Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Some Hot Counseling Tips to Warm Up February

By Patrick O'Connor Ph.D

February is a tough time to be a school counselor.  Your appointment book (virtual or otherwise) is bursting with students who have more needs than you have hours in the day.  Your “other duties as assigned” are filling up far too much of your time, what little budget you had is a distant memory…

..and just when you think things couldn’t get worse, your principal stops by and says “The superintendent needs to know what’s new in counseling.  What do you have?”

Just so we’re all working from the same page here, you should *not* tell the superintendent you have trouble sleeping, poor eating habits, and difficulty focusing on any one task for more than three minutes.  These may be all true, but you are a counselor, and this is February—so none of this is new.

Instead, it’s time to dazzle them, and time to dazzle them with a purpose.

Elementary counselors should look at Guiding the Way to Higher Education:  Families, Counselors, and Communities Together.  For years, the National Association for College Admission Counseling has produced counseling materials to support early awareness of college—awareness that is a must for low-income families and families where college may not be a traditional path after high school.  Guiding the Way is the updated guide designed to help counselors talk about college to students  and families in late elementary and middle school grades—and it’s free.

You share this with your principal because college awareness is one of the biggest issues on the elementary counseling scene right now.  If you’re asked what you’ve done with this information so far, tell them you know it’s a sound resource, and you’re trying to find the time to put together a college awareness night for parents, but you’ll need some time to meet with the PTA representatives to make sure the event meets the needs of the community.

Middle school counselors have their own free NACAC resource in Step By Step: College Awareness in Middle School. This college awareness treasure chest helps students build a solid understanding of college by building a solid understanding of self.  Exercises include reflection on the student’s interests and abilities, and tie nicely to career interests and college plans—again, all for free.

You share this with your principal because the interdepartmental options here are limitless.  Step by Stepactivities can fit nicely into the Social Studies, Science, English and Health curricula; casually mention there are more of these out there, if you just had a little time to research them.

High school counselors have two things to share. Students and parents want to know if good grades can help pay for college.  The answer is, the best place for parents and students to begin the hunt for merit scholarships.  Guide them here for a list of colleges (alpha and by state) that offer all kinds of merit money; once they find a potential college, tell them to visit the college’s Web site to confirm the scholarship is still offered.

You share this with your principal to point out all the other great college counseling tips you could learn, if only your high school could find the modest tuition needed to pay for Counseling in the College Selection Process, the college counseling class most school counselors call “the best counseling class I ever took.”  The online version carries 3 graduate credits and costs about $430; more information can be found at

And suddenly, spring is just around the corner. 

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