The Guidance Gap

We talk a lot about the achievement gap, but there’s another problem in US high schools.  How well-prepared is your child’s school counselor to guide them – and you – through the twists and turns of the rapidly changing college admission process so that you and your child end up with the best possible result?

A recent headline in the education-focused Hechinger Report asked “Why aren’t more school counselors trained in helping students apply to college?”  Some states are changing their rules and requiring more training for counselors, but currently, most states do not require specific training related to the college admission process.  In truth, school counselors have numerous responsibilities in addition to guiding students through their college applications.  You can see from this opinion piece, posted on the official blog of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, our primary national membership organization, that school counselors can be overwhelmed with questions related to the college application process that they simply don’t have the tools or training to answer.

Knowing the variety of colleges out there is an important tool for counselors as well, and while most high school college counselors meet with college representatives who come to their schools, they usually don’t have time (or a budget) to visit college campuses themselves.  We frequently hear parents saying the school counselor at their child’s high school recommends the same dozen or so colleges to students – despite the fact that there are over 2,000 colleges in the US!

Deciding which colleges should go on your list is a fundamental and critical part of the process for students.  Whenever we hear about someone who “didn’t get in anywhere,” (this doesn’t happen to our students!) what it really means is that their list was wrong.  This happens for 2 reasons:  a) they weren’t open to listening to those who offered guidance and feedback, and who suggested they balance out their list a bit; or b) they didn’t receive any such guidance.

A private college advisor is a choice; not everyone needs one!  But some people feel they want personalized attention as they seek out the colleges that will be the best academic, social, emotional and financial fit for their family.  Those people are well-served by trained, professional independent educational consultant.  As we’ve posted before, there are, unfortunately, no official licenses or approved training for people who hold themselves out to provide such service.  As the consumer, you should ask good questions to ensure you hire someone who is qualified to guide your child and your family through this process – here are some recommendations.  All of Magellan’s counselors have their Certificate in College Counseling, attend conferences to improve our knowledge and visit colleges.  If you think you’d like some help, feel free to give us a call.

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