More Training Needed for High School Counselors Serving International Students

From negotiating language and cultural divides to interacting with agents, US high school counselors face unique challenges when advising international students about their postsecondary options, according to a new report from NACAC.

The association’s  latest study, Supporting International High School Students in the College Admission Process, draws primarily upon interviews with 20 counselors from public and private schools, as well as the NACAC’s 2016 Counseling Trends Survey.

Interview respondents reported that international students often have difficulty understanding vocabulary and slang specific to the US college admission process. And counselors themselves said they were uncertain of how best to collaborate with agents —  professionals contracted by schools and universities to recruit international students or hired by families for college counseling services.

Seventy-five percent of the counselors who were interviewed (including 90 percent of private school counselors) reported their international students worked with third-party agents during the college admission process. Yet none of the schools included in the qualitative study had a written policy outlining the relationship between the counseling office and agents, leaving counselors unsure how to collaborate with external consultants.

Ultimately, all 20 counselors interviewed for the qualitative study agreed they would benefit from more training opportunities.

A two-day workshop planned this fall in conjunction with NACAC’s 2017 National Conference in Boston seeks to help fill that need. Attendees at Fundamentals of Recruiting and Counseling International Students will learn about testing requirements for international students, explore immigration basics, and discuss outreach and communication strategies.

“Counseling international students and families about the US college admission process and sharing information about college fit, visa requirements, and the role of agents requires a unique skill set,” said NACAC CEO Joyce Smith. “Counselors receive almost no training in graduate school related to working with this demographic. This report shows professionals who advise international students are hungry for opportunities to learn and share best practices.”

Read the full report and explore related resources.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

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