What’s Wrong With High School Counselors?

I wrote this post a year ago, but I wanted to share it again because I think it’s important that families understand the limitations of many high school counselors when it comes to sharing advice about critical college issues. Parents and teenagers need to know this because if they rely exclusively on their counselor’s advice, they could make poor college choices.

I know I will receive angry emails from high school counselors over this post just like I did in the past, but that’s okay because it’s critical that families understand what their counselors can and can’t provide!

What’s Wrong With High School Counselors

Is your teenager’s high school counselor an expert on college?

Probably not.

In fact, the odds are high that your counselor’s knowledge about college admission strategies, standardized testing and scholarships is limited.  Ironically during this period of skyrocketing college costs, financial aid is often the subject that high school counselors know the least about.

Many high school counselors are unfortunately overwhelmed with work, but it’s not just the crazy schedules that explain why the college IQ of many counselors is stunted.

Why Counselors Don’t Know Enough

As I discovered in talking to experts about this issue, here’s the chief reason:

Before counselors can begin working in a public high school, they must earn a master’s degree in counseling. Graduate school programs, however, rarely offer even one class in college planning. Consequently,  the majority of counselors arrive at high schools ignorant about critical college issues even though for many families a bachelor’s degree represents the second biggest expense they will ever face. In my opinion, this is truly scandalous.

This lack of training on the graduate level is “pretty scary,” suggests Bob Bardwell, a public high school counselor in Massachusetts and a vice president at the American School Counselor Association. A few years ago, Bardwell was a member of a NACAC task force, which experienced limited success in encouraging graduate schools to add even a single college planning class to their curriculum. While there are hundreds of these graduate programs across the country, Bardwell estimates that only two dozen or so offer a college counseling class.

Mental Health Preparation

College admission issues are simply not on the radar of graduate schools, which are more focused on mental health issues. A lot of people in the program are mental health professionals, who are territorial about what they will include in their curriculum, Bardwell says.

Without formal training, new counselors rely on colleagues at their schools to show them the ropes.  Carl “Sandy” Behrend, a former NACAC president and an educational consultant in Buffalo, NY, told me that it usually takes four or five years of these informal apprenticeships before counselors feel comfortable.

While this lack of training is common knowledge in the higher-ed world, I know that parents would be shocked to learn that most high school counselors are not college authorities. Many parents believe that high school counselors would be able to answer all their questions if they could only get some precious face time with them.

Why the Knowledge Gap is Unacceptable

This college knowledge gap in high schools is unacceptable, says Steven Antonoff, an independent college counselor in Colorado and the author of College Match:  A Blueprint for Choosing the Best School for You.

“The stakes are higher and there hasn’t been an increase by and large in public schools and even in private school funding for college counseling,” Antonoff told me. “It’s a very difficult situation that has created a gap between the needs of a student looking at schools today and the level of expertise available to them.”

As a general rule, experts suggest that counselors are better prepared at private high schools because they are often able to spend a majority of their time focused on getting their students into college. Public school counselors, who can devote their time exclusively to college admissions, are a rare luxury. Many private schools use their college counseling services as a lure for attracting students, but there is definitely no guarantee that these counselors are experts either. I have run into plenty who aren’t.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your take on this controversial issue. Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Read More on the College Solution:

Why High School Counselors Are Failing

Are School Counselors the Weakest Link?

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32 Responses to What’s Wrong With High School Counselors?

  1. Sara July 28, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    I think you bring up an interesting argument. Guidance Counselors have a very busy job and are pulled in many directions and knowledge about the college admissions process is a bit shaky. I work at a public high school as a College Counselor. I have the most current information about all things college; admissions, financial aid, and other trends. I am able to help students with everything leading up to senior year, assisting with the application process, helping students and families complete the FAFSA and CSS Profile, loan paperwork and more. This position allows me to take part in a variety of professional development to keep very up to date with the trends in this field. I recently graduated with my master’s in School Counseling and my program had 1 class on college admissions, it was a weekend course and covered a few basic topics. Like you said, not enough to be an effective counselor for the college admissions process. College counseling is a full time job. Many schools don’t have a college counselor, maybe that position should be considered by more school districts.

