What Does a University Counsellor Do?

Kate Knight

I often have people ask me, “What does a University Counsellor do?”

My colleagues and I work with students to make decisions – through conversations, research and support – that help them achieve their future goals. What that entails is as varied as the students with whom I work. And that is part of what makes this role so enjoyable and rewarding!

Much of my time with students and their families is spent in conversations around topics such as the following:

  • Planning which high school courses to take to ensure students have the right pre-requisites to apply to their university programs of choice;
  • Talking through timelines and deadlines so students and families understand what the research, application and decision-making process looks like from Grade 10 through to Grade 12;
  • Reviewing standardized tests required for specific post-secondary pathways, such as the SAT or ACT for U.S. schools, and medical or law school admissions tests for the U.K.;
  • Helping to create individual lists of criteria as to what matters most to each student or family when considering a university (programs, location, weather, athletics, cost, etc.);
  • Teaching research and critical-thinking skills to empower students to discover the options available to them and which option will be their own “best fit”. This is done through one-on-one meetings and during classroom sessions or annual post-secondary “boot camp” information days;
  • Supporting students with the post-secondary application process, which includes offering feedback on essays, writing reference letters, sending transcripts and navigating students through sometimes confusing online application platforms;
  • Providing information on non-traditional post-secondary pathways such as college, trades school, performing arts and athletics, the work force and gap year opportunities.

And these are just the biggies!

On any given day, when the calendar is filled with appointments, the discussions which ensue might also include:

  • Scholarship and financial aid resources;
  • Varsity athletic opportunities;
  • The need for academic support, including meetings with teachers, tutors, etc.;
  • Reviewing an offer of admission to a university and what conditions might be attached;
  • Weighing the pros and cons of one program or school over another in an effort to help a student to decide which one truly is the right one for him or her.

I also join forces with colleagues to review ways in which teachers can support the post-secondary research and decision-making process in the classroom. We meet often to create new projects or experiences which will help students learn more about their personal strengths, leadership skills and career options across disciplines.

Whatever the conversation at hand, my primary role as a University Counsellor is to ask good questions to help students discover their own passions, needs and dreams. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to university counselling – my approach and my relationships are as unique as the students and families with whom I collaborate.

I see myself very much as a facilitator and capacity builder as I support students to make informed choices about their future. I love to celebrate their accomplishments and am always happy to hear, once they have left SMUS, how they are enjoying their chosen path.

Being a University Counsellor is just about the best job I can imagine!

One of the other things University Counsellors do is we host info sessions for families. On Tuesday (February 6) we’re hosting the SMUS Course Information Evening in the Chapel to give students and their parents a better understanding of course offerings for the coming school year. The evening begins at 6:30 pm for Grade 8 families (Grade 9 next year); and at 7:00 pm for Grade 9-11 families (Grade 10-12 next year). We hope to see you there.


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