Students start thinking about their college and career plans as early as their first year of high school. But these thoughts are more than just “where should I go to college?” Students are interested in what they can study, campus culture, aid, and more. When you are planning for college or to learn a trade, your school’s guidance counselor is your guide to finding, preparing for, applying to, and getting into the best college for you.
To help you work with your counselor and make the most of those conversations, SUNY’s enrollment team compiled a list of the top questions a high school student should ask their school counselor, as well as questions that parents and guardians will want to know the answer to.
If you don’t have time to read the post, download the list of questions or take a screenshot on your phone to bring with you to your counselor’s office.
- Do I have to take ACT/SATs to get into college?
Despite SUNY waiving the testing requirement, you must talk to your high school counselor about the best solution for you. Students who are entering a trade program and students interested in bachelor’s degrees have different testing requirements and admissions needs. If you are an NCAA Division I student-athlete, applying to select programs, or banking on a merit scholarship, colleges may require ACT or SAT scores. International students are not required to take the SAT or ACT, but at some campuses, these tests may be substituted for the TOEFL. Your counselor will help you navigate this important decision.
- What electives and general education classes can/should I take in high school?
The courses you take in high school are important. College-in-the-high-school classes and AP classes are an affordable way to get college credit and explore majors before you start college. For students who want to learn a trade, some BOCES programs in New York have college articulation agreements with community colleges and technology colleges that offer students a chance to earn college credit for the articulated courses while still in high school.
- What AP classes should I take?
If you can do well in an AP class, take it. At the end of the day, students should take the most rigorous course in which they can succeed. An “A” in a standard course is better than a “C” in an AP course. Colleges do like to see rigor, but not at the expense of comprehension. In addition, most SUNY colleges will award credit for students who achieve a 3 on an AP exam. You might have friends or siblings who will push back because the class was hard or because of the teacher, but AP classes give you a leg up on college. Plus, the additional challenges of AP classes can help prepare you for the coursework of college.
- Will sports or extracurricular activities make a difference on a college application?
Remember that college admissions representatives look at students beyond coursework and grades. What you do outside of the classroom tells the college what you bring to the community and the campus.
- Should I apply to in-state or out-of-state colleges?
When you apply to an out-of-state college, do your research. Look at tuition costs for out-of-state students, research scholarships, ask your counselor about reciprocity agreements, inquire about tuition waivers, and compare the debt load to an in-state college.
- Will my grades impact my chances at my top pick colleges?
If you are worried about your grades, buckle down and start studying. College admissions offices generally take a holistic view of an applicant, but grades are the most important part of the process. If you are applying to a specialized or competitive program, you must have the grades, and extracurriculars to support your application.
- How do I get scholarships for college or to learn a trade?
The first place to start is with the FAFSA. Fill out the FAFSA to apply for third-party scholarships, New York State scholarships such as the Excelsior Scholarship or STEM Incentive Program, and scholarships offered by the campus. SUNY’s Smart Track is a good place to help you learn more about scholarships.
- What kinds of jobs can I get with the major I choose?
If you are focused on a major you want to study or a sport you want to play in college, try going backwards. What do you want to do? What jobs or careers interest you? With that in mind, ask your counselor about marketplace demand and the steps you need to take in college to get there.
- Where can I get a SUNY viewbook?
SUNY has 64 colleges and universities, and hundreds of majors and trade programs. The SUNY viewbook is your guide to the system. You can view the interactive SUNY Viewbook or ask your high school counselor for a copy to help you find a few good colleges that allow you to study what you want and have the student life you desire too.
The questions your parents or guardians want you to ask
After you meet with your counselor, you are going to go home with answers and a plan, and when you tell your parents or guardians all about your visit, you know you are going to hear even more questions. We’re here to help with that too. When you meet with your counselor, your parents or guardians are going to want to know:
- When can we apply for financial aid?
- Do they have to fill out FAFSA too?
- How much does the college cost?
- When can my student apply for admission?
- When should we visit colleges?
- Where can we find college visit opportunities?
- How many colleges should we apply to?
Download these guides to help plan for college
SUNY has prepared guides to help you plan for college. Take a few minutes to review the timelines, tips, and ideas to plan for your future after high school.