|By MadMom on Wednesday, August 22, 2001 - 05:25 pm: Edit|
Does anyone else have useless guidance counselors? At my daughter's HS, they seem to know very little about colleges other than our state schools and a few local colleges. My daughter is doing well in school, and may be applying to a few Ivy League or similar schools. She has a 4.0 (no weighting) and a 1420 SAT (she'll take it again). Almost certain to be valedictorian. Her GC, who started last year and barely knows her, assures her that she'll get in everywhere she applies. I've been reading stuff here and on other college sites, and I don't think that's true. He told her no schools really require SAT IIs, which I'm also sure is wrong. Plus, he wrote a recommendation for a summer program for her and it was full of spelling and grammar mistakes! She's scared to give him her college recommendation forms now. I don't know where I'm going with this post, it's just frustrating - we are having to figure everything out ourselves!!!
|By Dave Berry on Thursday, August 23, 2001 - 10:39 am: Edit|
Your rant is well justified, Mom, although posting it here on the College Confidential board is kind of like walking into a hen house and proclaiming, "I don't have any eggs!" That may be a poor analogy, but we're VERY familiar with your problem.
If I may be shamelessly self-promoting for a minute, just let me say, "That's what private college counselors are for." The school systems out there today are under attack, both literally and figuratively. School counselors have become the fix-it people who deal with eating disorders, abuse issues, pregnant teens, drugs, etc., etc., rather than the issue at hand: college guidance.
No wonder your daughter is having such a hard time getting the information and support she needs. What makes me sad is all the seniors I hear about every year who have great stats, similar to you daughter, and who also didn't get into the best colleges on their candidate list. Many opportunities get lost and many less-than-stellar college experiences are had. Granted, a quality, motivated college student can get a good education almost anywhere, but maybe not the best match, which truly enhances the collegiate experience. That's where private counselors come in.
Check out our ever-expanding counseling pages, Mom. You may find that one of our services can get your daughter and family through the trying college process. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions, please feel free to ask us. We're always glad to help. Best wishes on your family's college quest.
|By Bogey66 on Wednesday, August 29, 2001 - 09:16 am: Edit|
Our school has four counselors who handle a lot of things other than academic counseling. We get very few kids who choose selective schools, or even think about them. A few years ago, some parents had the idea that counselors could specialize - in particular, one could focus on the top academic kids and learn more about out-of-state schools, merit scholarships, etc.
Naturally, every counselor wanted to work with the best kids, and nobody wanted to work with the not-so-great ones, so guess what: They assign kids ALPHABETICALLY! This is supposed to insure an even distribution of smart kids, dumb kids, violent kids, suicidal kids, etc. Needless to say, it also avoids any counselor getting to know very much about ANY counseling specialty!
|By Dave Berry on Thursday, August 30, 2001 - 08:51 am: Edit|
This is very common, Bogey. One of the things that makes me sad every admissions season is seeing perfectly qualified candidates be rejected from or not even apply to top schools. This happens because there is just not enough qualified counseling talent to go around.
The old cliche says, "Oil first the wheel that squeaks the loudest." That's what you're describing. The eating disorders, drug and alcohol problems, and all the other issues tend to eclipse the main purpose of a college counselor. It's a real shame.
I'm not reluctant to say that we take pride in our work here at College Confidential. It's our goal to provide an alternative counseling option for deserving high schollers who can't get the help they need at their schools. It's very satisfying work for us. Okay, end of sermon.
|By Bogey66 on Thursday, August 30, 2001 - 10:55 am: Edit|
I can understand how the counselors feel. "I'll take the A students, you take the suicidals and anorexics," would probably seem unfair. But as long as everybody is doing everything, I think both the top students and the ones with emotional problems are getting the short end of the stick.
|By Paula on Saturday, September 15, 2001 - 08:39 pm: Edit|
MadMom mentions the one thing that no doubt limits many seniors all over the country--counselors who just don't know what schools are out there. This "Oh, State's the school for you!" attitude is positively deadly.
I think that if they are proposing teacher proficiency examinations, they should also require counselor proficiency examinations. For example, counselors should be able to name all the Ivy League schools, half of the current US News top 20 universities, five of the top 20 LACs, and at least one prominent college in 25 of the 50 states. That should keep them up nights before the exam!
|By Dadster on Sunday, September 16, 2001 - 09:01 am: Edit|
Great idea, Paula. Do you think that the typical (not a magnet or private prep) high school administration would buy into this? My experience has been that they don't perceive a problem. If you comment on the counselors' unfamiliarity with out of state schools, elite school admissions, etc., the comment is, "We don't have many students interested in those schools." Duhhhhh! Maybe if the counselors were more knowledgeable, more students WOULD be interested!
|By Roger (Roger) on Monday, September 17, 2001 - 03:07 pm: Edit|
I think Paula's on the right track, even if most principals and school systems are unlikely to adopt criteria like that.
