When one thinks of a high school counselor and what they do, there’s a certain stereotype that comes to mind, often born of television and movies — the one the student goes to see when they’ve gotten into a conflict at school, or who advises (or warns) the student about their future. While conflict resolution is certainly a part of a high school counselor’s job, they serve a much broader variety of roles.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the many ways a high school counselor can help your child.
Addressing Behavior Problems and Conflict
First, let’s get the more common things a counselor does in their daily work. Counselors are often called upon to address behavioral problems exhibited by students, whether it’s acting out, getting failing grades, or getting into other trouble. It’s the counselor’s job to help root out the cause of these problems — perhaps problems at home, boredom, emotional troubles, or something else — and help find a way to resolve them.
Sorting out conflict is probably the single most common thing a counselor does — whether it’s behavioral issues, trouble with other students, or even conflict between teachers and parents. Helping to de-escalate and find solutions to conflicts is a primary focus for most counselors.
Conflict resolution means more than just settling differences regardless of context — it’s also a counselor’s job to stand up and advocate for students when they’re having trouble with other people in their lives. A student who’s suffered a major loss or trauma can find themselves unable to handle the change and stress that can cause. Students might also find themselves being treated unfairly because of their disability, race, ethnicity, or identity. It’s a counselor’s job to help students get through these issues and make sure their family and teachers understand the situation.
Helping Prepare for College
Another old stereotype is that a guidance counselor is just a teacher dropped casually into that role, whose advice about attending college might be casual and short-lived. This is also pretty far from the truth — high school counselors are highly educated professionals with a master’s degree and specific certifications qualifying them for their role. It takes a lot of work and training to become a high school counselor, and it’s safe to say counselors are deeply familiar with the academic process.
Another common role for high school counselors is to advise students on applying to and attending college after they graduate — but that entails much more than just advising them about a chosen major and calling it a day. Here are just some of the ways a counselor can help a student prepare for college:
Academic support. The foundation of getting a good post-secondary education is getting good grades. It’s very common for students to struggle with their schoolwork, and counselors can help guide students to help them develop better study habits, get their learning back on track, and get their test scores up.
Searching for colleges. When it comes to finding a school — not to mention backup schools — the choices and criteria can be overwhelming for even the best student. Counselors have the expertise to help a student find a school that’s within their budget, offer online programs, and / or have the curriculum to fit that student’s interest.
Suggesting alternatives. For some students, attending a four-year school and getting a degree is just not the journey for them. A counselor can help suggest meaningful alternatives, such as military enlistment, community college, trade school, or joining the workforce, encouraging students to look at their passions and skill set and find a path that leads to a happy and productive future.
Counselors can also help aspiring students by providing a letter of recommendation, which is a requirement for many colleges. They can also assist students with understanding the challenging and sometimes confusing requirements for attending certain schools, and make sure they don’t miss any necessary steps or paperwork. Finally, they can also assist with sending in transcripts and helping students stay organized throughout the entire process, so they can feel confident and ready when the time comes to finalize school applications.
Counseling doesn’t just have to be for students either — counselors can also help parents and families connect and support each other. Lots of parents find themselves bewildered as to what to do when their child is having academic or behavioral problems. Many schools offer resources for families and can facilitate applying for medical health services and student aid.
Sometimes, what a student needs most when they’re struggling is a sympathetic ear — not conflict resolution or academic assistance, but someone to listen to them when they need it. While high school counselors are not therapists, they are trained to listen to students and help them work through their issues, perhaps even suggesting individual or group therapy.
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