February 2019

College and Career Readiness Counseling

By Ashley Pritchard
Daily, we wear many hats while we tackle the numerous responsibilities within our roles as school counselors. One of our most important duties is to ensure that our students stay on track and blossom into successful, well-adjusted young adults who are college and career ready. Helping students learn about themselves and their skills, strengths, abilities and interests is critical, and we must continue to help them realize their potential as they prepare to transition into their lives beyond high school.
 
As a newly hired high school counselor, I am always searching for tips, tricks of the trade and resources. If you are also new to the role of school counselor or if you are looking to revamp your college and career readiness programming, here are some tools and ideas I have picked up along the way and found to be helpful in providing support for my students as they become ready to venture into their college and career journey.
 
Finding Resources
If you are a new school counselor or just want to present your counseling department with fresh new ideas, the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) website provides great resources. For instance, one of my go-to items is the career conversation starters, which assist me in asking meaningful questions while aligning my discussions with students with the ASCA mindsets. ASCA provides general, middle school, and high school conversation starters that are easy to download and begin using with your students.
 
Including Parents
Especially in the high school setting, school counselors are in consistent contact with parents regarding their students’ progress. I find that keeping parents abreast of the conversations and presentations we offer for students throughout the school year is equally as important, so that they can continue the discussion and further research at home. I like to send a simple email to parents throughout the school year with information on college and career news.
 
My school district has also found success in offering two very popular parent events: our early college planning night and financial aid night. Both are open to both parents and students of all grade levels (9–12).
 
Professional Development
College and career readiness expectations are ever-changing. To best assist our students and families, one of the most valuable things we can do as school counselors is continue to expand our own knowledge base and professional growth. We are responsible for implementing best practices in guiding our students, while accessing the most up-to-date information.
 
Plenty of avenues exist for professional development, whether it is through conferences (NJSCA Fall or Spring Conference or the ASCA Annual Conference) or online webinars offered through ASCA and The College Board. Those looking to earn CEU’s while growing their knowledge of college admissions may want to consider taking the ASCA U Specialist Training, College Admissions Specialist. This training is self-paced and costs $99 for ASCA members and $249 for nonmembers; at the end of the course you can earn five CEU’s. ASCA also offers Career Development Specialist training for the same cost, also worth five CEU’s. An exciting part of the Career Development training is that you can also earn graduate level credit after completing this course.
 
Ashley Pritchard is a school counselor with Delaware Valley Regional High School in Frenchtown, N.J.