Is there any professional certification for Guidance Counselors that actually tests knowledge of colleges? [Maybe Dr. Armond who posted in another thread can come up with one. ;-) ] It seems like the existence of such a certification would at least be a starting point.
|By ThePrincipal on Friday, September 21, 2001 - 02:46 pm: Edit|
I'm the guy who hires some of those guidance counselors people like to complain about. I don't see that kind of testing being implemented in the forseeable future. It's similar to the teacher testing problem - we can barely find teachers now. If we disqualify a third of them by testing, what do we do then?
You have to remember that in a typical public, or even parochial, high school, college counseling is just one piece of what our counselors do. They have to deal with all kinds of issues - at-risk kids, any kind of abuse you can imagine, vocational counseling, academic problems for less than stellar students, truancy, violence, etc.
Discussion boards like this tend to focus on a single topic, like how to get your kids into a nationally known university. This interest represents a pretty small proportion of our population - maybe 5%. If you are talking Ivy League schools, if we have one student every year or two who MIGHT qualify, I'd be surprised. I'm sure the vo-tech people, the suicide prevention people, etc., all complain that guidance counselors don't know enough about THEIR interests, too. The fact is, we have generalists. If someone needs really specialized help or isn't satisfied with the knowledge of the GC, they'll probably have to hire their own specialist - whether it's a psychologist, a college counselor, etc. We can sometimes arrange specialty counseling at no charge for certain kinds of problems, but since college isn't a life-threatening situation (usually!) we don't have specialized college counselors on call. We try to be everything to everybody, but we have limits.
|By Dadster on Sunday, September 23, 2001 - 02:02 pm: Edit|
>>The fact is, we have generalists<<
Maybe that's the problem, TP - if you had specialized counselors, only one person would have to learn the selective college stuff and deal with the college-bound kids who may have potential to someplace other than the local branch of State U.
|By ThePrincipal on Tuesday, September 25, 2001 - 10:33 pm: Edit|
In theory, that's great, Dadster. In practice, it's not so easy. First, there are way too many specialties that we would need to try to hire qualified individuals. Plus, it would be unlikely that we could find good people for the price we can afford.
Even getting our generalists to specialize somewhat is difficult. We can keep the peace by making sure nobody gets stuck with all the problem kids. (Even though it seems there is always one GC who is particularly unlucky every year! We assign kids to GCs alphabetically, and if someone gets an extended family with big problems, they'll be stuck for years...) We would have a revolt if we singled out one GC to work with the top kids and saddled someone else with the problems.
|By George Meany on Wednesday, September 26, 2001 - 08:28 am: Edit|
I'm angry, so I'm going to vent my frustration here through a series of apparently rhetorical questions. If they inspire further debate, fine. If not, then I'll have had the pleasure of blowing off some steam in your august forum. Here goes:
The wage scales of this country's educational professionals are embarrassing. How much should a superior college counselor make? Do the critical choices seniors make at college selection time have any significant downstream effects on their lives and, by association and extension, the lives of their fellow citizens?
These are the questions I ponder whenever I see discussions that essentially amount to "What is the path of least resistance for our schools' college counseling process?" If school boards can meet in marathon executive sessions to pick a football or basketball coach, why isn't at least as much time being spent searching for "star" college counselors? When's the last time you saw a letter in your local paper bemoaning the "win-loss" record of a college counselor?
A good football coach may be able to teach downfield blocking, but a great college counselor can set the stage for a student's life that's filled with winning seasons. Sorry to go metaphorical, guys, but where have our priorities gone? Indeed, have most of our schools ever HAD priorities when it comes to providing for our children's long-term success in life?
Sorry for the rant. I guess I'm just angered by all the attention being lavished on Michael Jordan's "return" to basketball. What if a legendary, retired college counselor decided to come back to work? Think we would hear about that?
|By Roger (Roger) on Wednesday, September 26, 2001 - 09:23 am: Edit|
>>What if a legendary, retired college counselor decided to come back to work? Think we would hear about that?<<
How right you are, George! If the Cards traded Mark McGuire to the Yankees, it would be front page news. But when Dave Berry left College Prep Services to become Director of Counseling at College Confidential, the national media never noticed! ;-)
Counselor pay, and teacher pay too, are indeed a major problem. The "best and brightest" college grads rarely choose education over more lucrative (and higher status) professions, and the standards at many teacher colleges are notoriously low. While there are certainly some very talented, very qualified, and very motivated educators, that seems to be the exception rather than the rule. As a nation, we need to elevate educators to a higher level in terms of both pay and status. As it is, it's amazing that we get as many good educators that we do.
|By Dave Berry on Wednesday, September 26, 2001 - 09:10 pm: Edit|
Thanks for the sentiment, Roger. I even had a better year than McGuire's, batting over .700 with Top-25 applicants, but that's the price you pay hanging out in the Ivy League instead of the Major Leagues.
