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CollegeReady > News > Blog > Post-secondary planning with help from your high school counselor

what happens after high school graduation? Figure out what's next with help from your school counselor

Are you unsure about how to begin making post-secondary plans? Your high school counselor can be a valuable resource in helping you plan for the future!

By Heather Seaborn, High School Counselor

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

As a high school counselor, I have the wonderful opportunity to help students and their parents/guardians start the process of deciding what happens after high school. And the best time to begin planning for what will happen after high school is, yes, you guessed it – during high school. 

Do you have questions about how to start the process of post-secondary planning? If you need help understanding financial aid, scheduling campus tours, exploring careers, or really anything related to college or careers, your high school counselor can help!

In this blog post, we’ll show you how easy it is to access the help and support you need. Ready? Let’s go!

Future planning: Where to start?

My best advice to you and your student is to start with a FREE resource right in your high school: the school counselor. Formerly known as the ‘guidance counselor,’ school counselors’ roles are ever-evolving to meet the needs of students! 

Today, school counselors provide a foundation for students to be successful when it comes to personal and social development, academics, and they assist students with career/post-secondary planning. So start there!

Make it a point to contact your school counselor regularly throughout high school, and take advantage of available resources by attending events focused on scheduling classes, career fairs, grade level planning meetings, and more. 

PRO TIP: Don’t make the mistake of waiting until senior year to begin thinking about the future. Especially if you are considering pursuing post-secondary education!

Heather asks which career fields may be of interest to high school student Talissa

junior year is a critical planning year for post-secondary success

Meeting with your counselor

Let’s fast forward to junior year of high school… I consider this the ‘planning phase’ of the process for the next chapter in your student’s life. Whether they have very specific goals or have no idea where to start, this would be a perfect time to sit down with your school counselor.

Together, you can formulate a timeline and checklist of items to accomplish junior year, along with a “To Do” list of action steps that should be completed during senior year. Your school counselor will have resources to guide this process.

Other great connections at your fingertips are college/university representatives visiting your school, career fairs hosted at school and out in the community, and your high school career center. You may also be able to make a connection with your local college/university’s career coach – ask about this at your counseling/student services office!

Again, all of these are FREE resources that your student can use.  

As a school counselor, every year I invite all students and their parents/guardians to a junior planning conference, typically held in early spring. This face-to-face meeting is an opportunity to examine the students’ high school transcript and GPA, and work together to create a planning timeline for the remainder of the year (as it relates to making plans for after high school).

Whether the goal is college, an apprenticeship, or other educational paths, counselors can assist in researching suitable institutions, understanding admission requirements, and identifying financial aid options.

'Shopping around' for a college/university

I often have conversations with families about choosing a course of study. It’s important to think about your interests, use your resources like personality and character assessments, and get hands-on experience to understand your likes and dislikes. Find out more about choosing a college major here.

But what about a student that is completely undecided on a major? This can be a tough sell for a parent/guardian to take out loans when their student has no direction for their plan of study. But yes, this situation happens all the time. In fact, the most popular major for new college freshmen is ‘Undecided.’

To me, this seems like a perfect reason to schedule campus visits and do some online research about colleges/universities!

Here are a few things that I always suggest that students and parents/guardians consider when researching colleges or majors:

Distance from college to home

Cost of attendance

Opportunities within the college/university community

Careers or graduate school opportunities after undergrad graduation

I have found that the campus visit is the best way to “test drive” the campus and truly understand the features the school has to offer your student. If possible, I would recommend a visit during the school year to get the vibe when classes are in session and student life is on full display. You can even schedule a tour of the college for a chance to get a good look at all the campus buildings, ask questions, and hear from a current student.

If a school day visit does not work, visit when you can! There are also opportunities for virtual visits if you are unable to attend in person.

With so much to think about, you need to shop around.

Standardized tests and college admissions

Another factor in the application process is whether or not the schools your student is applying to “require” the ACT or SAT standardized tests for admissions.

Currently, all public school students in the state of Wisconsin are required to take the ACT test – free of charge – at their high school during the early spring of junior year (11th grade). ACT scores are used by the school district to gauge student success, and individual student scores can also be submitted to the colleges/universities that require it for admissions (as requested by the student). 

And if your prospective schools require it and you are not satisfied with your first ACT score, take it again by signing up for a national test on a Saturday.

PRO TIP: A great question to ask during your campus visit: Does this school require an ACT or SAT score for admissions?

Your school counselor can help you register for a standardized test. Just ask!

So what's next?

For many students, the process of figuring out what you want to be when you grow up can be tough. But never fear! You have lots of great resources around you to help!

  Get to know your school counselor, work with them often!

  Attend any career/college planning events your school or community might offer to get your questions answered!

  Sign up online for campus visits! They are free and happen monthly and even weekly on most college/university campuses. Visit! Visit! Visit! 

  Do your online research in regards to admission requirements, cost, location and more. 

Junior year is an exciting time and important planning year for life after high school. 

Senior year will be a year of action!  You will be applying for colleges/universities, financial aid, scholarships, and more, so don’t wait until the fall to start thinking about your future plans.

Talk to your high school counselor today to get started!

Heather Seaborn has worked as a High School Counselor at Green Bay East High School in Green Bay, WI since the 2004-2005 school year, serving an ever-changing, diverse student population.

UW-Green Bay, Human Development, BS
Lakeland College, K-12 School Counseling, MAC


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