A college counselor should be a strategy consultant, coach, and cheerleader all rolled into one. Learn why you need a college counselor and how your counselor fits into your overall application timeline. 

5 Things a College Counselor Can Do for You

Most high schools have at least one on-site college counselor to advise students on finding and applying to colleges. As the point person for your applications , college counselors keep you on top of deadlines and graduation requirements and ultimately send your official transcript to colleges. They can also help you find schools that fit you , identify dream/match/safety schools , complete your FAFSA , craft strong school-specific application essays , and help manage anxiety and stress.  Supplementing the support you receive in school, independent admission counselors can serve as another great resource throughout the admissions process.

Here are five reasons you need your college counselors.

what does a college counselor do?

1. Lower your college stress

Applications are stressful. 7 out of 10 respondents on our 2017 College Hopes & Worries survey gauged their stress levels as “high” or “very high.” Knowing that there are college experts in your corner can make all the difference. At The Princeton Review, our college counselors are available face-to-face whenever you have a question (or just need some encouragement).

2. Make a college wish list

Talking with a college counselor about your dreams and goals can help you figure out what you really want out of college. Does your best-fit college run a popular co-operative education program? Are you looking for a politically active student body ? Conversations with your counselor about what’s important to you in terms of academics, campus culture, and financial aid will help guide your overall college search.

3. Find and compare colleges

There are hundreds of colleges out there, and the right school for your unique personality and goals may be an Ivy League or it might be a school you haven’t heard of (yet!). College counselors are pros at helping you research schools and then narrowing your list to the colleges you should focus on.

4. Help you rise to the top

In a competitive applicant pool, a stellar college application is about more than just grades and SAT/ACT scores . Your college counselor will help you position the rest of your application to tell the story of who you are through your essays, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation. Counselors know which essay topics are overdone, how to make good use of supplementary materials, and how to explain an uncharacteristic bad grade to admissions committees.

5. Choose the right school for you

Your personal college counselors will help you craft your list of dream, match, and safety schools and craft the right application strategy for your college wishlist. And when those acceptances roll in, your counselors help you compare programs and financial aid packages so that you make the right decision for you.

College Counseling Timeline

College counselors help you come up with your best admissions strategy, but they also make sure you stay on track. After all, juniors and seniors are juggling applying to colleges in addition to their regular classes and extracurriculars.

Our junior/senior year timeline shows you what you need to do and when to attend your dream college (and how your college counselor can help).

College counseling timeline

Junior Year

Summer (before)

Begin researching schools. Start your test prep. The PSAT/NMSQT is in just a few months— the best way to prep for the PSAT is to prep for the SAT. We recommend the summer before junior year as the best time to take a test prep course.


Take the PSAT. Register for the SAT and/or ACT. Talk with a college counselor about what you want out of your college experience.


Take the SAT and/or ACT. Continue creating a list of colleges based on what’s important to you in terms of academics, campus culture, and financial aid. Work with your college counselor to narrow down the list.


Continue drafting your list of dream, match, and safety schools with your college counselor. Begin visiting campuses. Work with your college counselor to build your college application strategy. Request letters of recommendation before school lets out!

Summer (after)

Continue visiting schools, so you can finalize your college list. Should you retake the SAT or ACT? Brainstorm topics with your college counselor, and begin drafting your application essays. Start applying for scholarships.

Senior Year


Will you apply early? Decide early action vs early decision with your college counselor. Fill out the Common Application. If you’re applying early decision, applications are due in November!


Applications for regular decision are due in January! Review your essay and application with your college counselor to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. Accepted Early Decision? Hurray! Withdraw your regular decision applications. Complete and submit the FAFSA.


Acceptance letters mailed out. Celebrate your acceptances with your college counselor, and make your final decision.


Enjoy the summer and prepare for college!

Looking for strategic college advice?

Get one-on-one help from former Ivy League and top tier admission officers. Our College Admission Counselors will help you find, apply, and get accepted to your dream school.

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