Parents: Guidance at School May Not Be Enough


Most parents assume that schools are providing the necessary college and career planning guidance to their children. But findings from over 10 years of research studies show that students are not getting the help they need to make good decisions about life after high school.

How Much Counseling Time Does Each Student Get?

38 minutes per year is the estimated amount of time the average student receives from a school counselor on college and career advising. This statistic is based on national averages of student-to-counselor ratios and counselor time allocation research according to a 2005 report entitled “Counseling and College Counseling in America’s High Schools” by Dr. Patricia McDonough.

This of course is an average. While the actual amount of time varies widely by school and by student, interviews with parents show that it is a large concern. Despite the best of intentions, the level of personalized guidance provided is not evenly distributed to all students.

“My child is a solid student. He isn’t at the top of his class, but he’s not struggling either. The school clearly pays the most attention to the students that standout… either at the top, or the bottom. If you aren’t in one of those groups, you fall between the cracks,” said the mother of a senior from a large Connecticut public high school.Many schools use an online Internet based program to meet career guidance requirements.

“My son is at the top of the class. If his Dad and I hadn’t been involved, he wouldn’t have received any career guidance and would have been very limited in the colleges he considered. He’s a self-starter, Eagle scout, athlete and academically successful but career and college planning requires professional and parental support. We enrolled him in a program for high school students called Career Coaching for Students™. That made a real difference for him and us.”

Not Enough Counselors… Too Many Demands

A quick look at the student-to-counselor ratios across the nation shows that there simply are not enough guidance counselors at each school to support the volume of students and all the demands placed on the counselors. Schools have used online Internet programs to fill the gap.

According to Dr. McDonough’s report, the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommends one counselor for every 100 students, or a 100:1 ratio. The real student-to-counselor ratio across the nation’s high schools is estimated to be 315:1. That is three times the recommended level according to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES).

In some states, such as California, Minnesota, Arizona and Utah, the average is well over 500:1

Counselors aren’t there to do career guidance counseling

School counselors handle issues ranging from attendance, discipline, drug and alcohol abuse, sexuality and pregnancy, suicide prevention, and personal crisis along with academic testing and a host of other administrative duties assigned to them.

Where does this leave college and career planning services? They are considered “nice to haves” in many schools because the time and resources aren’t there to support them.

Not Only a Public School Issue

The average student-to-counselor ratio in private high schools is estimated to be 241:1 according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. While this ratio is better then the public school ratio of 315:1, it is still over two times the ASCA’s recommendation of 100:1.

Even though private school student-to-counselor ratios are better, parents report that the guidance their children receive is almost exclusively focused on college counseling and placement, not on what the students will do with their education once they graduate.

TIPS FOR PARENTS
Regardless of whether your child attends public or private school, here are some tips to make sure that he/she receives the guidance needed to make wise and informed decisions about his/her future:

  • Don’t assume your child is getting enough college and career guidance at school
  • Find out what the student-to-counselor ratio is at your child’s school
  • Contact the school’s guidance department to learn what kind of personal career counseling is provided:
    • When, what and how much 1-on-1 college guidance is provided?
    • When, what and how much 1-on-1 career planning guidance is provided?
  • Talk with your child. Ask the following questions:
    • Have you taken interest, skills, values, and personality assessments at school?
    • Has the school counselor helped you understand what the assessments mean?
    • Has the school counselor met with you 1-on-1 to discuss career possibilities?
    • Has the school helped you plan your college search based on your career interests?
    • Has the school helped direct you to financial aid and scholarship opportunities?
    • Has the school discussed with your student the connection between high school class choices and the impact it will have on college admissions?

Increase the 1-to-1 support your child receives with personal career and education guidance to help your child sort through his/her best-fit choices. It’s much more affordable than you think. Is there anything more important than your child’s future success?

Carl Nielson is a professional career coach, creator of Career Coaching for Students™ and managing principal of The Nielson Group, a management consulting firm specializing in hiring and selection, team effectiveness and executive coaching. The Career Coaching for Students™ is offered throughout the country and can be organized as a local workshop. National webinars are scheduled to begin in the Fall of 2010 that combine group and individual attention. Parents are encouraged to participate with their son/daughter. Call 972.346.2892 to discuss details.

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