Maybe we should start a new elite-college sports conference called the Major Ivy League. The only schools allowed in would be those with acceptance rates below 15%.
|By Dadster on Wednesday, September 26, 2001 - 09:30 pm: Edit|
Getting back to ThePrincipal's post, I think in all too many schools the inmates are running the asylum. Or, perhaps a better analogy would be to say the orderlies are running it. Too few principals approach their job like a CEO or a division manager would. Sometimes, in the real world you have to assign someone to a job they don't relish. Other times, you have to replace someone who doesn't fit your strategy. It's called management.
I realize that in some cases teacher unions can make it tough to fire someone who is incompetent or who lacks the skills or motivation you need. Too many principals throw up their hands and say there's nothing they can do, instead of mounting a long-term campaign to get that individual out the door.
Common wisdom is that most of us will have 4, 5 or more careers after graduation. It may be time to get some of these lifer burnouts started on career #2.
|By ThePrincipal on Thursday, September 27, 2001 - 10:25 am: Edit|
Dadster, we administrators operate in a different environment than business executives. We have lots of constituencies to satisfy, and the superintendant and/or school board often make many of our decisions for us. Or, they let us know what decisions we should be making. Unlike teachers, we don't have union protection and lifetime (more or less) employment. If we rock the boat too hard, we are the ones who end up in the water.
|By California Mom on Thursday, September 27, 2001 - 10:10 pm: Edit|
I'd just like to comment that even aside from the counseling issue, the practices at a lot of public high schools hurt students in the admissions process.
For example, my son went to a public magnet high school. It is very unusual for graduates to go anywhere other than the state University - I think only 3 from his graduating class have chosen private colleges.
The high school does not weight grades for AP classes, but it does report class rank on the transcript. This is a double handicap for the kid applying to a selective private college.
Within the state university system it isn't an issue, because in California the University recalculates all GPA's by it's own standards, which are weighted and count only academic courses.
Meanwhile, many kids at prestigious private high schools have their grades weighted, so they are well above 4.0, and their schools often do not report rank.
If the public h.s. guidance counselors would at least take the time to attend a few seminars and learn more about admission practices, they could help at least present the student's record in a more favorable light.
|By Dadster on Thursday, September 27, 2001 - 10:34 pm: Edit|
I agree, California Mom. I think the problem is that private and/or selective college admissions aren't even on the radar screen as a problem that needs to be solved at most public schools.
I can understand your frustration if your son's school is a magnet school - probably quite a few of the students would be well qualified for admissions and even merit aid at good private schools.
We aren't lucky enough or large enough to have a magnet school at the HS level. :-(
|By Rhonda on Monday, October 15, 2001 - 02:13 pm: Edit|
To California Mom, some private schools have the same problems. I have a continuing issue with my kid's private school, which is very good and he loves it btw, about how the system seems to be set up to penalize the kids who are motivated and ambitious enough to take hard classes. No weighting for AP classes, as you mention, although here the top publics do weight. No ranking at all, which hurts the kids at the top. Not clear at this point how "rank" is explained to colleges in a narrative form (school profile, etc), but intend to find out! Also, I resent being treated by the administration like an overcompetetive, grade-grubbing type A parent when I even dare to raise any of these issues -- I'm supposed to idealistically not care about grades and GPAs and rank and that mundane stuff, I guess -- anyone else get this?
|By calmom on Monday, October 15, 2001 - 06:08 pm: Edit|
What kind of reputation does your kid's private school have? I think that some prestigious private schools don't rank or weight grades to try to maximize chances for all of the kids -- kind of like 90% of students graduating cum laude from Harvard. The value of the school's reputation might make up for the loss of the ranking/weighting advantage.
