Wednesday, May 13, 2015

First Ever Standards Created for College Counselor Training

By: Patrick O'Connor Ph.D

It may not seem like summer is just around the corner, but the month that comes after a May of awards assemblies, testing, and graduation audits will bring graduation, longer days, and weather warm enough for ice cream.  Evidence of June’s anticipated arrival is starting to show up in your e-mail, where announcements are cropping up for summer professional development opportunities in everything from bullying prevention to making the most of a new scholarship tracker.

The good news is that more and more of these training opportunities relate to college counseling—and not a moment too soon.  College Board surveys show about half of all school counselors felt their graduate school training in college counseling was insufficient; more important, polls of recent high school graduates felt show they felt their high school counselor was of little or no help in the college selection process.  It’s certainly true that high caseloads and other duties (like testing and awards assemblies) make it more challenging to talk about college with students—but, as one counselor told me, even if your caseload is 25, you still need to know what you’re talking about.

Summer training in college advising can fill the void, but only if the content meets your needs.  If your graduate school training is like that of most counselors, you may not know what you don’t know—and that can make choosing the right college training hard to discover.

That’s where the Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling steps in.  Realizing counselors will have many choices in professional development, MACAC has adopted a list of content standards for professional development course in college counseling.  Based on the work of  counselor trainers Bob Bardwell, Trish Hatch, and your truly, this is the first set of competencies believed to be passed by any counseling organization that helps counselors evaluate the quality of training in college counseling by listing the competencies the course should address.  There may be a number of ways to teach college counseling, but at the end of any of the approaches, counselors need specific skills.  MACAC’s list attempts to help counselors evaluate their professional development opportunities by focusing on outcomes that will help them be more effective college counselors next fall—that’s the best way to make the most of your training time next summer.

The document is by no means complete,  but it’s a start, and complete enough to let counselors know that if the college counseling training you’re considering doesn’t address these crucial outcomes, it’s time to keep looking.  Here’s the list:

Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling
Content Standards for Courses in Counseling in the College Selection Process
General competencies
·         Understanding and application of various college admission choice theory
·         Knowledge of psychological and family issues that may be present in the college admissions process
·         Understanding the relationship between models of comprehensive school counseling programs (i.e.: ASCA National Model) and the delivery of college admission counseling
·         Understanding of the importance of creating partnerships with faculty, school administrators, community leaders, and community-based organizations in delivering quality advice in college admission counseling
·         Awareness of the wide array of different kinds of colleges, including community colleges, research colleges, and liberal arts colleges
·         Admissions requirements for community colleges and public and private colleges/universities
·         Understanding of alternatives to college, including gap years, postgraduate years, and deferrals
·         Ability to discern when to discuss postsecondary options other than college with a student
·         Knowledge of college application timelines and deadlines
·         Knowledge of the unique needs of special populations going through the college search and application process(i.e., multicultural populations, international students, students with disabilities, gifted students and student athletes)
·         Ability to find resources available to counselors in the college admissions process (i.e., print materials, software, web sites and organizations)
·         Awareness of college admission testing options and the use (and misuse) of standardized testing
·         Ability to write effective letters of recommendation for multiple purposes – two year, four year, vocational training program or employment
·         Ability to support teachers in the writing of effective letters of recommendation for these same purposes
·         Getting the most out of the visiting a college campus
·         Establishing strong relationships with colleges and college admissions officers
·         Hosting a successful high school visit by a college admission officer
·         Awareness of legal and ethical issues confronting the college counselor
·         Knowledge of financial aid applications and process, including the role of the FAFSA
·         Ability to collect, analyze and synthesize college admission counseling data on the individual, school, state and national levels
·         Being able to identify, close and eliminate the opportunity and achievement gaps for all students in regard to higher education
·         Understanding the professional organizations and resources available for school counselors
·         Being aware of and to discuss current trends, issues and controversies in college admissions
·         The ability to develop, implement, manage, and evaluate a college admission counseling curriculum that meets the needs of the students and families served by the school
·         Knowledge of how to evaluate the efforts of a college admission counseling program, and how to share those results with a wide variety of audiences

Specific competencies:
·         Assist a high school student through the college search and application process, including the online application process
·         Assist a student and family to complete the FAFSA, other required financial aid forms, and searches for funds for college.
·         Work with a student who has applied via various types of admission decision programs, minimally early decision, early action and restricted early action
·         Coordinate and organize a college tour, college fair or educational program for students and families
·         Work with a student from an underrepresented population (i.e.: student of color, low income, special needs, LGBT, homeless or undocumented)
·         Use college or high school specific data to inform decision making
·         Apply the ethical guidelines of the Statement of Principles of Good Practice of the National Association for College Admission Counseling
This list was originally developed by Bob Bardwell of Monson High School (MA), and enhanced with suggestions by members of the MACAC Executive Board.

Approved by the MACAC Executive Board, December 11, 2014.

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