By: Patrick O'Connor Ph.D
1. Understand your school’s college counseling curriculum. It may seem like college counseling is all about “getting in” and finding a way to pay for college, but there’s much more to it. Ask to see your counseling office’s curriculum; they would welcome the chance to show it to you.
2. Consider your role in the college counseling curriculum. Counselors teach students how to communicate to colleges, but that curriculum is built on a solid foundation in English. Counselors help students research and compare colleges, using critical thinking and analysis taught in literature, the social sciences, math, and science. It takes a team to build the skills and excitement that gets a student to—and through—college. Your part of that teamwork is critical.
3. Know that college awareness is a K-12 process. Students and parents develop their attitudes about college early—especially in low income communities, or towns where few parents went to college. College isn’t for every student, but every family needs to understand what college is about before making an informed decision—and some of that understanding needs to start in elementary school.
4. Talk to students about your college experience. Most students know you went to college—but where, and why? Hearing your stories—successes and challenges—makes the college search more real to them. It also encourages them to ask questions, and makes them less fearful of making mistakes.
5. Talk to parents about your college experience. Parents are always interested in hearing about college experiences, especially if you were the first in your family to go to college, or if you have children who are in (or finished with) college. A word or two from you at parent conferences or the basketball game can give them important perspective on the value of college.
6. Suggest your school participate in College Application Week. This fall event helps seniors apply to college, and shows all students everything college can be. Teachers wear their college gear, hold college trivia contests—in short, they work with counselors to create a spirit week for college. There’s a nice introduction to CAW here—and most of the advice applies to all states: http://www.micollegeaccess.org/events/college-application-week
7. Create counselor/classroom partnerships. You need every minute of your period to teach your curriculum—but what if you have a spare 15 minutes at the end of a quiz, where a counselor could present a lesson on doing a college search? How about using that essay unit to work with counselors to teach the basics of a college admissions essay? Talk to your counselor for more ideas.
8. Share your community connections. Students are always asking counselors for help finding internships, job shadowing experiences, college contacts, and money for college. Your neighbor, college roommate, or membership in a community foundation could make a difference to that student’s college plans. Share your contacts with your school counselors, and watch all the good that will come.
9. Keep the college application calendar in mind. College application crunch time usually occurs one fall weekend, and one December weekend—and students aren’t always the best time managers. The same is true for visiting college campuses; there’s never a good time to go, but they need to see their next school, which will double as their next home. When these events come up, see if you can go easy on the homework.
10. Keep your counselors in the loop. Students are more likely to tell you—or their friends—about college decisions. Make sure you pass that information along to your counselors—especially if a student seems upset about it.