    • Shea January 22, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

      We had a college counselor at my old high school, but she got pushed back into the normal high school counselor position this year. She would always gossip about people, and stress us out so much about applying to college. She was rude and whenever you liked a particular school that was a perfect match for you, she would always tell you that it wasn’t the right match.It was frustrating, but nobody listened to her, and my entire school went to college. My old high school and school district are both ranked #1 in education and API in its state, but our college counselor was very bad, and 100% of my graduating class got into college and 79% went to 4-year colleges.

  2. Jonathan July 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    Thought-provoking article, but how dramatic is the problem? Does the lack of training necessarily lead to a knowledge gap? It’s not that I entirely disagree with you, I’m just curious how big the problem is. The fact that most graduate programs don’t involve college planning training is worrisome, and the theory that this negatively impacts high school students is a good one. The problem is, the weakest link is the “knowledge gap.”

    How much of college counselors’ job knowledge comes from formal graduate school education? Human capital formation occurs in many ways, and in this specific case I can think of one example, college admissions counselors. In my public high school—I’m a senior in college, now—we would have visits from college counselors and college representatives all year, particularly during the application season in the fall. These representatives are, or better be, experts on admissions policies at their particular schools, and I think a high school counselor meeting with these representatives on a regular basis could definitely bridge any knowledge gap. Of course, that might not be enough, but I think high school counselors make up their gap in formal training with more than just mentor-apprentice relationships with colleagues.

    And similar to how you quoted the author of a book on college admissions, high school counselors can seek advice from other resources (books, websites, professional organizations, &c.)

    I don’t disagree that a gap in formal education is problematic and could have severe impacts on future counselors’ careers, but I’m not sure it’s dramatic enough to stress too much over. It might be a huge problem, but I’ll need to see more substantive proof before I start worrying. Has this become a real-world problem, or is it limited to theory and rhetoric right now? I really hope it’s the latter—something to pay attention to, but not something to freak out about yet.

  3. Patty July 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    My eldest daughter’s high school counselor is not someone I trust. Each time we’ve asked him a question over the years, he points to Naviance and says “there’s software for that”. She had to sign up for a college essay writing class put on by another high school (since her school didn’t offer such a thing). I only found out about it because my younger daughter will go to the other high school for their IB program. High school policies in our school district essentially prohibit one from changing counselors: they have to go through the district grievance process similar to the process used to change teachers. So my eldest is stuck with the lame counselor she has.
    My friend’s mother is a retired high school counselor, who they say was beloved in her community (in another state). We’ll have to try her. I’ve been reading everything I can to gain knowledge about the process but I feel for those who don’t have this option.
    It reminds me of my high school days where my counselor was the football coach. All he cared about was that I had enough credits to graduate. I met with him once during high school – that was enough. Sadly not much has changed in service while the complexity has skyrocketed. Thank you for running your blog – it’s a lifeline for many of us.

    • Mark August 8, 2012 at 2:58 am #

      Hi Patty, I have a 17 year old applying to college and her high school counselor is very reluctant to help her and get into the details. Her counselor is very inept and will not represent my daughter well. She attends a Cupertino Public school and I am wondering how to get another counselor. Do you have any advice. Thanks.

  4. Denise July 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    I just read an article in the LA Times this week that profiled a high school girl who had no knowledge of the college admissions process, and no one in her family to help her figure it out. It seems that the knowledge gap of college counselors is probably less of a problem for upper- or middle-class kids or kids in affluent neighborhoods who grow up assuming they’ll go to college and have some knowledge of the resources available to them. For others without that background and set of expectations, college is a complex, alien world and they need high school counselors who can shepherd them through the admissions process. Are counselors trained in meeting the needs of these students and everyone else in between?