I think in most cases, a kid with a decent GPA at a private school without ranking probably has an advantage over a kid in public school who is ranked well, but not at the very top (valedictorian or salutatorian). If a lot of kids from a particular private school apply to specific colleges, then the ad reps probably also have a good sense of what kind of school it is.
|By momom on Wednesday, October 17, 2001 - 02:56 pm: Edit|
My son felt that the guidance counselor at his high school knew very little about any colleges outside the area. I would have not been so kind. I have accused them of getting kickbacks from the local CC because that's the only place they talk about. My son loves his selective college so much, he has convinced four people to go there (both inside and outside of his former high school). He and one of these students from his former high school want to set up an informational booth for their college during their Christmas break at the high school. He will be contacting the guidance office about the possibility of this. I wonder what the administration will think about this? I'm proud of him for taking the initiative to want to help educate his former classmates about college admissions.
|By Roger (Roger) on Thursday, October 18, 2001 - 02:17 pm: Edit|
Kickbacks are a possibility, but it's probably more of a comfort factor - they recommend colleges they know, and avoid colleges they don't know.
One thing I've observed about many guidance counselors - they don't want kids to fail. There is often a tendency to urge kids to take an easier class, or apply to a school where they won't get rejected. I don't think they are trying to "dumb down" the kids, but they are trying to avoid hassles. If the kid takes and easy class and gets an A, everyone is happy. If he takes a difficult class and gets a C (or worse, an F), it's going to create headaches for both the student and the GC. Ditto for a rejection at a college the GC suggested.
Often cozy personal relationships play a part, too. The admissions director at the college gets to know the GCs, and vice-versa. The greater the comfort factor, the more likely the GC is to steer kids in that direction.
|By California Mom (Calmom) on Thursday, October 18, 2001 - 05:39 pm: Edit|
You have me intrigued? Do you mind sharing the name of your son's college? I know you may be concerned about your son's privacy, but I thought it was pretty amazing that your son loved his school so much that he has managed to recruit 4 others.
|By momom on Friday, October 19, 2001 - 12:06 pm: Edit|
My kickbacks comment was a little over the top, and part of the reason they push CC so much is that our high school has a program where students maintaining a C+ avg. and good attendance for 3 yrs. with a minimum of 50 hours in community service can get free tuition at any state community college for two years. It's a great program, but doesn't meet the needs of all students, particularly the upper-level students who prefer a four-year school.
My son's school is Saint Louis University in St. Louis. He recruited one kid from his school in his graduating class, one kid he met on a weekend overnight visit to another school, one kid who graduated the next year from his school (salutatorian), and his cousin (ROTC scholarship). I think he should start getting paid by their admissions department, LOL, but seriously, he really loves his school and is happy to share.
On a side note, most people in our area are more concerned with what a college costs, than selectivity or quality of education. Most of them don't realize that merit aid to top applicants to 2nd tier (but excellent schools) can make a private school equally affordable with a public institution.
|By Roger (Roger) on Friday, October 19, 2001 - 01:18 pm: Edit|
Yeah, I figured you didn't REALLY think there was any money changing hands, momom. We see a similar phenomonenon in our area, where students are encouraged to attend a community college or local branch of the state U for a couple of years to save money. This is not a terrible idea, but it totally defeats the concept of a four-year college education in a residential-campus environment. Commuter colleges usually have little sense of community and minimize student/student interaction.
The problem is that many GCs (and parents, too) define college as:
1) the process of getting a diploma.
2) learning specific subject matter that may help make one employable.
When you define college in these terms, figuring out how do to it really cheaply and conveniently becomes THE major consideration. Hence, with this kind of thinking, as long as your diploma says "Big State U - Flagship Campus", or even "B.A., Psychology" on it, it doesn't matter much how you got it.
Certainly, a degree is important, and one hopes that some useful knowledge will be gained while in college. But shouldn't such less obvious benefits as personal maturation, and intellectual development and exploration, be given significant weight while evaluating college options? Residential colleges will usually fare better in this analysis, as will colleges that emphasize their role as a community of learners.
You are right about lack of understanding of costs, too. I've heard any number of students or parents say, "we could never afford THAT school" when, in fact, they would probably have a minimal EFC. Guidance counselors could serve a valuable function by helping students understand financial aid and need calcuations, not to mention merit aid. Why not encourage kids to apply to a private or two - if it's not affordable in the end, go someplace else... but some families will be surprised at how affordable a private could be.
|By GFI on Sunday, October 21, 2001 - 05:22 pm: Edit|
I don't know about money changing hands, but I've heard about fancy wining & dining of GCs by admissions reps trying to keep in the forefront of the GC's mind.
|By Dadster on Friday, November 02, 2001 - 02:34 pm: Edit|
I might add to Roger's comment that my school has similar biases, but there is even a lot of defensiveness about encouraging kids to attend college at all. Despite national recognition that post-high school education is of increasing importance for every adult, our guidance counselors and administrators still cling to concepts like, "lots of kids aren't right for college" and the belief that things like cosmetology school or plumbing apprenticeships are as desirable as a liberal arts education. I'm not saying that 100% of all high school grads need to enroll in a four year college, but I think these guidance counselors give in to these lower expectations too easily. I'd like to see them try to sell more kids on the value of a real college education, even if many still choose to enter the workforce or some kind of vo-tech training.
