Those Pesky High School Counselors

high school counselor images

by Alia

Today I want to talk about counselors, many of us avoid them like the plague.

Well guess what? Counselors may be hard to deal with at times, but their help is golden/key to your success. When you first start high school it’s okay to brush off your counselor(s) a bit, but in your second year you need to be on them about your requirements and dream classes.

If you leave your counselor unattended for more than a year they might totally mess you up. Counselors are the “order” people, their job is to keep you on track to graduate and help coordinate your schedule.

Ask yourself what classes you have to take to graduate.

All students have specific requirements, for example math, social studies, English, PE, health, and science. Make sure you have taken and passed those classes before the end of your senior year. Divide them up so you take an English, social studies, science and math class each year. Depending on your school you may not have to take a math or science class in your senior year, but colleges will think fondly of you and accuplacer tests will be easier if you do so.

The order in which you do PE and health classes usually doesn’t matter. I did both my PE and health requirements during my Junior and Senior year surrounded by crazy freshmen who would not take it seriously. Not all freshmen are wild and crazy, but many are.

When you’re a freshmen, you can go one of three ways with your schedule. You can 1) be proactive do everything you have to do so you don’t have to later; 2) wait and take a break from requirements and take what you want; or 3) you can do a mix of those two options.

It’s ideal to make a plan of schedules to come before going to your counselor. If you come to your counselor prepared with the knowledge of what you want to do and what you need to do, not only will you look smart and capable, but your counselor will take you more seriously. Having a concrete plan to follow versus picking classes at random could be the difference between graduating or not.

Here is an example of a schedule planning table

Year Social Studies Math/Other Science/Other English Other
Freshmen geography algebra 1 biology English 9 art & music
Sophomore world history geometry chemistry English 10 PE 1&2
Junior us history algebra 2 physics English 11 Health 1&2
Senior economics/


pre calc or elective IB/AP science class or elective English 12 Some other electives 

In no way does this example have to be your class schedule, but this example sheds some light on how to format a schedule plan to present to your counselor. It is always a good thing to take at least one IB/AP class throughout high school. It’s better to take more than one, but not everyone is cut out for that kind of extra work (also the tests aren’t easy).

Create some sort of relationship with your counselor; try to be “friends” (not like hang out or anything, but share some personal info and get to know them/let them get to know you). Having some contextual knowledge about you will help your counselor keep your values in mind and getting to know your counselor will help you know in what ways you can rely on them as a counselor.

Be careful when dealing with counselors, not all of them are on top of it. Think about if you were a counselor, would you be able to manage the success of hundreds of students? Counselors have a life too, they’re not always in the best condition to counsel.

If your counselor says you can substitute a class for PE 1 or 2, DO NOT DO IT!!! There is a special curriculum that is followed in PE classes that are not followed in similar classes. This special curriculum is what makes PE a graduation requirement. It’s like putting a student who has been playing guitar for 7 years in a piano class for students who have been playing piano for 7 years. The two classes may be similar, but they focus around two totally separate things. This may also apply to other classes that are required for graduation such as certain English and math classes, however, situations vary.

You can choose to take some classes online or through PSEO (in a college setting), before doing so you should talk with your counselor to see how this will fit in your schedule and if it is right for you. Not everyone has the work ethic to do classes online, I myself failed PE online and was rather embarrassed by it. PSEO is a great opportunity to not only learn at a college level, but see what taking college classes is like. The problem is the deadlines, make sure you tell your counselor you want to get in before the deadline runs out.

If you failed a required class in the past you should talk about it with your counselor so you can figure out how to make up the needed credits before you graduate. I know some students who didn’t get to graduate because they were a few credits short, make sure to check in with your counselor regularly to make sure you’re on track and record what they say (because they might change what they say later: warning). Perhaps have them email you or sign something to certify you are on track and not missing anything.

I know someone who checked in with his counselor regularly to make sure he could graduate on time (he was a senior). His counselor put him in appropriate classes to catch up on credits, he did all of his work and even bought his cap/gown for graduation.

On the day before the graduation ceremony he realized his name was not on the list of graduates, he went to his counselor to find out what was the problem and his counselor said he/she forgot to tell him he was still missing 3 credits despite everything. Don’t be a victim like my friend was, stay on top of your classes and manage your counselor.

To avoid such problems stay a step ahead. Know more than or as much as your counselor on your progress and what you need to do. Don’t rely solely on your counselor, get others involved in your success in case your counselor’s help fails or something happens to them during a time of need. Print out your transcript to help see what areas you have completed and what areas you still need to complete.

When you sign up for classes, your counselor usually has the last say. If you feel taking a certain class is important make sure to communicate that to your counselor so they know not to take if off of your list.

Depending on what classes you take first your senior year may be compact with little to no wiggle room. If you really like a class, but don’t have room for it in your schedule look into taking a related club (math = math club; debate = debate team; art = mural/art club; music = band/jazz combo; gym = a sport…etc.) Make sure you get done what needs to be done above all else. Don’t ignore your passions, but also don’t let them get in your way of graduating.

If you’re having trouble with a counselor (they keep changing their story or aren’t helping you), then go to the next highest official like the assistant principal or the principal. If the next highest official is unable to help talk to a dean or close teacher and maybe they can help or at least give you some advice (they’ve got experience). If no one in your school appears to be able to help you in your academic success, go to the school board or consider changing schools.

Graduating is important in the world today. Some don’t think it will amount to anything or they’re not graduation material, but that is not so. Everyone who goes to school and tries their best can graduate, sometimes it takes a year or two extra to do so, but everyone has the potential. Graduating or not could mean the difference between getting a nice job or even a job at all.

Life happens.

Some of us have jobs, family conflicts, life-changing dilemmas, children, sick family members, mental illnesses, relationship drama, biological deformities/differences, physical illnesses, bullies, and/or an unstable environment that often gets in the way of doing school work or being able to go to school. Don’t let these things get in the way; if need be take a break from school, but don’t give up on it.

Counselors can be great resources, be sure to use their advice and that your voice is being heard.

To set up an appointment with your counselor go to the main office and request to meet with him/her. If you don’t know who your counselor is, ask the person at the office desk if they can look it up for you or how you might find out.

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