    My experience is a good example. Upper-middle class home, parents with graduate degrees, parents died young. Working, I put myself through community college. Time to transfer and I started on the road to a Cal State when a counselor said “why aren’t you applying to UCLA?” I had not considered it, it seemed too expensive, out of my league. But because of that counselor, that’s where I transferred. This conversation could have happened in high school … if I had received that level of guidance. Not every family home is filled with talk of college. Kids need to hear it from school, too.

    • Jonathan July 28, 2011 at 7:27 pm #

      Good point. If we assume that upper- and upper-middle class kids will be relatively fine when it comes to college admissions, it becomes a matter of the role of high school counselors. Given the range of problems that counselors have to deal with, it seems wildly irresponsible to have one person doing all these different things. Should the same person who focuses on getting the bottom 10% to successfully graduate also be the person who focuses on getting the top 10% into the right college?

      Maybe the problem’s not that there’s a lack of training, it’s a lack of clarity on the role of the high school counselor. Consider colleges, which usually have different people covering different roles (mental health counselors, academic counselors, etc.) Maybe the solution isn’t more training, but more people–having three experts rather than one person struggling to cover three areas?

      Now we’re talking economics (still a big hurdle), but a problem that’s easier to understand and work on.

  5. Lynn O'Shaughnessy July 28, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

    Thanks Sara, Jonathan, Patty and Denise for your thoughtful comments. Obviously there is a serious problem with our counseling system in this country. And Jonathan, I think it’s worse than you might assume.

    I hope to address some of the points you all made in my post on Friday!

    Thanks again for your observations. I know everyone has benefited from reading them.

    Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  6. Paula July 29, 2011 at 3:38 am #

    Lynn, I absolutely agree that HS guidance counselors have little or no training in college admissions. When my oldest was in HS I made an appt w his counselor to discuss his options. The advice was: “He could go just about anywhere”. That was the sum total of what we got.

    A long-standing interest in college admissions stemming from being a first gen myself coupled with my experience with my eldest led me to enroll in and complete the UCLA Certificate in College Counseling program. I’ve done lots of volunteering since and parents continually tell me that they are not getting the kind of help they need from their high school regarding the college process. Yet despite my degree and gobs on knowledge about individual schools, merit scholarships, majors, financial aid, etc, I cannot get a job as a HS counselor in my district because I don’t have a MA in Guidance Counseling.

    Personally, I think there’s room for both types of counselors but I don’t see things moving in that direction in my state. I am appalled that capable students get to senior year and have not taken any Subject Tests, do not realize that the SAT is not the only game in town, don’t have the requisite foreign language study for highly selective schools, look only at “no merit scholarships” schools, etc. There is a BIG gap to close!

    • Lynn O'Shaughnessy July 31, 2011 at 10:06 pm #

      Hi Paula,

      I applaud you for learning so much about the college process and completing the UCLA certificate in counseling. (I got one of these too.) Ironically, UCLA started the certificate program with the intent that it would help public high school counselors, but it was the private counselors or those wanting to get into that profession who have taken advantage of this resource.

      I think it’s sad that you can’t get a job as a high school counselor just because you don’t have that master’s degree! You probably already know that the master’s degree isn’t an issue at private high schools.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  7. Ron Johnson August 1, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

    HS guidance counselors are worse than useless, they are dangerous! Many including myself receive totally out of date and dangerous career counseling. HS kids usually have little real idea what to go to college for or how to pick a major. Often they bring bad baggage from home and friends about what careers to look at. HS counselors are so out of touch with the real job world they have NO CLUE about the “job mines” a young college grad will encounter and which will blow up their career. They just “go with the flow” that the parents want and the poor kid ends up eventually figuring it out on their own after blowing several years of college in dead-end majors or traps where the lack of specific aptitude means a dead-end. (I.e. if you can’t do math don’t go into engineering, despite what your Dad wants you to do!) HS needs to apply modern, up to date aptitude testing and real-world interviews with young college grads who are already out in the job so the the HS kids that they are advising will actually get good advice on what to do before their college and major are locked and loaded.

