Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How the New SAT Must Change Your College Advising Program

By: Patrick O'Connor Ph.D

Last week’s announced changes to the SAT have brought a mixed reaction.  Many school counselors welcome the news that the 2016 version of the test will no longer penalize students for guessing, and most counselors cheer the news that the required essay and its counter intuitive grading system will now be optional.

Other changes are leading to more questions.  How will the paper version of the new test be normed against the online version of the exam? Who will pay for the four college application fee waivers College Board is offering to all students who qualify for an SAT fee waiver?  Will the free Kahn Academy tutoring make a difference for needy students?
Some of these questions will only be answered over time, but the changes create a rare opportunity for school counselors to grow their college program:

9th grade families will demand more college readiness activities The new SAT debuts just in time for this year’s ninth graders to take the test in 2016, but the announcement has sparked an interest in college readiness and college awareness that goes far beyond the test.  College is now clearly on their minds, and counselors can expect there will be more inquiries about what classes to take to be ready for college, how to make the most out of campus visits, paying for college, and more.

If you were waiting for an opportunity to expand your college counseling curriculum, this is it. Ninth grade parents are eager to learn more, and more than a few will express that desire to your principal.  Anticipate the need by reviewing your current 9th and 10th grade college curriculum, and design no less than five new events, lessons, and programs to meet the need.  Most counselors already know what they would do to grow their college program, but if you’re looking for ideas, try this resource from the National Association for College Admission Counseling ( , and this information on College Application Week from the Michigan College Access Network (

This desire for more information will follow them through high school 
 Once the Class of 2017 hits grades 11 and 12, they’ll need more college information to build on the foundation of the stronger program you’re creating for 9th and 10th grade.  After you meet the immediate need, NACAC has other materials to help you create a comprehensive 9-12 college counseling curriculum.  This might also be time to take a college counseling class, where you can set new goals for your department and your students (find a class at

Review the data you gather to evaluate your counseling program  The increased demand for counseling services can lead to more time and resources, but it’s likely to come with a price.  Administrators wisely support new initiatives parents demand, but over time, school leaders will rightly ask, “Is it making a difference?”  Unless you have proof of your program’s success, administrative support will dwindle when parental outcry fades—and that proof will have to come in the language administrators understand, which is data.

This gives you an opportunity to review how you are measuring success in your entire counseling program.  The best place to start is with counseling data guru Trish Hatch’s latest book, The Use of Data in School Counseling:  Hatching Results for Students, Programs, and the Profession.  If you’re looking for an approach to college-driven data, look at MCAN’s Dashboard for College Success at .  This may not be perfect for you, but it’s a place to start.


The change in the SAT offers a fresh start for counselors.  Make the most of it.

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