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School counselors are vital in planning for college. However, they’re also equipped with tools to help students succeed in many areas outside the academic arena. This post will provide a brief but informative overview of how school counselors help students!

Welcome to the third Schoolerie Article! (You can read the entire A-Z list here). This week, we will focus on the letter C:

“C is for counselor, your advisor, your new best friend. They’ll support you until you reach 12th grade’s end.”

How to Prepare for College in High School

Counselors play an important role of a successful school building.  While we often think of their work in the high school building, they are often available to support students, beginning in elementary school.  Did you know that in most states, counselors must, at minimum, have a master’s degree in school counseling or a related mental health field?  Here’s a link to a informative school counselor infographic from www.counselorkeri.com.

Social and Emotional Resource

School counselors are on the front lines of supporting students growing socially and emotionally.  On a school-wide level, they are an important team member in creating positive school culture.  They work with administration and teachers to help define desired school expectations. They assist in creating the needed programming and implementing it across classrooms.  Often, skill groups are created to help students make positive gains.  Topics range from improving academic habits, to developing friendships, to coping with grief.

School counselors also work on a micro-level in assisting students and families with mental health needs.  In the state of Illinois, they have many responsibilities in this area. Part of their responsibilities is to a safe and therapeutic environment.  If a student and a parent agree to seeing a counselor on a regular basis, the goal of the sessions is often solution focused.  The goals can be academic in nature such as developing a positive school routine.  They can also be emotional in nature.  For example, a student recently experienced a falling out with a group of friends and is looking for support in navigating a new social landscape.  

Six empty chairs complete a half circle.  The chairs are red, yellow, black, white, and green.  The floor is a muted aqua.  No person is in the screen.
School counselors serve many groups of students

Resource Coordinator

There are some limitations on what can and should be provided in a school setting.  However, an experienced school counselor recognizes when it’s appropriate to refer for outside support.  This may occur when a student’s mental health need becomes greater than the school resources available.  They will work with families to find local medical and mental health services.

School counselors also utilize their community contacts to advocate for students in need.  They are often the first to uncover homelessness, financial hardship, or food shortages.  When these crises occur, school counselors reach out to resources and connect families to supports.  School counselors often manage student need programs within their school walls.  Initiatives, like the BackPack program, provide weekend meals to students who experience ongoing food shortages.

Teacher and Administrator Liaison 

School counselors work closely with teachers and administrators.  As many counselors were once teachers, they have an appreciation of what is necessary for students to achieve school success.  Teachers often reach out to let school counselors know of about student need.  This could be something as simple as “I noticed Johnny has been wearing the same clothes for a couple days now.  I asked him if things are okay at home but he seems reluctant to talk.  Would you have time to speak with him?”  

School counselors work with many different teams during a school day

Conversely, students can also reach out to school counselors when they need assistance with teachers.  Students may feel that a teacher treated them unfairly or they want to speak with them about an assignment but are not sure how to do so.  School counselors can help them plan how to approach their teacher, coach them on how to do so in a respectful manner, and brainstorm different outcomes. 

Administrators also often rely on school counselors to assist with both student and building behavioral needs.  School counselors can help create behavioral modification programs for students with discipline issues. This helps keep kids out of the principals office and in the classroom, learning.  Administrators and school counselors often work together to look at a building’s behavioral data.  As a team, they create preventive programming vs. reactive policies.  Meaning, they work to stop problematic behaviors before they start.

Academic Advisor

How’s GPA calculated?  Which classes should I take to get into college?  Help!  I think I’m going to fail chemistry… what do I do?!  School counselors are there to help students find the answers to their questions regarding anything academic.  If they don’t have the answer, they likely know someone who does.  

Students often seek their school counselor when there’s a urgent need.  However, it’s good to set up a regular check in time even if there isn’t a burning question.  Why?  Three important reasons: scholarships, recommendation letters, college applications.  Students who develop a relationship with their counselor simulatneously give them writing material!  College admissions teams typically utilize counselor input to develop a more rounded picture that grades and test scores are unable to provide.  

College Prep Expert

Speaking of college applications, where’s a good place to begin the process of preparing for life after high school?  Start with the school counselor!  He or she is likely a flurry with activities and presentations related to preparing for college.  This could look like college representative visits, financial aid nights, and career interest events.  GO TO THEM.  Even if an older sibling is already in college, there’s always going to be changes to regulations and updates to processes that are important to know.

Testing agencies (such as ACT), colleges, and scholarship programs also know that school counselors are a conduit to students.  Therefore, they barrage their inboxes with updates that they want students to know. CollegeBoard, the parent company of AP, SAT, CLEP, even hosts online and in person training events so that school counselors have the latet information on things like test prep and changes to results reporting.  Universities also will invite counselors to campus and educate them on the opportunities waiting for future students.

School Counselor’s Week: February 3rd-7th

Guess what’s right around the corner… NATIONAL SCHOOL COUNSELOR WEEK!  Show your school counselor your appretiation by dropping by their office or sending an email to say “thank you!”. Students can snap a pic and tag it on social media with #NSCW2020.  The American School Counselor Association has even created some fun props to use!  Find them here.

A red banner.  On the left half, school supplies occupy the visual space.  Scissors a ribbon, protractor, pencils, markers, a ruler ad stapler.  The right wide of the banner says "Happy National School Counselors's Week!"

Thank you for reading How do School Counselors Help Students!

Thank you for reading the latest Schoolerie post and THANK YOU to school counselors everywhere!