I was in over my head. I was a new school counselor for a high school’s inaugural senior class. From my first day, I was inundated with questions from my seniors.
“This school is asking for my non-custodial parent info, but my mom and I haven’t spoken to my dad since we came to the US years ago — does this mean I can’t apply?”
“My favorite school won’t accept the fee waiver you told me about — why not?”
“My parents want me to start at the community college, but I really want to start at U of I — what should I do?”
And most often, something to the tune of, “My parents didn’t go to college — how do I do all this?!”
We made it through that first year, but not without a lot of questions and mistakes along the way. That crash course in college counseling was something I will never forget, but it didn’t have to be so difficult.
Editor’s Note: National School Counseling Week, sponsored by the American School Counselor Association, is always celebrated the first full week in February. We asked NACAC member Edward “Eddie” Pickett III to reflect on what the week — and the profession — mean to him. He chose to pen a letter to the profession’s future leaders.
It’s not exactly a mix of students you can predict. Athletes have holiday practice, so are rarely represented; students from coastal colleges are typically overrepresented, and the valedictorian isn’t usually in sight. Yet, there they randomly gather, about a dozen of them, starting around 12:30, smart enough not to come for lunch, but eager to get caught in the milieu of lunch period changing into the next class period that feels like a hero’s welcome to them.
They are last year’s seniors, coming back to say hi at Thanksgiving.
National discussions about school counselors and college access often focus on state-level trends, but new data compiled by NACAC illustrates how that approach can mask significant equity gaps within states.
A new series of maps, which draw on data from the 2015-16 academic year, examines how student-to-counselor ratios differ by school district.
As a high school college counselor, I should be enjoying a relaxing summer, but my work is far from over. My summer days are dedicated to making calls to every graduating senior to ensure deadlines are being met, deposits are being paid, and orientations are being attended. And that doesn’t end after the student starts college.
Today, graduates of KIPP high schools complete college at a rate of 45 percent, that is four times the national average of 11 percent for students from similar socioeconomic backgrounds. We accomplish this through detailed check-ins with our college students and maintaining a lower student-to-counselor ratio (roughly 100-to-1 versus 482-to-1 nationwide).
Imagine if every student had access to this level of intensive college counseling, then our college completion rates would improve. Today only one out of 10 students from low-income families earn a bachelor’s degree. The KIPP Foundation is urging Congress to prioritize college counseling nationwide and make it a priority in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. We recommend creating a federal grant program intended to increase the number of college counselors in public schools, adopt proven evidence-based counseling practices, and track results.
As a college advisor at City-As-School High School, one of the largest and oldest schools designed to re-engage students who choose to transfer high schools, this month’s college admission scandal came as no surprise.
It’s not breaking news to me that the college admission process tends to favor those already privileged in society. I watch it play out every day, as my colleagues and I fight to get our students into college — and to convince our students that they deserve that opportunity.
As we look for ways to improve the college admission process in the wake of the recent scandals, an important place to start is in our high schools. In my professional career of 26 years, I have served as a high school guidance counselor, a college admission representative, and an independent educational consultant. Having seen the process from all angles, I believe we must do a better job equipping students and their families with the knowledge and perspective to embark on a successful college admission journey.
The school counselor can and should play such a pivotal role in any student’s college search and application activities. But due to oversized caseloads and often inadequate professional training, even the best school counselors are unable to provide the support most kids need in identifying and applying to the colleges that are best suited to their interests and needs.