In fact, the odds are high that your high school counselor’s knowledge about college admission strategies, standardized testing and scholarships, and financial aid is limited. Ironically, during this period of increasing college costs, financial aid is often the subject that high school counselors know the least about. Many high school counselors are unfortunately overwhelmed with the work and student caseloads of more than 500 students to 1 counselor.
But it’s not just the crazy schedules and large high schools that explain why high school counselors aren’t equipped with the knowledge and training to help families through the process. Here’s the real reason: Before school counselors can begin working in a public high school, they must earn a Master’s degree in counseling. The graduate school programs, however, rarely offer even ONE class in college planning. So through no fault of their own, the majority of counselors arrive at high schools simply unaware of critical college admission issues.
To confirm this, I conducted an informal poll in a Facebook group of college admissions professionals across the country:
81% of counselors with Master’s degrees received NO coursework or training for assisting students with college
14% of counselors attended ONE course
5% of counselors had thorough training, with several courses in their Master’s program
Without formal training, new high school counselors rely on colleagues at their schools to show them the ropes. They attend a few days of professional development or college admissions training each year, if they can get the time away from campus. It usually takes 4-5 years before counselors feel comfortable guiding families through the college and financial aid processes. Many 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.
Parents and students need counselors with the knowledge and tools to assist them through this difficult process, and high school counselors need that knowledge and the correct tools to do so!
Read more: NACAC counselor paper.