As a high school counselor, you know helping your students get into the colleges best-suited for them can involve a great deal of hard work and relationship-building — with students and their families, as well as college admission officers.

Here, high school counselors and college admission officers share their tips on building and strengthening relationships with admission officers. 

Put in the Time

Just like any relationship, developing a meaningful connection with college admission officers takes time. Tara Brewer, a regional admission manager at Michigan Technological University (MTU), says that she’s been building some of her relationships with high school counselors for more than 13 years. After working together for that long, Brewer says these relationships often transition into lasting friendships. 

“I know most of my counselors. We’re Facebook friends and they know how to text me on my personal phone. We visit twice a year and catch up,” she says. “We really are more than just colleagues, which I think allows them to feel comfortable reaching out via text message to say, ‘Hey, I have this one student who I think might be a good fit.’” 

That doesn’t mean you need to be texting on the weekends with admission officers to have a valuable relationship, of course. Brewer points out the importance of spending time networking professionally and suggests getting involved in state counseling groups to interact with admission officers. “For example, we have the Illinois Association of College Admission Counseling, which includes both the high school side and the college side,” she says. As MTU’s regional recruiter for Illinois, she’s involved in that state’s group, but she adds, “Every state has one of these networks.” There’s also the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC), an organization that can help you build relationships nationwide. 

Keep Your School Profile Current

College Advising Consultant Emily Nevinger, who spent 15 years on the university side of admissions, says admission officers rely heavily on CollegeBoard and NACAC school profiles when judging applicants. Since curriculums aren’t standardized, a school profile provides vital information for judging the strength of a prospective student. It’s up to the high school counselor to communicate what’s new and interesting about the school, especially in terms of academic programming, adds Nevinger. 

Christine Grotzke, another regional admission manager at Michigan Technological University, says the school profile offers insight into whether a particular student is taking advantage of what their high school has to offer. To illustrate, she says: “If they’re taking all regular-level courses, is that because that was all that was offered to them, or is that because they haven’t felt equipped enough to take an AP-level course?” 

Be Responsive

Sharing information quickly and clearly is key to creating a meaningful relationship with admission officers. This is especially true when a college reaches out for additional information regarding a student’s application. “The high school counselor is the go-to point person for colleges. So, if [students are] missing any important application materials, or if there’s a question about the GPA or the curriculum that a student has pursued, the colleges are going to reach out to [the high school counselor].” By providing timely and accurate responses, high school counselors will encourage more regular contact from the admission officer. 

Reach Out

Every relationship has to start somewhere, and Nevinger says that admission officers generally welcome introductory calls and emails from high school counselors. 

“I would definitely encourage high school counselors to reach out to colleges, even if they don’t have an existing relationship,” Nevinger continues. “It’s showing that you’re being a good advocate for your students and for your school.” 

Now that Nevinger works on the high school side of admission, she follows her own advice and cold-calls admission offices when needed. At worst, she says, they might be too busy to talk at the time. But that’s not the norm, according to Nevinger. “Schools are usually pretty receptive,” she says.