Should You Listen to Your High School Guidance Counselor?

Barry Lenson

Should You Listen to Your High School Guidance Counselor?

High School Guidance Counselor“Can I Get a Little Advice Here?” a study from Public Agenda, reports that there are deep troubles in the way that American high schools offer college counseling to students. To quote from the report . . .

“Unfortunately, recent studies of the guidance system as it operates in public schools today indicate that counselors are often overworked and underprepared when it comes to helping students make the best decisions about their lives after high school. A new survey of young adults aged 22 through 30 conducted by Public Agenda for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation offers disturbing confirmation that, at least in the eyes of students themselves, the system is failing. . . Even students who later successfully complete college are surprisingly critical of high school guidance as it operates today.”

The report states that the average guidance counselor in California handles a caseload of about 1,000 students. In Arizona, Utah and the District of Columbia, the load is more than 700. And nationwide, the average is 460.

Given caseloads that high, odds are pretty good that your guidance counselor is not going to remember you, or recall what you discussed in your last counseling session.

So is there any way you can extract some benefit from having a guidance counselor?  Maybe. Here are a few strategies. . .

  • Come prepared with lots of specific questions to ask. For example, “Would my grades and test scores qualify me to be accepted by Duke University?” Note that such specific questions will trigger more information than more general questions like, “Where do you think I ought to apply to school?”
  • Ask about other students from your school and where they are attending college. The answers you get can help you evaluate your school’s record of placing students in colleges and, by extension, your own chances of getting into various schools.
  • Ask your guidance counselor to explain all the resources that are available to you in the college counseling office. As noted at the beginning of this post, he or she has a very heavy load and will therefore not have enough time to spend with you. Yet the fact remains that your high school guidance office probably has a number of online resources – such as Naviance – that can help you refine your college list and apply.

And there’s another way to use your guidance counselor . . .

Be sure to get a strong a reference letter from your guidance counselor. Even though handling a heavy caseload, he or she is required to write a recommendation letter for you if you are applying to college.  The letter your counselor writes – unlike the one you’ll get from your boss or your priest or your rabbi - should provide a picture of where you fit within the context of life at your school. Did you exhaust all the school’s advanced placement classes and then take special summer classes to learn what your high school couldn’t teach you? Are you the most respected kid in your class because of your great work ethic? Your counselor’s letter should provide that information.

Related Posts

Guidance Counselors: Serve All Your Students
The Guidance Counselor's Guide to Online Learning
Does Your High School Guidance Counselor Know about StraighterLine?
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