    • Lynn O'Shaughnessy August 2, 2011 at 2:29 am #

      Hi Ron,

      Career counseling isn’t my forte, but I roll my eyes at the thought that most teenagers can have any idea of what kind of careers they want, much less what majors. There are so many disciplines that aren’t even taught in high school that I think the best advice is to sample lots of different subjects as soon as you get to college. My favorite book on this subject is The Thinking Student’s Guide to College by a professor at Northwestern University.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  8. Kris Hintz August 2, 2011 at 12:47 am #

    Lynn,

    I agree that the educational training required for public high school guidance counselors is focused on mental health, with little or no training in college counseling, financial aid, and so forth.

    In addition, guidance counselors are required to wear many hats in a public high school: they are schedulers, disciplinarians, and psychological counselors. To wear one more hat (for which they are not trained), college counseling, is just too much.Not to mention the dismal guidance counselor to student ratio, which can be 300-500 to one, depending on the size of the pubic high school.

    These caring, hard-working professionals do a great deal of good, and have my utmost respect. However, they are burdened by lack of specific college counseling training, too many roles, and a highly unfavorable counselor-student ratio.

    Given this situation, there is certainly a legitimate role for independent college admissions consultants, for those families that can afford private assistance. The situation is similar to the tutoring industry, in which families who are dissatisfied with the one-on-one attention their children can garner from teachers will reach out to tutors if that is a feasible approach for them.

    • Debra January 27, 2012 at 12:12 am #

      Thank you Kris. It’s not getting better for high school counselors with deep budget cuts…we don’t have the resources needed.

    • A1 Sauce February 12, 2012 at 9:08 pm #

      Kris,

      Being that I am a high school guidance counselor in the public sector and have been for nearly 9 years, I appreciate you recognizing that HS counselors, particularly one’s in states like California who have some of the worst counselor: student ratio, are set up to fail. A part of me can’t help but take offense the title of this blog “What’s wrong with high school counselors”- it should be “what’s wrong with public education.” I can understand why some families make the decision to hire private college counselors, however I am appalled by the rates these private consultant charge. In my opinion, some agencies and independent consultants are taking advantage of students and their families. They are riding the coat-tails of the fear mongering produced by the media, US World & News Report rankings, etc… Obviously what is needed is educational reform. While this seems like a distant or near impossible goal, one thing parents can do is get involved in their community and attend board meetings. Board members in districts can make a huge difference and can vastly change the climate and expectations of a school district.

      That being said, I have a few additional comments in response to the above threads:

      I wholeheartedly agree that graduate programs are lacking in their preparation offered to future high school counselors. I was a product of one such (expensive) program, and have had to commit my own time and money outside of work, to educate myself about college admissions and the ever-changing admissions policies and trends. Public school districts rarely emphasize the need for or support professional development due to lack of time, lack of funding, and the fact that professional development often means time away from the office.

