A few years ago, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released a study that asked 614 people, aged 22 to 30, to rate their guidance counselor’s effectiveness in helping with the college planning process. An overwhelming majority responded that their counselors gave little assistance in helping them decide which college was right for them or helping them with the college application process. Even more startling, nearly half of the students felt they were just ‘another face in the crowd.’ Given that the average high school guidance counselor has to juggle over 400 students a year, it’s no surprise that most students felt lost and alone.
According to a report published by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), the majority of high school guidance counselors spend an average of just 38 minutes per year on each student helping with college admissions or planning tasks. Should we, as parents, be angry about this? Yes, but our frustration should not be directed at the guidance counselors. Many of us have often assumed, incorrectly, that the schools will provide our children with the necessary direction and resources to make the right decisions regarding college. This, of course, includes providing them with a guidance counselor who is invested in their future and willing to help where needed. Here’s the good news, most guidance counselors are invested and want to help, but thanks to budget cuts and increased demands on their time, they simply cannot do it all. Most are kept busy with administrative duties, proctoring tests, organizing school events and fundraisers, and other duties that take them away from what they would rather be doing – helping our children make good academic decisions and preparing them for college.
Guidance counselors can have a significant impact on children, especially those in low-income, rural and urban areas. Research has shown that students who have access to comprehensive school counseling programs do better on college entrance exams and the percentage of college-bound students increases. One Florida high school, William M. Raines, actually doubled the number of students taking Advance Placement (AP) exams between 2006 and 2010, due largely in part to the efforts of its guidance department. Even with results like these, our nation’s leaders continue to neglect the growing need to add more counselors per school, instead of more students per counselor.
It’s time that we take an active role and stop expecting our children’s guidance counselor to do it all. Start by meeting with your child’s counselor and asking how you can help you child succeed in school. I know many of us have demands on our time, but nothing is more important than our children’s future. Attend college fairs and financial aid nights that the counselors have organized; these events are a great forum for asking questions about the college planning process and sharing your concerns with others who are going through the same thing. Many schools now have online grade portals. Use them! Check on your child’s progress, instead of waiting until it’s too late. It truly does take a village to raise a child, so let’s stop expecting one person (the guidance counselor) to do it all.
Does your child have an exceptional guidance counselor? Give him/her a shout out in the comments section and let us know how he/she is making a difference in your child’s life.
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