The Importance of Building Relationships With College Admission Professionals
By Julie Kampschroeder on December 19, 2019
There’s more to students – and colleges – than numbers. Relationships matter and interpersonal dealings, observed or inferred, can tip the scale one way or another.
Building relationships with the college admissions professionals that surround you during high school is one of the best ways you can help yourself. By developing your communication and relationship building now, you can set yourself up to have a tremendous influence on your side when it comes time to apply to colleges - the recommendation of your teachers and counselors!
Communicating with Your Counselor
If you are a public school student, you may compete against 400-800 classmates for assistance from your counselor. If you are introverted, you may find the process of reaching out to your counselor nerve-wracking; however, it is necessary for a successful admissions process. Don’t let that overwhelming feeling take control of you. Understand that your counselor would prefer to talk with you over the multitude of tasks they are buried under at their desk! After all, you are the reason they became a counselor.
How To Find Your Counselor
If you’re struggling to track down your counselor during school hours, check the high school website for their contact information, ask a teacher, or ask an office professional. High schools typically divide students either by grade level or alphabet by your last name.
Take the initiative to introduce yourself to your counselor in their office before school. Tell them your name, grade level and that you need assistance with the college process. If you are a first-generation student (neither parent graduated with a 4-year degree), be sure to tell your counselor. Ask when and how you can make an appointment to start discussing your college and career goals.
The end goal is to build a relationship over time. Be polite, positive and punctual for meetings. Respect their time as they have many responsibilities and students. A responsible, organized student writes down questions and brings them to each meeting (in case you get nervous and forget to ask). It is up to you to initiate the meeting in a large school. Be proactive and make frequent meetings until all of your questions are answered. The only way for your counselor to get to know you so they can write a strong letter of recommendation is if they really know your story and goals. You are the person who dictates the success of the journey. Be genuine in all interactions and thank them for their time.
Communicating with a College Representative
Search under the ‘Admissions’ tab on the college website for the name and email of your high school rep.
- Introduce yourself and upload your college resume to the email.
- Ask specific questions that cannot be found on the website.
- Be genuine and grateful for their assistance.
- Avoid superficial questions and respect their time.
They are working with thousands of potential high school applicants! Avoid being a ‘stealth applicant’, a student that had zero contact with the college rep before applying to college. Sign up for their college visit to your high school campus, visit them at the local college fair and research to find out if they offer ‘fly in’ or summer programs. Many colleges offer financial assistance to students. This information can be found on their website but feel free to call the admissions office for help. Your counselor can assist you with college fairs and college rep visits to your campus.
Communication Skills will Determine Success and Opportunities
Determine yourself early on in your high school career to work on this skill set, even if it feels uncomfortable. As a student, this is the first time you are experiencing this type of situation. You should be asking for help! Do not try to work the entire process alone. Counselors are educators and in the business of ‘teaching’.
I had a student tell me she was so stressed about a situation that she cried before talking to me. As her counselor, I coached her on the conversation, and then she called the admissions office prepared to handle the situation.
Treating the college admission process like a transaction is not the right approach. Instead, treat it like the personal growth process it should be. Lengthen it out by starting early. Make real-life contact with lots of people – admissions officers, current students, faculty, alumni – and speak candidly (and often) with them. Be genuine and ask real questions so you can make well-informed decisions. And, as in real life, it’s hard to date a dozen people at once so narrow your target list to a manageable number as early as possible.
After college, human relationships will be one of the most important determinants of your success. The same holds true while you’re deciding upon and applying to colleges. Sure, it would be nice if the process was more transparent and straight-forward… hopefully, that will come very soon!