A student attending high school with an eye toward attending college may find the whole concept Greek to him. The role a high school admissions counselor plays is to help a student transition from high school student to college grad by uncovering the student's interests and applying them to a good college program. They serve a pivotal role at a pivotal time in a student's life.
Like their counterparts in college admissions offices, high school counselors are expected to know the ins and outs of applying for financial aid and scholarships. They're meant to steer their young clients toward a school that fits them best. They should know what kinds of classes will best transfer from high school to the student's chosen college track. High school counselors must also speak frankly with their students. They must be aware of the admissions rates and requirements at various universities to guide students to the right school, even if it's not the one they long to attend. And they, too, have a tremendous amount of pressure on their schedules.
This isn't always the reality, however. If college admissions counselors have administrators breathing down their necks about recruitment quotas, high school counselors have their own boulder to push in the sheer number of students they're required to assist. In 2009, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling released disheartening statistics. In California, the student to counselor ratio was 986:1. Counselors in Minnesota didn't fare too much better with a ratio of 799:1 [source: NACAC].
In addition to preparing their students for college, high school counselors also generally pull other duties as well. Admissions counselors are often called guidance counselors because they also handle behavioral problems among their students. They may serve as a sounding board for students with personal issues at home, or questions about risky behavior.
A 2008 study from the California Community Colleges board concluded that students are better off getting college information directly from the schools themselves. Why? The high school admissions officers were overwhelmed by enormous workloads and the scant resources [source: Fong-Batkin].
Because of the current climate of recruitment quotas and high student to counselor ratios in high schools, a third type of admissions counselor has developed -- the paid, private admissions counselor.