There are lots of things that you can do in 45 minutes but providing students with all the advice and information they need to successfully apply to college is not one of them. Yet 45 minutes is the amount of time, on average, that college counselors spend with students over the entirety of their four years of high school. Please don’t misunderstand—this is not an indictment of your school’s college counselor. It is simply a statement of fact as collected by the National Association of College Admission Counseling, or NACAC, the preeminent body representing college counselors across America.
The fact is that college counselors are overwhelmed by the enormity of their caseloads which range from a high of 924 students per counselor in Arizona to a low of 200 in Vermont. New York’s average caseload is 635 students, while in Massachusetts it is 423. As a result of the enormity of these caseloads, the average student receives 45 minutes of time with his school counselor over four years of high school. Typically, counselors at private schools have smaller caseloads but they still cannot possibly provide students with all the assistance they need. They do a great job and provide general guidance, but not drilling down into the details. There simply is not enough time to do so for all their students.
Conversely, it is quite common for private college counselors to spend 45 minutes on a single college supplemental essay rather than on the entirety of guidance that a student requires. And when you add up all the time spent on all essays, including the Common Application’s personal narrative, and factor in the other 20 or so application data points that go into college admission decisions, you are much closer to 100 hours of guidance provided over four years. Having this amount of time available to work with each student is a great luxury afforded to private counselors. As a result, experienced private counselors are able to provide very detailed advice on every aspect of the college admission process.
It is important to understand that applying to college is more than merely filling out applications. It is about making strategic decisions over four years of high school. It is about creating a compelling narrative. It is about painting a compelling picture and supporting that picture with evidence. It is about presenting oneself as a likable and admirable person. It is about supporting an application with words and numbers and references. Overall, it is about convincing the admissions committee that you will make a positive contribution to their campus and culture, that you will proudly carry their banner, that you will adhere to their mission, and that you will not cause them to regret their decision at any time or in any way, shape, or form.