Seniors and Counselors’ Communication Over Transcripts

In the weeks following winter break, West Potomac seniors are balancing their resumed work with last-minute college applications. As these seniors reflect on all the college visits, essays, and SAT testing they have completed, a common agreement is the hardest part was working with West Potomac to get their transcripts and other forms sent to their colleges on time. This step of the process is often glossed over and unthought of before senior year, and current seniors found themselves uninformed on how to best communicate with their counselors and meet school form deadlines.


“Before the town hall meeting, we knew absolutely nothing about this process. [It] was a mystery,” said senior Michael Hayes. “By the time we did have the town hall meeting, they said if we want to do an early application we had a week to figure out every college we wanted to apply to early.”


The current system at West Potomac requires students to fill out a transcript request form for each school they apply to. The form must be turned in 3 weeks prior to the due date, or else the student is charged a $5 late fee per school in addition to the base $5 transcript fee.


“I turned mine in three weeks before, no late fee, everything was fine, but it still took longer than three weeks to get to my college. It took a very, very, long time. I was lucky I did it early,” said senior Jake Hardison.


Fairfax County Public School policy requires counselors to mail all school forms to colleges physically rather than submit them digitally. This protocol further complicates the process and increases the chances of colleges either misplacing applicants’ forms or not receiving them at all.  


“[My colleges] have absolutely nothing from the high school at this point. They don’t have the report, my grades, my transcript, or the recommendation,” said senior Mia Hancock. Hancock claimed she turned her transcript request forms in early November.


Luckily, the date colleges receive these forms generally has no effect on the overall application or how it is evaluated.


“College admissions offices know it’s out of the applicant’s hands when that transcript is sent,” explained West Potomac counselor Michael Johnson. “They know it’s entirely on the high school or the counselor to get it in the mail, so they are not going to penalize the applicant for something the high school has done or not done timely.”


Still, West Potomac students and student service staff alike agree that the process needs improvement in future years and reform for stronger student-counselor communication is necessary. As a start, student services recently ended the appointment system that was introduced at the beginning of the school year. The system required students to make an appointment to see their counselor in advance, and to receive a pass to meet with them.   


“I can’t speak for Mr. McMahon, [Student Services Director], but I think the results kind of spoke for themselves as far as what did not work,” Johnson said of the appointment system. “[Not having appointments] seems to be working a whole lot better than the beginning of the year. You should be able to come in now and see your counselor [immediately] with regards to a transcript request form, or anything really.”


Additionally, Johnson said counselors plan on holding meetings with current juniors in the Spring to get students thinking about college earlier. These new initiatives will hopefully smooth out the transcript process for future classes to come. As Johnson said, “the transcript should just be an afterthought.”