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How to Work with a College Counselor

Updated: Nov 17, 2022

LAUNCH Education Advisor Samantha DeLeon shares her advice on finding college mentorship


What is the difference between a counselor and a mentor? Do you need one? How can you leverage these relationships to receive the best guidance to propel your education and career forward?

Finding mentors and counselors can greatly enrich your life experiences, and literally determine the direction your life takes.

It’s not always easy to stretch your comfort zone to drive these conversations, but it is doable.

How can I find a mentor?

I had a high school counselor, a youth pastor, mentors, and older friends that I could turn to discuss academics, classes, social life, and balancing being a teen. Friends can be a good sounding board as well, but remember they’re going through the same things as you, and might not always have the extra wisdom that comes along with experience. Find people you admire, trust, and can connect with during your college search.

My high school counselor didn’t really guide me on what types of universities were out there. I am grateful for my experiences, but to be honest, if I had an independent counselor or had asked the right questions I think I would have been in a better place. As a first-generation student, I didn’t really didn’t know what questions to ask. I only could look at what my family had done. My parents had gained their education in the Philippines and my two older sisters went to the large-public state school where we could commute from home. When I was researching schools, our family motivation was driven by finances which left me without a college loan. This approach was limited. Had I asked better questions I might have landed somewhere that better fit my goals and values.

Questions to ask counselors researching schools

Going into a conversation well-prepared will ensure you get the most out of your time together. So consider these questions (and your own) in advance.

For mentors/counselors/wiser friends:

  • Did you know what you want to be when you started working?

  • What was your major?

  • If there was one thing you could do differently in college what would that be?

  • Who were your mentors?

For Academic Counselors/Independent Counselors:

  • What is your specialty in student demographics?

  • What would your clients/students say about you?

  • Can you share your timeline for working with students?

  • How do you help students build a list of colleges?

  • If you could do college over again, is there something you would have done differently?

  • What was your major?

Researching where to attend college is a big life choice. Everyone in your life has an opinion on what you should do- your neighbors, people in the street, teachers, friends, family, and bosses. Make sure you are intentional about whose advice matters, and when to say, “thank you for your opinion,” and let it go. With the right mentors, a high school counselor, or IEC, you’ll make the best decision for you.


A brunette woman in a gold turtleneck smiles at the camera.

Author Bio

Samantha Deleon is an active member of International ACAC, Study Illinois, and is pursuing an MBA through the Illinois Institute of Technology. She always carves out time to Peloton or bike outdoors along Lake Michigan or around the Chicagoland area.


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