Need advice from parents who've dealt with public school ant

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: Need advice from parents who've dealt with public school ant
By Z00b (Z00b) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 03:00 pm: Edit

My school just completely reshuffled counselor assignments. Now, instead of the same counselor I've had for two years, I'll have the same one I had 3 years ago, but never spoke to and don't know at all.

Do public schools do this quite often? I don't understand why this is done, as each counselor is assigned an alphabetical by last name case load, but the administration seems to make Alphabet Soup of it every year.

What should I do? It seems like the counselor has become a data entry specialist, because the only value they seem to have is changing your schedule around in computer. Should I just suck it up? Will colleges understand that the answer to "For how long and in what context have you known this studnet?" might be "10 minutes, he handed me this evaluation form? Should I just complain and ask to be assigned back to my old counselor? (I've had to complain quite often for the most basic things over the last four years... like being able to take both a math AND a science class... wow!)

Not to mention I'll be out of town until school starts, and apparently the counselors aren't allowed to see students before the first day so I won't even get to resolve schedule issues before 500 students line the door to the counseling center and wait in a line all day to be able to talk to someone who doesn't know their name but knows how to give them the English class that's required for graduation.

Sorry if this comes across as a rant, but I'm sure anyone who attends an organizationally challenged resource deprived public school can empathize.

By Lamom (Lamom) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 07:57 pm: Edit

Do you have the email/fax of the GC? Son's HS GC had 500+ students at the beginning of the senior yr. We used fax & e mail to send questions, that made things a little easier when son had to wait in line. At least he didn't have to start at the beginning. This yr I hear the GC's are going to be randomly assigned since there are 900 freshman and only 4 GC for all 4 yrs. Good luck.

By Mimk6 (Mimk6) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 10:45 pm: Edit

OK -- I know public schools real well. My son had a new guidance counselor in 12th grade and a new college counselor came on staff -- neither one knew him and it really wasn't a problem. The college counselor just indicated he was new to the school on apps and I think he tried to talk to teachers to have a take on the kid, etc. My D had a terrible guidance counselor -- she did not want her to fill out forms -- college counselor did everything. I think her college counselor really went to bat for her but probably what helped the most was the teacher recs -- her teachers really knew her -- I think it's a much worse scenario to have teachers who liked you leave your senior year than to have guidance counselors change. By the way, an adcom at a top Ivy told me that colleges definitely understand the difference between public and private -- that they know private schools can write lengthy recs, etc. and that beleaguered public school counselors see the kids about ten minutes a year -- they know what they are dealing with. One more suggestion -- my D's situation was very complicated -- a year-round school, different things available on different tracks, etc. -- she wrote a short note explaining the dynamics of her school -- you could write a brief note explaining the change in counselors (or the counselor could).

By Keats (Keats) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 08:52 am: Edit

Z00b, if you know the 2-year counselor fairly well, would he/she be willing to write you a rec? In any case, as Mimk6 wrote above, colleges are well aware that it is difficult for busy (or overburdened) guidance counselors from large schools to have a chance to know the students beyond brief scheduling meetings. That is why it is important to carefully choose teachers who know you well to write your teacher recs. Some colleges will also let you include an additional rec from a coach, director, community person, etc. My child had a counselor change at the beginning of senior year, so I know it's not the best timing, but things worked out. 'Hope they will for you, too.

By Northstarmom (Northstarmom) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 09:18 am: Edit

Colleges do know what goes on in public schools, and will not hold against you your getting a new counselor senior year.

You can, however, help yourself by making an appointment ASAP with the new counselor, and bringing in a resume and a copy of an autobiographical essay that highlights your strengths and also describes what you want out of your college experience and what you are considering doing afterward.

Talk to teachers now to line up your college recommendations, and ask them to also give a copy to your guidance counselor.

When your guidance counselor fills out the info on your college applications, the GC will look at the info in your folder: test scores, transcripts, and other info. This is how the GC does the check off parts of the information that the college wants from the GC.

Colleges do know that particularly in large public high schools, GCs will not know students well so may not make a lot of personal comments. Thus, it will be important that you get recommendations from teachers who like you and know you well, and also are able to support their favorable impressions of you with recommendations that are clear and specific.

It's also a good idea to give any recommenders copies of your resume, transcript, autobiographical essay plus a copy of any impressive papers that you did for their class. You will remember far better your illustrious career in a teacher's class than the teacher will remember since the teacher probably has hundreds of students.

The more specific the teacher can make their recommendation, the better, so give the teacher help -- and get the recommendation paperwork to the teacher at least 3 weeks in advance of the deadline. It takes a long time to write a good recommendation.

By Songman (Songman) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 10:59 am: Edit

Zoo- My S went to a private high school and the counselors were hands off and did not enhance in any way the relationship my son had with his peers or the school. It was not until senior year that a counselor (who is a wonderful teacher also) started to take an interest in the kids. I can say that every single student in her counseling group -about 6) came out of their shell and tried different EC's that the former counselors never discusssed with them. They also became really good friends because she forced then to communicate etc... This is not a problem that is unique to public schools only.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Tuesday, August 24, 2004 - 08:28 pm: Edit

Northstarmom's advice is right on. I suggest everyone do the same--send a letter or essay along with a resume to those who are writing a rec for you with the letter customized to the person. You do not want your references to get writers' block! Or forget some important item that would put you at great advantage. The problem with the references is that you really can't proof them most of the time, so you get what you get. Make it easy for those writing the letters. In some ways, it is an advantage to have someone who does not know you writing a reference because you can provide the info and somewhat shape the letter.

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