      RE: professional college counseling certificate programs, while some beneficial information can be gained from participation (I went through one on my own dime my 3rd year as a counselor), they are overpriced (at least for educators whose annual earnings are barely sustainable, and aren’t we the one’s who supposedly need them the most?) and only as good as the people (and the experiences of the people) who are leading them. When I went through the College Counseling Certificate program, two of the adjunct professors were younger than I (and I was only 28 at the time) and had never worked in a secondary school, meaning they had no familiarity w/ public education and the resources that are/are not available to create a college counseling program they are teaching us to. These certificate programs have also given some people (who now call themselves qualified private college consultants) a false sense of knowing more than they really do. Nothing can be more valuable than experience, and that requires experience of being in the trenches with the students and their families as they are navigating their high school experience. There are valuable things that the guidance counselor at the school knows that the private college counselor meeting at the students house doesn’t. Countless times, I have had students come see me to change their schedule because their private counselor told them they needed to take a certain class so they could get into certain schools, when I knew taking that class wasn’t right for the student based on my experience working with them. I have yet to come across a private college consultant who takes the whole student into consideration (social and emotional needs and dynamics, personal goals, academic limitations, etc.). Sometimes, that means going against what the students parents may want for their child- which I would imagine would be difficult being that the parents are the one’s paying the private college consultant to “get their kid in” to XYZ colleges. I am just not yet convinced that private college consultants are “the answer,” and I am still insulted that high school guidance counselors are being framed in a light of being wrong, giving bad advice, and being useless. Guidance counselors are extremely useful and while it may seem biased, I know that many (not all) of the students I work with have benefit greatly from my support and guidance throughout their high school experience. The sad part is that we are given a monumental task with little resources and time, meaning that yes, some students (especially the ones who are not self-starting, intrinsically motivated, or have parents who advocate for them) can fall through the cracks. This current year I have over 530 students on my caseload. The question is not are counselors useless, it is are counselors being used effectively? And if I have to answer that question, I would say no. But the only way that counselors can be utilized more effectively and for students to benefit from a more comprehensive guidance program (that is free) is if the administration at your students school understands the needs of his/her community, supports change and restructuring (instead of just doing things the way they always have been done), advocates for the necessary changes, and understand that counselors are stakeholders in student success. One thing I will give my graduate program, is that it taught me the importance of program evaluation, program implementation and restructuring (based on the ever-changing needs of students), and emphasized the importance of a student-centered ethical framework which has empowered me to speak out in support of what my students and their families need.

      RE: Financial aid, I couldn’t agree more that HS counselors don’t know enough about this. Our school has partnered with local universities financial aid staff to offer evening sessions to our parents and students as this is their area of expertise. This model has been effective as it allows us to offer expertise knowledge to our families at no cost. We also have over 80 colleges visit our college & career center each year, so that students can gain first hand information about a college from a person who works in the admissions office of that college.

      RE: Private college consultants on the whole- I am not naive to their benefit… but…I have some qualms. They seem to only benefit families who can pay for them, which (while it may seem radical for me to point out) has long term implications, such as the loss of the middle class. School counselors, on the other hand, help every student, regardless of their socio-economic status. Additionally, my experience has been that there are two types of students who work with private college consultants: The student who has parents who micro-manage their every move (i.e have hired consultants/ private coaches for everything their student does); or, the student who has done little/no research or information seeking on their own about college. I really worry about this student because they are often the ones who are probably not ready to go off to a 4-year college as they have shown little to no ability to be independent, self-managing, etc… I have also seen students with competitive GPA’s, impressive extra-curriculars, and other distinguished accomplishment hire private college consultants, which I never can really understand. Didn’t they get to where they are because they are bright, motivated, organized, talented, etc… To me, these are usually the type of students who have been thinking about college since they could say the word, and therefor, they’ve done their research, gone on college visits, even contacted admissions reps themselves (who by the way, are the best resource and LOVE hearing from students rather than adults/parents) and have taken advantage of resources available to them at their school. I don’t know, call me crazy, but it seems that it is unnecessary for these students parents, in particular, to pay a private college consultant thousands of dollars to help them get in to colleges that they do not need help getting into. That money would be better saved to pay for the books that their student will need to get through their O-Chem class at U Penn !

      Thank you for reading… I dream about the day that education makes a huge shift, and all services, private or public become more equitable and effective for students.

      • James O Smyth March 28, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

        Thank you for taking the time to write that response! I learned so much from you thoughts and comments. You make me what to go out and attend my local board meeting.

        I want to do things that will help counselors help more students. Sounds like there is lots of opportunity.

        I am glad there are counselors like you out there that care about students and spend their life making a difference. Keep it up!

        James O Smyth

      • JR April 9, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

        I am also a high school counselor and I agree to a great degree with this response. In addition to learning as we, counselors, go (and by seeking out knowledge on our own time and dime to help students), we wear one of the widest set of hats within education. I go from college planning meetings to helping a suicidal student to dealing with an upset parent in the course of a few hours. And that is a “normal” day…you don’t want to see a crazy one.

