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How Can I Become a High School College Counselor?

As a high school college counselor, you assist students with planning for college and finding the right school. Read on to learn more, including details about common tasks, education info, and licensing and certification requirements.

What Is a High School College Counselor?

A high school college counselor is a high school counselor who advises students about college options and the admissions process. They may start working with students when they are freshmen, helping them figure out which courses they need to take in order to meet college admissions requirement. Over the course of a student's school career, they may offer advice about which standardized admissions tests to take and when to take them, as well as how to make the most of networking and promotional events like college fairs. For students in their junior and senior years, counselors discuss college options, possible majors and future career considerations. They also help them compile their admissions application materials and apply for financial aid. When seniors start getting acceptance letters, counselors may help them make the final college decision.

The education required to become a high school college counselor will depend on the type of employer and the state, but most schools require a master's degree. Find out more through the table below.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Guidance counseling, counseling
Key Skills Interpersonal, listening, compassion, problem-solving
Licensure/Certification Most states require licensure and/or certification
Job Growth (2018-2028) 8% (for all educational, guidance, school and vocational counselors)*
Average Salary (2018) $66,910 (for all elementary and secondary schools counselors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as a High School College Counselor?

As a high school college counselor, you'd work with high school students to help them prepare for college. This may include ensuring they take the right classes to meet college admissions requirements, helping them apply to colleges and setting up college campus visits. Your duties may also include:

  • Calling college admissions counselors to discuss admissions requirements
  • Reviewing student records
  • Meeting with students and parents
  • Providing college information to students
  • Discussing students' career plans
  • Motivating students whose grades need improving in order to meet college admissions requirements

Under your guidance, students may plan their high school schedules, investigate college options and define their college majors. You help students decide what college they want to go to, what career they would like to have and how they are going to meet college and career goals. You help students choose the right courses in high school that match their career goals. You're responsible for ensuring that students who want to go to college are prepared for the admissions process once they graduate. You may assist students with the following:

  • Preparing for and scheduling pre-college testing
  • Developing resumes
  • Arranging opportunities for students to shadow someone in their chosen career fields
  • Informing students about financial aid options
  • Creating programs to introduce students to college options

What Education Do I Need?

You need a master's degree in school counseling, college admissions counseling or a related counseling area. If you already have a degree, you may be able to get a postgraduate certificate in college admissions counseling. A counseling program may provide instruction on such topics as these:

  • Human growth and development
  • Counseling ethics
  • College admissions process
  • College exam preparation
  • Career planning
  • Transition counseling

Are There Other Requirements?

You'll need to be licensed or certified through your state to be a high school college counselor. Requirements aren't the same for all states. Some states may require a school counseling certification, while others may require a license. Some states even require you to hold both teaching and counseling certificates. Many states require you to have a master's degree, and some may require teaching experience and continuing education.

In addition to state certification, you may consider optional certification through the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) or the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). NBPTS certification is offered in school counseling and provides a validation of your counseling skills (www.nbpts.org). The NBCC offers the National Certified School Counselor designation, which is available after completing an examination process (www.nbcc.org).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instead of working as high school counselor, you could consider becoming a school counselor at an elementary or middle school. In this role, you would not be offering college advice as much as helping students deal with mental health issues, classroom behavioral problems, family troubles and other concerns. For this job, you would need a master's degree and a license to work in a public school. If you know that you want to work specifically with high school students, you could consider getting a job as a high school teacher, where positions are available in many different subjects, including math, history and psychology. In addition to basic teaching duties, high school teachers may be involved in helping students in the college admissions process, such as writing letters of recommendation. For a job as a high school teacher, a bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement.