Is High School College Counseling a Failed System?

The Importance of Counseling

Gates Foundation Study: “Young People. . . Deserve Better Advice”

A study by Public Agenda for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation paints a dismal picture of the public high school counseling system for college-bound students. The report notes that even students who successfully completed college heavily criticized their school counselor’s guidance, calling it “inadequate and impersonal.”

No matter how hard school counselors may try to provide excellent guidance to their students, the deck is stacked against them. As the study notes, counselors have many responsibilities in addition to helping a student transition from high school to college or other pursuits: truancy, discipline issues, scheduling and administrative mix-ups. They may also be expected to fill in when faculty or staff are absent. Even without those other responsibilities, the work load seems overwhelming in the face of the reported student-counselor ratio national average of 460 to 1. Although The American School Counselor Association recommends a 250-to-1 ratio as ideal, at many schools the ratio is closer to 700 to 1, and at several it is 1000 to 1. No wonder the students found their teachers more helpful; the teachers probably knew them better.

Why Counseling Matters

Couple the voluminous counselor work load with insufficient training about how to show students options suited to their interests and goals or how to help them make choices related to college and post-secondary education, and you have a failed system. The result, according to this study, is that “Students who are poorly counseled are less likely to go directly from high school into a college program. . . [which] highly [correlates] with dropping out of college.” Part of the reason is financial, since these same students were more likely to choose colleges based on costs, and less likely to receive scholarships. The study concludes, “. . . it seems obvious to us that young people who are completing high school and aspiring to go to college deserve better advice.”

We at CPSi agree. By providing expert and customized advice specific to each student in college selection, field of study/major selection, and application essay brainstorming and writing, CPSi consultants help to fill the gap, serving the needs of college-bound students in public and private high schools as well as homeschoolers and those in nontraditional programs.

2,885 views Debbie Schmidt