Parents’ discussion guide: Questions to ask your student’s academic advisor

Mom and teen daughter meeting with school counselor

Help to set your teen up for success by starting an ongoing conversation with their school counselor or academic advisor.

If you’re speaking with a school counselor for the first time, you might be a little unsure of what to ask, or be unaware of which questions are important. Here’s a guide to inspire your discussion.

Help your child be academically prepared

There are many different levels of preparedness and many different ways to get there. Here are a few questions to ask to make sure your student is on track:

  • How is my student doing academically?
  • Do you see any room for improvement or additional challenges?
  • What courses should my student be taking to best prepare for college? (Specifically for their Jr. / Sr. years?)
  • Does the school offer Advanced Placement (AP) or Dual credit courses and will those courses help my student? (And is my student capable of taking them?)

Find the right school option

School counselors may have great insight into a student’s potential, so make sure you understand how to help your student prepare for their future. Start by asking:

  • What types of schools do you think might be a good fit for my student? This should be based on scholarship opportunities, career interests or other factors that are important to you and your student.
  • How do you evaluate schools? Is there set factors to keep in mind (perhaps a checklist)?

Get college application insights

It’s imperative that your student stands out from the crowded field of college applicants. Make sure when you speak to an advisor you’re asking:

  • Do you provide guidance on my student’s application materials before they’re submitted, or does the school have recommendations for a service that can help?
  • What do schools look for in an application or scholarship essay?

Discover college prep opportunities

It’s never too early, or too late, to prepare for college. If you’re unsure about what’s available, here are some things to think about:

  • Does the school offer information on college planning sessions or fairs?
  • How do you normally prepare students for college?
  • What resources should students use to stay on track?

Discuss their standardized testing options

Standardized tests are a part of academic life. Make sure you understand what they’re all about so you can be a resource your student can turn to. Be sure to ask:

  • Do you recommend the SAT, ACT, or both?
  • Do certain schools prefer certain tests?
  • What’s the best way my student can prepare for standardized testing?
  • Does the school offer any resources for studying / test prep?

Talk about good extra curricular options for your student
Activities outside of academics play a huge role in admissions. Stay ahead of the game with these questions:

  • What type of extra curricular or outside activities do you recommend for my student?
  • Do certain schools look for select activities or skills?
  • Is it more important to have a well-rounded experience or to focus on the things that my student is passionate about?

Cover financial aid and scholarship options

Paying for college is a significant investment. Whether you’re helping pay for it, or it’s your child’s responsibility, you will want to know:

  • Are there scholarships that would be a good fit for my student?
  • What financial aid resources does the school offer?
  • How does the school prepare students for financial aid questions?
  • Do you walk students or parents through the FAFSA?
  • Where should I go to find out more about funding college?
  • Where do private loans, parent loans, or grants fit in?

Connect your student to any relevant alumni

There’s nothing like talking to someone with first-hand experience. Alumni, especially recent alumni, can be invaluable in talking with your student about college choices. Ask the school counselor:

  • Can you connect my student with grads who went to their preferred colleges?
  • Does the school have alumni groups that would benefit my student?

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