending students to more competitive colleges, most public magnet and private high schools usually have very experienced guidance counselors, and thus these guidance office remedies do not apply.
(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)