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College 101

What Your Counselor Won't Do For You
Article Type: Quick and Dirty

Having a college counselor is awesome – whether you have a school counselor or a private one – because it’s their job to help you. It’s like having a personal assistant. Don’t ask them to pick up your dry-cleaning though. They hate that.

People sitting at table talking
How about getting us a later curfew? No? Rats.


Help You Decide Where to Go to School

This is your life – as long as you haven’t signed it away to the devil or anything – and you need to step up and make some decisions. It can be difficult to decide which colleges to apply to, and ultimately where to enroll. Even your Magic 8-Ball keeps telling you to “Ask Again Later.”

Your counselor will be a good source of information on certain things, like recommendations for schools that match your interests and personality. In fact, their entire career is devoted to making those kinds of recommendations, so they should be a superstar in that department.

In the end, though, the decision of where to go is up to you, so it’s important to get as much information from them and do as much research as you can so you can be sure you’re not, you know… fouling up the rest of your life.

Shmoop can help if you are having trouble getting started, or want to narrow down your list.

Tell You What You Should Study

Think of counselors as fonts of information. (Times New Roman can only tell you so much.) They can give you studies on majors that lead to the highest-paid professions or have the best hiring percentages. They can lead you to graphs of expanding job markets and careers that are shrinking faster than America’s attention spans.

They will not, however, tell you what to major in. You get to manage that part. Start by taking some interest surveys and check out a handful of careers that align with your passions. It can’t hurt to talk to people either. If considering medicine, for example, ask your doctor how much she enjoys being sneezed on continually by five-year-olds. The answer… might surprise you. (It won’t. They hate it.)

Fill Out Your Application

Will counselors help you set timelines and deadline reminders? Abso-tootly. Will they assist you in finding your school code and tell you to get to work when it’s crunch time? Hopefully.

But when the time comes to buckle down and actually fill in all the little spaces on those apps… your counselor may suddenly have a “thing” they have to “do.”

Okay, but you might want to cut them a little slack. They are busy helping the hundreds of other people in your class. So take your future into your own hands, and be prepared by learning how to fill out your college applications with Shmoop.

Write Good Letters of Recommendation (without your help)

Most school counselors have caseloads of students. Do you know a thousand people your age (or, looking at it from their perspective, people who are ten, twenty, or thirty years younger)? If you do… man, you must have no problem finding something to do on the weekends.

Well, if some random approached you and asked you to describe their best qualities, could you write anything meaningful without a bit of help?

If you want your counselor to paint a glowing picture of you for those admission counselors (assuming they’re plum out of neon paint), you’re going to have to help them, at least a little, by getting in touch with them and giving them the information they need. Go ahead… spill the beans. Someone will clean it up.

Get the inside Shmoop on Letters of Recommendation and creating an awesome Brag Sheet.

Edit Your Essays

The core purpose – the very soul of the essay – is to communicate your unique voice to an admissions committee. Counselors get this. So don’t expect them to turn a page of drivel into a monumental window into your literary genius. If your writing is clunky and awkward… they’re going to let you speak in your own clunky and awkward voice.

What they can do is guide you in choosing topics, provide grammatical and spelling reviews, and make suggestions. They can also suggest a really killer font to use. Comic Sans, for example, has that hilarious, I-don’t-really-want-to-be-taken-seriously vibe to it.

You KNOW you want to accept me!!!

See what we mean?

Let Shmoop help you get started crafting your essays.

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