Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Other Side of Better Training in College Counseling

By:  Patrick O'Connor Ph.D

“Principal Matthews?”

“Hi Valerie.  Come on in.”

“Thank you.”

“I want you to know, this isn’t an easy decision.  You’ve done a lot for the school, and for our students—“

“—but you’re laying me off.”

“There isn’t a lot of wiggle room here.”

“Bill, this is a short-sighted decision.”

“I understand how you feel.”

“This may be hard for you to believe, but I’m not thinking about me.  Right now, there are three counselors in a high school with 1000 students.  300 or so students on a caseload is bad enough—and now, you want to go from three counselors to two.”

“And a college success coach.”

“Who has no training as a school counselor.”


“Don’t go there, Bill.”

“She has coursework in college advising, and three years of success turning around the college counseling program at a local charter school.”

“And you just said I’ve been successful in my three years here.”

“You have.  In everything except college counseling.”

“We’ve made some gains.”

“We aren’t keeping up with the national averages.”


“Or, the high school across town.”

“So that’s what this is about?”

“It affects enrollment, Valerie.  Parents have a choice between the two schools, and they see the college-going rate is 30% greater at East.  If you want your kid to go to college, what choice would you make?”

“Not one where getting into college comes at the expense of my child’s well-being.”

“The two remaining counselors will still offer all of the other counseling services.”

“Right.  To more students.”

“But their college-related duties will be assigned to the coach.  This gives them more time to focus on the other parts of the counseling curriculum, while another counselor—“

“Coach, Bill. She’s a coach.”

“—while the coach focuses on the college curriculum.  Everyone wins.”

“Except the students.  And me.”

“You know I advanced your name for this job when the superintendent directed me to realign the counseling office.”

“But they decided to ship college counseling off to a stranger, who isn’t even a counselor.  Why?”

“Valerie, you know why.”

“I went to the wrong graduate school.”

“Human Resources looked at the college coach’s transcript, and saw two separate classes in college and career counseling.”


“And then they looked at your transcript, and saw…”

“They didn’t offer one!  I know everything that coach knows.  Career and college counseling was infused throughout the curriculum, taught here and there, in other classes.”

“So you know everything the coach knows?”

“Of course.  I’ve been doing this as long as she has.”

“OK.  What’s the median household income in Michigan?”


“The median household income.”

“I can’t believe—“

“How about  five hot careers in Michigan, where the starting salary is above the median household income, or the colleges that offer majors in those careers?”

“Come on, Bill.  Who knows these things?”

“Actually, the college coach did when I interviewed her.”

“But that’s superficial knowledge.  You can look that up in a book.”

“If a student walks up to you between classes and asks those questions, there isn’t time to look it up—not with a caseload as high as yours.  The teachable moment is right there, and it goes away—“

“—as soon as the student walks away.”

“And so does their confidence in our college counseling program.”

“You know, this is pretty ironic.  The state legislature just introduced a bill requiring new counselors to take a focused class in college counseling.  I wrote my legislator, and told him to vote no.”

“Because it isn’t necessary?”

“Yeah.  Or so I thought.”

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