The key to a successful college counseling program is transparency—we create a curriculum and share it with the community, we create avenues of communication with students and parents to make sure they understand the goals of the curriculum, as well as the individual steps taken to reach those goals, and we create a College Counseling Advisory Committee to spread the word about our program, and get feedback from key constituents.
All of this transparency doesn’t mean a thing if the tools of the curriculum aren’t accessible to students and parents. This is one of the MAIN reasons students and parents give low marks when they evaluate college counseling programs that appear to be great; the material is indeed wonderful, but they can’t get to it.
Accessibility is the partner of transparency, so it’s time for a check-up of what your counseling spaces look like. (There are some good ideas here middle school and elementary school counseling offices can use, like creating a College Corner with some age-appropriate materials, including lots of information on how to pay for college. It’s never too early to share that information with parents!)
_____ You have a large work area where students can interact with college information, either in print form or online. The room is bright and inviting, with college posters and informational displays on completing financial aid forms, applying for scholarships, and more. This can double as the space where colleges visit and talk with students.
_____ The print resources—catalogs, college guides, test prep information, college applications scholarships—are organized in colorful binders or file crates (not file drawers) that are clearly labeled, with directions on how to use them, and if students can check them out or keep them.
_____The online versions of these resources are readily available and easy to find, thanks to a set of instructions that are taped to the table where your computer(s) are, attached to the bulletin board above the computers, or outlined on your college counseling Web site, which is the home screen for any computer in your work area.
Your Web site
_____ Your Web site is up to date with fresh information on topics of interest, where the home page has links or tabs to resources by topic. If your office is on any social media site, that’s mentioned here as well.
_____Your Web site address is displayed on every publication you create.
_____ The front page of the Web site includes basic information students need to complete a college application, including the school’s name, address, phone, fax, and CEEB number. It also displays the names of all counselors, their direct dial numbers, and e-mail addresses, and how student and parents can register for text reminders from your office (if you offer that service).
_____ If students are allowed to order transcripts online, this process is outlined on the Web site. Directions are also included for how alumni can request transcripts.
_____ There is a clearly marked section for Colleges that includes an electronic copy of your school profile (which includes your Web site address), as well as a link to your entire course catalog.
_____ There is a link on the front page to your current college counseling bulletin, and an area where all past bulletins are archived.
_____ A copy of your schedule is posted outside your office door. This includes information on your regular availability; your availability for the current week, and information on how students and parents should reach you on nights and weekends. (“E-mail me” is more than fine.)