The allocation of resources (time, staff and budgetary support) to a college counseling program benefits all school constituents. Studies have shown that college attendance rates increase with a college prep curriculum, a college-going culture, and staff who are committed to supporting students (College Board, 2011). However, there continue to be discrepancies in the quality of postsecondary support in high schools across the U.S. Nationally, the average counselor-to-student ratio in secondary schools is 268:1. In my role, I’ve considered the level of support required to help first-generation and low-income students navigate the college process. Often, these populations aren’t guaranteed guidance in their postsecondary planning process. In schools with larger low-income student populations, counselors were less likely to spend their time engaging in postsecondary counseling and these schools were less likely to have a dedicated college counselor (NACAC, 2018).
Despite this clear resource shortage in schools, the need for effective college counseling for underrepresented populations cannot be overstated. Counselors provide access to critical postsecondary social capital (ASCA, 2015) and in some instances, prove to be the most important voice in the college search and selection process for underrepresented populations (i.e. first-generation and/or African American).
The work must be done, but how? For public school counselors seeking to develop effective postsecondary planning for underrepresented students, consider the following program additions:
- Invite financial aid and admissions professionals from local two-year and four-year institutions to host workshops with families
- Develop a quick “handy guide” with resources for students to pick up in the counseling office and update this annually
- Create demo accounts for the Common Application and FAFSA and create screencasts for students and families that can be accessed via phone or computer (Free Resource: Screencast-o-matic)
- Manage a counseling Twitter or Instagram and plan tweets and posts in advance over the summer or with annual planning
- Team up with teachers for college planning lessons and units (e.g. SAT/ACT prep, college essays in junior english and borrowing/lending for financial aid in math)
College Counseling for Latino and Underrepresented Students, NACAC (2015)
The College Completion Agenda, College Board (2011)
State of College Admissions, NACAC (2018) - School Counselors: Academic and College Counseling
Are School Counselors Impacting Underrepresented Students' Thinking about Postsecondary Education? - ASCA (2015)