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Mar 6

Written by: kmurphy
Saturday, March 6, 2010 

On March 3rd, Public Agenda, a non-profit research organization funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, released a report on the assistance high school students received from their guidance counselor regarding the college search and application process. The results do not bode well for public high school guidance counselors and the system in which they work.

Six out of ten students report that they received inadequate assistance with college planning and nearly half report that they were basically unknown entities to their guidance counselor. They also reported that they received little assistance on financial aid and how best to be financially strategic.

In defense of guidance counselors I think it is important to remember that college planning is just a small part of their responsibilities. The vast majority of their time is spent on administrative items such as scheduling or on crisis intervention. You also have to factor in their large caseloads which are often triple the recommended amount. In California, the average is 1:1000 and in Washington it is 1:506. It would seem logical that a change be made to the system, allowing more time for counselors to help students with the college process. Unfortunately, findings show that many degree programs do not adequately prepare guidance counselors to assist with college counseling – there is no related coursework on the college process or navigating the world of financial aid and affordability.

It is the hope of those in my profession that guidance counselors are extended some of the professional development that they need in order to make systemic changes to benefit all students. I am currently serving on IECA's College Committee and we are in the process of developing ways in which we can reach out to our guidance counselor colleagues to work more collaboratively to solve this national problem.

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