Why High School Counselors Are Failing

I get a lot of flak whenever I've write college blog posts that suggest that high school counselors know shockingly little about the college planning process.

Consequently, I was pleased when a veteran high school counselor and former president of a national college counseling organization wrote an op-ed during this holiday season that voiced some of the same concerns that I have expressed about the inadequacies of high school counseling programs.

Writing in Diverse Magazine: Issues in Higher Education, Patrick O'Connor, who is former president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, lamented the sorry state of college counseling, which I happen to think is a national scandal.

I agree with O'Connor who argues that you can blame the nation's graduate schools of education for much of this mess. According to O'Connor, the American School Counseling Association has identified 466 graduate counseling programs across the country, but only 42 degree programs offer a course in college admission counseling. Only one program - at Long Island University - makes a college admission course mandatory. Imagine that!

High School Counselors Most At Risk?

I do disagree with O'Connor when he suggests that it's primarily high school counselors in rural and inner-city schools who don't know much about college planning. He believes that counselors in suburban public schools and private schools are far more conversant in college admission issues.

O'Connor argues that private schools often hire former college admission officers as college counselors, but that doesn't mean their knowledge is adequate. Young college admission counselors, for instance, are often not privy to the sort of hard decisions that a college's senior staff makes, including who gets financial aid and merit awards and who doesn't. O'Connor also suggests that school counselors at affluent public high schools can attend conferences and workshops to fill in the gap, but I don't buy that. I've heard from countless affluent parents who complain bitterly about the quality of counseling at their top suburban schools.

Why Are Schools of Education Flunking?

What puzzles me is why schools of education at universities across the country refuse to take their job seriously when training the nation's high school counselors. With college costs so high, it's a dereliction in duty for graduate programs to continue producing school counselors who are ignorant about college admission practices, financial aid and many other crucial topics for parents and teenagers.

What will it take to get these graduate programs to do the right thing?

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and she also writes for TheCollegeSolutionBlog.
High school counselor image by dave_mcmt. CC 2.0.