In the last edition of College Counseling Countdown, I introduced the counseling calendar for the months of August to October and discussed the key roles and responsibilities of a counselor. In this edition, I will focus on the most important purpose of our job, guiding students to the right university.
At the beginning of fall, some students will complete their early applications but the majority of the students are getting ready to start their applications at the beginning of November. They need the college counselor’s time and guidance to meet all admission requirements. Every year I am surprised by the utter reliance of students and parents on the college counselor. This adds to the unspoken role of a college counselor, the expectation that they know everything about every student. I have drafted a list of questions that I ask all my students to reflect upon before starting the applications. These key questions help to lighten the burden of knowing it all.
International students have the privilege and opportunity to study anywhere in the world. This is a boon and a bane! While there are unlimited options, there is also no clear guidance for students to select a specific country. Some students end up applying to as many countries as possible. This is dangerous as they compromise the quality due to the quantity of university applications. I advise my students to select a country after pondering these questions:
Getting an idea of the environment and lifestyle is key to adapting to a new country. Most college dropouts are due to culture shock or reverse culture shock, not due to the rigor of the program of study! Hence, selecting a country or a maximum of two by answering yes to most of the questions above really helps the student narrow down the choices.
Surprisingly, most students decide on their course based on something their parents want them to do, the higher possibility of getting a job, or the college ranking. All of these are just a notion for students who have not done the research suggested by the college counselor. Matching skills to interests is the first step in selecting college courses/programs/majors. Ask students to answer the following questions in case they are undecided or still deliberating about university courses/programs/majors:
If the student has most of the questions answered convincingly then they are moving towards the right direction. Remember a counselor’s role is to guide not to guess. Collecting evidence from students or creating student portfolios really helps in guiding the students.
What to expect?
Counselors have a critical role in delivering the good news and the not-so-good news. Breaking the news to a student that they do not meet admission requirements is harsh but necessary. Making expectations clear from the beginning of the admissions process can avoid unnecessary and uncomfortable conversations with parents and students. Do students know what to expect when they commence university? Ask students to answer a few questions to find out if they are university ready:
Having clear expectations helps students gain confidence in their choices. They know exactly what to expect when they arrive at their chosen destinations. Life skills are survival buoys to smoothly ride the big wave of university life, extreme but expected!
Once these questions have been answered, most students will know where they want to apply and for what course/program/major. The next step is to guide them to the application portals that open at the end of fall.
November and December:
Take the time to process and reflect on this approach. Winter is coming! Gear up to ensure students navigate these months with research and guidance from the counselor. This will decide how the upcoming spring months unfold.
Shwetangna Chakrabarty is the editor for The International Educator and the assistant head of secondary and university counselor at Utahloy International School Guangzhou, China. She has been a university counselor for over 10 years, actively advising students and families for university application and selection. She has toured over 60 universities across the world to develop a wealth of experience in college counseling. She serves in the Council of International School’s Global Forum Planning Committee 2022 for university guidance and admissions.
Twitter and LinkedIn: @shwetangna