        Another aspect that I think is important to point out is that there are THOUSANDS of colleges in the US alone and to be expected to know the ins and outs of even 20% of them is pretty outlandish. We know our local and popular schools pretty well, but if a student wants to apply to some back water school in Maine, I am going to have to have the family do some research and probably call the college itself.

        Secondly, many parents and students expect to sit down in my office, tell me “I want to go to college and study engineering” and expect me to lay out the plan for them based on that info. I then ask them to start coming up with lists of must haves and deal breakers (i.e. ideally in southern CA, 15,000 students or less, single sex dorms, etc.) to help us narrow the list down – and they come back with nothing…

        This is where I feel many of these replies are stemming from – you cannot expect anyone to tell you the perfect school with surface level info from the student who is going to school. That is like going online to research a car and say “I would like a car with 4 wheels” and then expecting the perfect car with everything you need to magically appear. We are expected to be an expert in such a broad range of topics (bullying, academic planning, college advising, financial aid, suicide prevention/intervention, testing, master calendaring, marketing/communications — and all without making one single mistake or risking the deep dark backlash of the parent) that makes are jobs only get more difficult each year.

        The idea of a team approach and the idea that actually speaking directly to the experts at the school itself seems to get pushed to the side. Parents also have to realize (and something I make clear to them at work to make sure they know what to expect) is that we have hundreds of students with both college and non-college related issues and non-student duties that take our attention, so I won’t be able to meet once a week with your senior on applications and essays like a dedicated college counselor charging $75/hour with 20 clients may be able to. I wish I could, but the fact is we cannot.

        Just like politicians, a few bad counselor experiences often taint the public and media perception of our jobs. I help students of all colors, financial status, and abilities get into great schools each year with tons of scholarship/financial aid money to boot. All that plus saving multiple students’ lives each year through crisis intervention, helping students be successful in their high school academics, and supporting their personal/social health — etc. etc….

        We, school counselors, care and we (99% of us) do a great job at it – often working 10-12 hour days even though our contract only states 7. It is often a thankless job and we prize the cards, hugs, and treats that more seldom come in. I hope those of you who had a bad experience or have a negative image of our profession, take a step back and think about how diverse the position is and that we too would like things to change for the better – but still do our jobs to the best of our ability and sacrifice much to ensure that as many students have the support they need and deserve each year.

  9. John Allen March 31, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    I attended Tuscaloosa (Ala.) High School from 1958 to 1961.
    It was a huge, modern, new building. Enrollment was about 1,500 — and all white students.

    My senior yearbook does not list a counselor. However, a woman is designated as “Dean of Girls.”

    I wonder why there was no Dean of Boys?

    If anyone ever needed a counselor, it was I. Yet, as far as I recall, I never met a counselor during high school. Nor was I ever tested in any way to determine my learning capability.

    I had a serious learning problem, and scored 13 on the ACT test.

    I joined the U.S. Air Force, where I immediately took a voluntary college GED exam and passed all four parts. As a result, the Air Force handed me two years of college on a piece of paper.

    Later, at the University of Alabama, while flunking out, I went by the psychology department, where I was administered an I.Q. test. I scored 124 on it.

    My question to you is: What were the duties (and capabilities) of high school counselors in the 1950s? Was I short-changed?

    I just want to know.

    Thanks so much.

    John
    Huntsville, Alabama

  10. Lee August 21, 2012 at 4:26 am #

    As a recent college grad from UGA, how difficult is this process for people to grasp? I figured it out by myself at 16. The only thing that i was clueless about was fasfa, and highschools could easily put together assemblies for this and have 1 less pep rally.

