There’s never really any down time in the life of a school counselor, but it could be argued that the last couple of weeks have been relatively low key. There are a few college applications to complete, and the march of helping students complete financial aid forms will go on until at least March, but all in all, the post-Thanksgiving weeks have been pretty mild.
That’s about to change next week, as high school counselors must face the Triple Threat of December. While not quite as dizzying a pace as the first week of school, next week will be mighty close, as we wrestle with three important tasks that require different approaches. Ready?
PSAT scores are released to students next week, and this is always a logistical nightmare. College Board has tried to soften the blow, giving counselors access to the scores a week before the students—but no matter how the results are delivered, the task of trying to explain what these scores mean to most, if not all, of your students can make for a very busy week.
In developing your plan of attack, think about creating different approaches based on something other than the scores of the students. Sorting students into groups based on test results may be a natural or intuitive approach, but you risk giving bad advice to at least some students in every group if you’re assuming they’re scores tell you something about their post secondary plans. This is especially true for the students scoring in the 150-180 range. Some of these students may be terrified that these scores won’t get them into the college of their choice, while others couldn’t care less about these scores, since they plan on going to trades school anyway.
A better approach is to ask students to self-sort based on their plans for life after high school. The presentation to four-year college-bound students can focus on how to use the scores to prepare for the SAT, while the conversation to the non-college bound can emphasize what the scores say about their general skill levels, and what they might want to do if they want to keep the college option open. It’s important to add this last bit; the number of students who would be willing to look at a four-year college is bigger than you think—all they’re waiting for is someone to give them permission to hope.
Early decisions from colleges are also due out starting next week, where seniors hear back from the schools they are usually most interested in. The word is that the number of early applications is up this fall, meaning the number of students who will be denied and deferred will also be up.
It is never easy having a conversation with a student who had hoped a college would say Yes. This advice can set the table for before the students hear back, and even though this advice is aimed at March, the ideas are still helpful now.
Vacation stress may seem like a bit of an oxymoron, but there are always those students who aren’t looking forward to time off from school. Part of this may be a love of school, while part of it might be a dread of the lack of structure, or the people they have to spend vacation with. Either way, that last school bell can be a sound of dread to many students.