High school counselors: Preparing to better serve our students
Associate Vice President, Market Research and Planning
April 17, 2018
Research supports the idea that the more information and support a high school student receives, the more likely that the student will apply and enroll in college (see a previous post on our research). Unfortunately, research also shows students lack a high level of knowledge about college today, especially first-generation students and those from under-represented groups. This makes the role of high school counselors even more important than ever.
The influence of high school counselors on college enrollment has been long supported by research. In fact, I just read a study proving that one additional high school counselor is predicted to induce a 10 percentage point increase in four-year college enrollment!
Some of my other favorite research on this topic shows that:
- An additional counselor is associated with increased attendance rates and a decrease in disciplinary actions
- A lower student-to-counselor ratio increases the chances of first-generation students in college enrollment
- Positive relationships between school counselors and students increase college application rates, a necessary and important step towards college enrollment
But what about the perspective from high school counselors themselves? How do they work with students? And what do they do, as the school year winds down, to better prepare themselves for the following year?
I asked a public school counselor, Chris Wood, for his opinion. Chris has co-presented with me at the Ruffalo Noel Levitz National Conference and will be again at our 2018 event. He serves at Cedar Falls High School in Iowa. Here is his perspective on his mission and how he looks to improve his service to students.
High School Counselors,
First off, I would like to say, “thank you.” Some of you may hear it often, but some of you may never hear it, your timeless hours spent advocating for your students is appreciated by so many!
My name is Chris Wood and I am public school counselor at Cedar Falls High School in Cedar Falls, Iowa. This time of the year is always a hard one for us; if you’re lucky, you’re on the backside of meeting with students for registration. Not a day goes by where you don’t pay close attention to that safety net you’ve set in place for your seniors in limbo of graduating, and you’re putting the final touches on what seems like endless requests for last-minute scholarship recommendation letters. I have no doubt, like me, your days seem to get a little longer during this semester, yet you come to school each and every day with smile on your face and the willingness to show compassion and interest in each student that walks through your door.
As I start to wind down my year, I begin to focus on what will I put in place to re-energize, refocus, and rejuvenate my passion for guiding students through their high school years. Each year I find myself gravitating towards my passion for helping guide students through the college search process. It goes without saying that for a high school counselor, learning the admissions process and expectations of colleges and universities can be challenging. Building a rapport with a local admissions counselor so you can ask a unique question about a prospective student is also time consuming and challenging.
For the past three summers I have tasked myself with growing in my role as high school college admissions counselor. Part of that has been attending the Ruffalo Noel Levitz National Conference. The conference has afforded myself and high school counselors around the nation the opportunity to be involved at an event where some of the brightest minds in student success, admissions, and enrollment management collide. As high school counselors, we found the opportunity to network and collaborate on student concerns such as college preparation, student retention, parental involvement and collaboration, financial aid, and much more. The opportunity to meet many experts in their field raised my level of understanding and provided me direct connections to many of my questions I received from throughout the school year from students and parents.
As you’re grinding through your spring and making a difference in so many lives, I strongly encourage you to start thinking about the things you’ll be doing for yourself over the summer. RNL provided me the opportunity to reset my passion and purpose for working with all high school students on their preparation for college and career. If you’re considering a professional development opportunity at extremely discounted rate, I would strongly consider this year’s summer conference in Orlando.
Thank you and have a wonderful remainder of your school year.
I invite you to join myself, Chris, and many other high school counselors and college professionals at the RNL National Conference, July 24-26 in Orlando. Chris will be a co-presenter with me on a session on how high school counselors and enrollment offices can partner together.
Visit the RNL National Conference page for all the details, and I hope to see you in Florida this summer.