  11. Alex December 3, 2012 at 8:01 pm #

    My guidance counselors were WORTHLESS

    • Katie March 7, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

      Having worked as both a high school and college counselor, I am baffled at the remarks made, such as “worthless” and “useless” in describing high school counselors. Counselors do the best they can with the resources that are available to them. Before making these statements, please keep in my their caseload, job description, and additional responsibilities that are assigned to these individuals. My high school counselor was phenomenal which was why I decided to pursue a counseling career.
      I echo an earlier remark about attending a board meeting to voice your concerns, but to keep in mind of the counselors case load and duties assigned. The voice of a parent, even more so, the student is the most powerful voice at a board meeting. As a counselor, my advice to those that are frustrated with the way a counselor is being utilized is to attend a local board meeting.
      Good luck and hats off to all of my fellow hard-working and devoted counselors that support our students and their families.

      • Lynn O'Shaughnessy March 8, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

        Hi Katie – I appreciate your comments, but it’s cop out to say that a large caseload prevents counselors from being effective. If counselors understood the basics of paying for college they could hold schoolwide events and explain how families can make college more affordable. Most counselors do not know how to cut college costs. So even if a counselor’s caseload was a dozen students he or she would be ineffective in helping with this giant issue. Instead counselors invite local college reps for “financial aid nite” for seniors which only explains why families should complete the FAFSA and PROFILE. That is a miniscule part of the entire process!

        Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  12. zooeyhall April 17, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    When you are a 17-18 year old high school senior, there is going to be no time in your life when good counseling will be more important. And sadly many are not getting it.

    I graduated from a small-town rural Nebraska high school in the 1970′s. I excelled in math and science and had an intelligent mind, but like many kids who have those abilities, also shyness and lack of self confidence.

    The counselor in my school was a drunk and a skirt chaser who gave me almost no real guidance. His most common advice for the boys who came to his office was to hand out brochures from the local farm equipment factory for welding jobs.

    Parents—if you care about your children’s school—don’t look at things like how much science or math they have or how nice the gym is. Look at who is doing the counseling because that is the most important thing your kid is going to need!

  13. Patricia May 14, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

    found this while searching the internet for something else……I think people have a misconception of the role of high school counselor.guidance counselor and college admission counselor…….we have some how mixed all of their duties together, when in fact they are not…….You should not expect counselor to be the know all for getting your children into college…..do some things for yourself………….

    • Steve July 19, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

      Great posts by all. Definately lots of work yet to do. Thanks Lynn for all that you are doing. Was able to hear you for the first time this past year as you came out to speak to our families.

      For all those interested, check out the National Office of School Counselor Advocacy. They have a “Owning the Turf” campaign aimed at helping counselors become stronger leaders within their communities. Check it out. http://nosca.collegeboard.org/

      National Office of School Counselor Advocacy
      The Colleg Board

  14. Suzanne December 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

    From the beginning this sounded like a push for Independent Counselors, who can claim they are more of an expert than the counselors at a public school. Truth is High School Counselors are pulled in many directions, but have a vast knowledge of colleges and the admission process for a wide variety of students. Does the counselor have time to do all the work? No, nor should they. This is a process whereby all stakeholders need to do their part. School Counselors will assist and direct as well as advise. Independent Counselors are no more “qualified” than an employee of the district. I have seen way too many times parents be scammed be claims of what an independent contractor can do (at a high price). All things that can be done if students and families work hand in hand with their high school counselor and college admissions officers. If families have money to throw away, pay an Independent Counselor to do your job.

  15. Brian Doherty December 27, 2013 at 2:44 am #

    I work in Massachusetts, the #1 ranked schools in the country and # 8 internationally and as a “Public School’ Counselor I have nothing against private counselors, I have even done some advising on the side. I feel that I know my students much, much better than the private consultants and know colleges very well, admissions trends and have the luxury of meeting regularly with a variety of admissions reps from across the region and country. Also, we have the benefit of the internal part of the process – what teacher to ask for recommendations, classes, essay review, etc…..I have come up with similar list too often – which is not a bad thing – with students that have hired college ‘professionals.’ Like I couldn’t come up with a college for an A- student with a low 600′s looking for a mid-atlantic college: Lafayette, Lehigh ring a bell?

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