If you have a teenager at home, chances are you have had the “What do you want to do after high school?” discussion. A few teens will start thinking of their post-high school ambitions while in middle school. Some will begin considering college and major choices while a freshman or sophomore. However many others will only start planning their academic strategy late in their junior or senior year. So, when is the best time to start college counseling?

Making post-high school plans can be stressful. However, one action can alleviate much of that anxiety and help you and your teen navigate the steps necessary for success: working with a high school college and career counselor.

Freshman Year is the Best Time to Start College Counseling 

Your teen’s high school counselor is a critical person in the college admission journey. Developing this relationship with the parent, teen, and college counselor will take some time. This relationship should start with the teen reaching out to the counselor and introducing themselves early in their freshman year.

Your teen may simply stop by the counselor’s office in between classes or over lunch. If your school is a small rural or private school, this introduction may not be necessary—a relationship may already be present. But your student needs to tell the counselor they want to specifically talk about post-high school plans.

Counselors are invaluable resources and mentors for academic and career goals. Your student’s high school counselor can help create that four-year academic plan that will lead to any post-high school goals. Having a four-year high school plan is important regardless of whether your student is aiming for a two or four-year college degree, a trade certificate, or the military. Learn more about the 4 Paths After High School.

Consider your student’s high school years as a journey, with the college counselor as the captain of the ship. You wouldn’t start on a trip without first consulting maps, itineraries, or available tools onboard the ship. Your student’s college counselor can suggest high school classes, possible extracurricular activities, and job possibilities.  They can share admission requirements, deadlines, and the many details required to meet your student’s goals.

Make an Appointment to Meet with Your High School Counselor

Freshman and sophomore students should meet individually with their high school counselor a few times each year. In these early meetings, your student should do much of the talking, sharing their dreams and ambitions. Together, they can discuss your student’s academic record, strengths, and extracurricular interests. These meetings may also explore opportunities for summer jobs, academic camps, or internships.

Your student should come to these meetings with a plan to discuss career opportunities. Their counselor can help them learn more about their interests and possibly help locate job-shadowing opportunities. A day with an electrician or an accountant can change a student’s life path. Does your student need some help exploring career interests? Check out this career planning site.

Starting this journey in the freshman year can help your student develop confidence. This will be important in how they plan each year: both for academics and activities. Developing this counselor relationship early builds the rapport needed during the college application process. Your student’s counselor can help brainstorm ideas, events, or successes that will assist in writing college essays later in high school.  Your counselors are not only critical for your student’s future but often overworked as well. Maximize their time and your benefit. 


The OnToCollege College & Career Readiness course or eBooks are invaluable resources to help students find their best-fit college at the lowest cost and navigate the college admissions process. To learn more about individualized college counseling options with John Baylor, click here to schedule a free consultation.