Kaitlin Levesque is a school counselor at Middletown (Conn.) High School, an adjunct professor at Goodwin College and a doctoral candidate in education leadership at Central Connecticut State University.
As the school year comes to a close, high school counselors are putting in the work to help students finish off the year strong. While counselors have a lot to complete in the next month to bring the year to a close, it is also important that they start laying the foundation for the following year. But, this can be more challenging than it seems.
The role of the school counselor is demanding, particularly because of the variety of competing needs that arise throughout the year. Balancing the needs of stakeholders, while addressing unforeseen obstacles and crises, puts additional stress on school counselors. Creating systems to assist with the post-secondary process can eliminate some of the competing demands, and mitigate some of the unintended consequences of simultaneously dealing with the needs of multiple individuals, particularly at the end of the school year. Counselors can use several strategies to optimize their time and direct their attention to meaningful and impactful tasks.
Below are some suggestions for how counselors can prepare students for the fall.
Allow recent high school graduates to discuss the transition to college with graduating seniors
Making recent graduates accessible to graduating students can provide students with a wealth of information on what to expect post-graduation, reducing the number of individual meetings a counselor may need to have. High school alumni can provide seniors with honest and candid feedback on their first-year experiences. This format can be particularly beneficial to students with anxieties about college who may be considering dropping out before they even begin. Students who will be the first generation in their family to attend college may know less about college than their peers and may find informational sessions such as these to be helpful.
Set up college visit availability and post college fairs to get ahead of the fall semester
Having a scheduling system that can work during the summer months when counselors are unavailable optimizes counselors’ time. Setting up and using RepVisits, a self-sufficient, automated scheduling system for college representatives to schedule visits, can alleviate some of the consuming back-and-forth communication that normally occurs in the fall. By offering the ability to schedule visits during the summer months, monotonous tasks can be accomplished while the school counselor is out for the summer. Simultaneously sharing this information electronically (via social media platforms or a Google classroom) with students and parents, provides a venue to easily access information, without necessarily being in the presence of the school counselor, and can eliminate confusion and barriers that may occur when the student is unable to directly access their school counselor. Ensuring that information is regularly updated is paramount, so that families are receiving accurate information to assist in their time sensitive planning.
Collaborate with junior English teachers to host college essay writing workshops
Collaborating with staff can capitalize on the resources that are available in the building. The school counselor might consider working with English teachers to assist students in constructing essays, to alleviate this pressure in the fall. Specifically, Advanced Placement teachers may be interested in co-facilitating these workshops, once their exam has been administered. Maximizing on flexibility during the summer months, students may be able to enter the fall having a well-constructed essay, allowing them time to focus on other senior year tasks.
Host session with graduating seniors to provide advice to juniors regarding the college process
At the end of the school year, counselors can proactively address the post-secondary process with their juniors, to avoid some of the rush that accompanies senior year operations. Counselors can have informational meetings with parents and students, individually or in a group setting, to ensure that families are informed of the process and the upcoming expectations. In a forum discussion, graduating seniors can share with current juniors any insights, obstacles or barriers that they experienced throughout the college application process.
Being proactive and providing access to information for families regarding educational processes and opportunities, particularly those who may face obstacles and barriers, is paramount in setting students up for post-secondary success. The school counselor can provide manageable tasks and information regarding the post-secondary process to families, with final report cards or electronically, so that they may reference it as they begin to prepare throughout the summer months, alleviating some of the burden in the fall. This may include providing templates of resumes for students or encouraging them to use Naviance to list their extracurricular activities and accomplishments. This allows students to ask for recommendations prior to the start of the school year, often resulting in a stronger recommendation as teachers are not competing with demands that are associated with the beginning of the school year.
The role of the school counselor is varied and is always in jeopardy of competing demands. Creating systems and allowing for operations to occur without the direct oversight or input of the school counselor can create additional time to work with students, particularly those with extenuating circumstances or who are in need of additional support. Creating a well-oiled machine allows operations to be running behind the scenes, so that school counselors do not have to take valuable time attending to minute tasks and can instead devote their attention to the more important and impactful tasks that make a difference in students’ lives.