June 2008 Newsletter
On a daily basis I receive phone calls from parents who have unrealistic lists of colleges to which their children are planning on applying. When I ask the parent about their child’s grades, courses and standardized test scores, I often wonder what this family could be thinking, but at the same time, I also question the role of the student’s guidance counselor.
For twelve years having worked as a high school guidance counselor, I’ve often witnessed how few guidance counselors actually take the time to keep current with trends in college admissions. Yet, in defense of high school guidance counselors, I realize that this is not always possible. With one counselor for approximately 250 to 1000 students in grades nine through twelve, I have also seen how there are rarely enough hours in a day to attend seminars and workshops on the college admissions process. Perhaps because of the wide range of duties that high school counselors are expected to perform, and because of budget cuts, many counselors infrequently, if ever, visit college campuses, communicate with college admissions officers, or simply read topical and timely news articles. To make matters worse, in approximately two-thirds of all high schools in the nation there is no one person designated as a “college” counselor.
With the release of the 2008 Michigan High School Counselor Survey, The Joyce Ivy Foundation, which conducted the survey, issued a report that lists 22 recommendations to improve college counseling in the local secondary schools.
In an article that appeared in The Ann Arbor News, “Guidance counselors’ time limited” Liz Cobbs writes:
“Many high school guidance counselors say they would like to spend more time helping students plan for college but are too busy with administrative duties and paperwork…”
“The counselors in the survey reported spending 30 percent of their time “absorbed in administration and paperwork,” such as proctoring standardized tests; 29 percent of their time working on college plans with students and their families and 25 percent of their time responding to “incidents and immediate needs among their student caseload.” According to the survey, an average caseload for a public school guidance counselor in Michigan is 362. In contrast, private school counselors carry a workload of just 250 students.”
“John Boshoven, the chairman of the Joyce Ivy Foundation’s Counselor Advisory Board, is quoted as saying, ‘There’s no training but counselors are expected to hit the ground running in college counseling. We need more training in knowing how to assist families.'”
Without adequate counseling, students and their parents need to gain a better understanding of the highly competitive college admissions process, and they can begin this journey on their own by reading guide books, attending fairs, reviewing websites and visiting campuses where they can attend information sessions and campus tours. If parents and students do their homework and then ask and accept advice from the experts, they can make informed decisions and in the end have an appropriate list of colleges to which to apply.