How To Work With Your High School Advisor

Your high school student likely has access to a wizard who can help them explore academic and career interests, prepare for college and assist with college planning. This wizard, who wears many hats, is also trained in mental health and can provide brief social-emotional counseling at school during any rough patches your student encounters.

This wizard is a high school advisor (most commonly referred to as a high school counselor). If you and your teen don’t know your high school advisor yet, make sure to connect with them ASAP to optimize your student’s high school experience in preparation for college and their future career.

Here, I’ll answer some of the most commonly asked questions from students and parents about how to work with a high school advisor and explain how both you and your child can collaborate with them to further their long-term success.

How Often Should You Meet With Your Academic Advisor?

Students should meet with their high school advisor each school year.

Unless there’s a valid reason, such as a need to change class schedules, they should wait to meet with them until at least mid-September. High school advisors usually have a caseload of 250 to 400 students, so at the beginning of each semester, usually in August and January, they are inundated with schedule change requests and drowning in paperwork.

October, November, February, March, and April are the best times because typically there are fewer major events (such as SATs, PSATs, college fairs, and career days) that they are also coordinating.

It’s very important that rising sophomores and juniors meet with their high school advisor before course selection, usually during the previous spring. Seniors should meet to discuss college choices. The timing for freshmen is less critical.

What Questions Should I Ask My High School Advisor?

This is by far the most popular question we receive from students. Your student should ask questions about which classes will help them explore their career interests, prepare for the college they want to attend, and help them the most with their future major. Students should work with their high school advisor to create a four-year plan that includes all of these classes, along with requirements for high school graduation and college admission. The plan also needs to be reevaluated every year.

Most freshmen and sophomores haven’t considered which colleges are a good fit yet, and that’s okay. They should be focusing on which careers intrigue them and which pathways they want to explore after high school, whether or not that means college.

Juniors should have a preliminary idea of what types of colleges they want to explore. This is a conversation that starts with you, the parent. For example: How far from home is financially reasonable? Students often think they don’t have to limit their searches geographically, but when asked if they have the money for an airplane ticket, they realize they have to talk to Mom or Dad.

Seniors should have a list of colleges they plan to apply to and be ready to share their plans. If a student is undecided, that’s alright! Their high school advisor can help in the decision process.

Why Is It Important To Meet With Your Academic Advisor?

High school advisors have coveted information about scholarships, course selection timelines, career events, college fairs, and other helpful resources that parents and students should take advantage of throughout each grade. Additionally, they work together with parents to support a student’s college/career planning, so that neither has to do it in isolation.

Many high school advisors even have an online college/career platform (such as Naviance, Xello, Youscience or Scoir) where parents can set up an account to help their students meet college and career readiness requirements.

How Do You Communicate With An Advisor?

As a parent, the first time you speak with a high school advisor a phone call is most appropriate. You can email simple questions to advisors throughout the year, but if the questions become more complicated, a phone call is warranted.

Some schools may prefer for parents to join via phone conference or virtually, or they may welcome parents in. Often, when family members join, the meeting is much longer than it would be with just a student, so the high school advisor would want to know ahead of time that a parent is joining to be sure the length of the meeting is appropriately scheduled.

As a high school counselor, I always welcome parents to meetings, but I like to have met the student first to understand their perspective and what they want to pursue. I have found that in parent/student meetings, most often the parent speaks more than the student. That makes it harder to build a relationship with the student.

In the end, it’s important to know high school advisors and parents want the same things for students:

  • We both want your student to have thoughtfully explored potential careers in high school via course selection that supports career exploration and rigor for college preparation.
  • We both want your student to be academically successful and reach their highest potential.
  • We both want your student to be socially and emotionally well.

Additional Resources For College Planning

Our mission at My College Planning Team is to leave no stone unturned when it comes to helping students and families find their best-fit college at the lowest possible price. So, in addition to helping our clients optimize their finances to increase need-based aid and improving test scores to increase merit aid, we also recommend specific resources to help families save money on college here.

Additionally, we work with students from incoming freshmen to high school seniors seeking to build a best-fit college list. You can schedule a free consultation here for further guidance.

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