Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Why Take a College Counseling Course?

By:  Patrick O'Connor Ph.D

A recent article gave readers a list of outcomes they should expect when taking a class in college counseling.  This list has been praised, but it's also led some counselors to ask, "Just what will I get out of a college counseling class?"  

It helps students.  Counselors who have completed a separate college counseling class of at least 45 clock hours report important differences in working with students.  Some cite the ability to develop a comprehensive college counseling curriculum for all students in grades 9-12 or 6-12—knowing how to organize and present college awareness activities in an organized way helps them make the most of what little time they have with students.

Other counselors point to the “nuts and bolts” of college counseling they get in a focused class, logistics that aren’t covered in many theory classes.  As one counselor put it:

"If you think about it you would be hard pressed to find a teacher that only had training in classroom management and lesson planning but no training in the subject which they teach. That is how I see school counselors; we are teachers of career exploration and college planning but most of us receive no training in this subject."

Something as basic as developing a list of schools with strong engineering programs may seem simple enough to learn on the job—until the demands of your time and the size of your caseload don’t allow you the time to learn how to do that, let alone actually do it.  Training in the details makes a world of difference.

Job Security  More and more counselors are realizing that strong college and career knowledge is a key to more satisfied students, parents, and school administrators.  While some families place a high value on the mental health components of school counselor services, all students need help making strong college and career plans—and if a family feels like they’re getting real help in these essential areas, they’re not going to keep it a secret.  Unfortunately, polls indicate deep dissatisfaction with the level of counselor knowledge in these areas; turning that perspective around can be the key to greater public support of school counselors.

Some counselors also express concern that their lack of knowledge in these crucial areas make them more vulnerable to replacement by career coaches, college success advocates, or college advisers.  To be clear, no college adviser is placed in a school that has laid off a school counselor.  Having said that, it is worth noting that members of the College Advising Corps receive 160 clock hours in training in college counseling—training some school counselors have asked to have themselves.  Ensuring that all counselors complete college and career classes early in their careers gives them a credential and a competitive advantage over outside independent agents; not only will school counselors have comprehensive college and career expertise, but they will have the training in mental health and development education needed to offer affective support for students as well.

A class that makes both your boss and your students happy-- that's something to consider.  

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