A new survey out from Public Agenda and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has confirmed what I have said before here many times: don’t expect much college admissions help from your high school counselor.
The survey involved 614 people between the ages of 22 and 30 who had at least some college education. The people in the survey were asked a number of questions regarding their experiences with their high school guidance counselors and the degree of help they received in their search for the right college.
67% of the people in the survey gave their high school counselor a fair or pair rating for help in deciding which college to attend, while 59% gave fair to poor ratings for help in finding ways to pay for college. 54% gave their counselors fair to poor ratings for help with the application process.
One of the problems with relying on high school counselors is that they receive no training in the college admissions or financial aid process during their education. Most also don’t have the time or resources to get more than basic on the job training.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some very good high school counselors that actually understand the college admissions process. But they are not the norm.
Even those that do understand how college admissions and financial aid works often don’t have the time to really help students because of their other duties. According to a report from the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the average high school counselor spends 38 minutes a year on each students search for the right college.
As the Public Agenda article points out, the school counselor association recommends a ratio of 100 students to 1 counselor but the national counselor to student ratio averages 265 students per counselor. In some states, the ratio is much higher. In California, the ratio is almost 1,000 students per counselor and even in states like Arizona, Minnesota Utah and the District of Columbia the ratio is 700 to 1.
As a private college admissions counselor I can’t imagine how I could help 100 students a year with anything more than basic college counseling. The search for the right college is not something that takes 38 minutes. And if you are hoping to get financial aid to help pay for college, you need to spend much more time.
It is an unfortunate truth that the vast majority of students can not rely on their high school counselors for real help in finding the best college for their needs. That means you have two options: spend the time to try to find colleges or hire someone like me to help you with the college admissions process.