It’s been a little over two years since The Chronicle of Higher Education published a column on the lack of training counselors receive in college admission counseling. The piece concluded with a call to policy makers to determine how counselor readiness could be improved in college admission counseling, since less than 10 percent of all counselor training programs in the US offered any preparation in this area (you can see the entire article at http://chronicle.com/blogs/headcount/college-counseling-could-be-better-just-ask-your-school-counselor/29545).
The column has inspired a great deal of discussion and seed-planting. Informally, dozens of school counselors have reached out to the colleges that trained them and offered to teach a college counseling class as an elective. Formally, counselor educators and school counselors have joined together to create the Transforming School Counseling and College Access Interest Network. The group meets regularly online to determine how to improve training in college counseling.
At the same time, mounting evidence suggests progress could continue to be too small, and too glacial. College Board’s second survey of school counselors showed little change in counselors’ perceptions of professional readiness in college counseling. This sentiment was echoed in the recent book Top Student, Top School, where valedictorians from urban schools gave a scathing assessment of their counselors when it came to college advising.
If counselors are aware of the paucity of training, and students keenly feel the impact of this void, what can be done to make sure another two years and six million high school graduates don’t pass by without meaningful change in the availability of quality college advising? These steps would lend crucial momentum to the effort:
- A White House Summit on Counselor Training The White House held a January summit highlighting colleges and universities committed to making college more affordable. A natural follow up is a second summit, where the leading voices in college admissions advising would develop a blueprint for action that would lead to more coursework in college advising. Conversations have occurred with the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, and the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. The next step is to put action behind those discussions, and develop a timeline-based commitment to change.
- Offering More Training as Topics Courses Counselor educators in ACES and TSCCAIN don’t have to wait for a summit to give a green light to college advising classes. Every counselor training program offers a course in current topics; offering a college advising course in this slot would show the vitality and viability of the class. Ample course outlines exist, and practicing school counselors are eager to teach the course; all that’s missing is the opportunity.
- Engagement with State and Local Policy Makers Online offerings of a college advising course make the course available to all corners of the world, throughout the year. This access means school boards can easily change their hiring policies to require new counselors to take a course in college advising in their first three years of employment; state legislatures can do the same.
Two years have shown an increase in interest in more training in college advising, along with six million reminders why better training is more important than ever. It’s time for the conversations to shift into action; the opportunity is nigh, and the stakes have never been higher.