|By ThePrincipal on Thursday, December 06, 2001 - 05:33 pm: Edit|
A lot depends on the kind of students attending the school and their expectations. In some schools, you have to explain to parents that college is not for everyone to insure you can meet the needs of students better suited to votech programs. In other schools, particularly those with a large population of low-income families, one has to work to show kids that college IS an available option.
|By Dadster on Friday, February 15, 2002 - 12:31 pm: Edit|
I suppose you are right, TP. It's just that I've talked to many former students who were told "you just aren't college material" and similar demotivating things. Several of these ignored the advice and went on to be successful in college. That's great for them, but I wonder how many others, who had no family or personal expectation of attending college, simply took the guidance counselor's words at face value and crossed college off their list of possibilities?
|By Lynn Walker on Friday, February 15, 2002 - 07:06 pm: Edit|
What an interesting discussion thread! I realize it started quite awhile back, but I have some comments. I both understand what "The Principal" has to say, but also don't agree with it being an okay situation. In our local public high school, each GC is responsible for about 500 kids. That is a ridiculous overload and creates an unfair disadvantage to the kids being served.
Our high school mainly serves kids who are not college-bound. GC's have more than their share of students who need emotional help, are from dysfunctional families, have learning disabilities, etc. Does that mean that the highly-motivated, high achieving kid should be left to fend for themselves? Absolutely not!
To my mind, this situation mimics the public classroom of today (at least here in California). Everyone bends over backwards to make sure those at the low-achieving, learning disabled end of the spectrum are getting a learning venue suited to meet their needs while the gifted and high-achieving students are left to unchallenging boredom. The inane philosophy behind this is that the high-end kids "are going to do all right anyway and don't need help." This was one of the reasonsmy academically-gifted kids were homeschooled until their sophomore year of high school.
Students who are college-bound can't do it by themselves. The college admissions game is quite complex these days. My daughter, a senior, had our full support in helping her through the maze. (A successful quest, I may add. She has been accepted to USC with Honors and as a National Merit Finalist, has been awarded a 4-year Presidential Scholarship. That represents more than half-tuition paid yearly. USC was her first choice school.) My daughter has friends who are also A-students and would be college-bound, but they receive no support from their parents. Are they getting the help they need from their GC? No. Many of these excellent students will go to the closest state school or the community college just because they don't know where else to go.
Why can't high schools hire college counselors (as many as they need) and let guidance counselors deal with the rest of the student population? If the percentage of senior population that is college-bound is small, then it should only be necessary to hire one college counselor. Most school districts could find the money for this effort if they would trim the fat.
I am currently taking classes for my college counseling certification. This certification is only open to those already possessing a teaching credential. I understand that the market is hot for private college counselors. Money is not my motivation here. I will seek employment in my area school districts first because I really see this as an imperative need.
|By Dadster on Friday, February 15, 2002 - 07:23 pm: Edit|
Lynn, what a great idea... college counselors that are different individuals than the guidance counselors! Unfortunately, I expect that the existing guidance counselors would lobby against this plan - that would leave them stuck with the truants, potential suicides, students arrested by the police, etc., and give the honors students to some new stranger.
500 kids per counselor is indeed VERY high - even our inadequate HS probably clocks in at a mere 300 - 400!
I certainly wish you success in completing your college counseling certification. I think the market for private counselors is more limited than you might expect, but the prospect of a college-oriented counselor in a public school environment is delicious. One suggestion: schools are VERY political entities in most areas. I'd start building a base of support now (with the school board, principal, any other key influences) so that by the time you are ready to apply, you have some political muscle behind you. Good luck!
|By California Mom (Calmom) on Friday, February 15, 2002 - 08:21 pm: Edit|
Just one note, when you get your certification: don't write off the so-called "learning disabled".
Like your daughter, my son is a National Merit Scholar and is attending an elite private college. But my son is also dyslexic, and at age 10 he couldn't read or write and I honestly didn't know how he would ever manage the 6th grade.
The students with LD's are the ones who most often are told that they aren't "college material", when in fact they are often highly intelligent and creative thinkers, who just may be slower at reading, or struggle with putting their thoughts into words, or have a hard time forcing their intellect to fit within the framework of a standardized, multiple-choice exam, so they often test poorly.
In fact, part of what makes my son's National Merit status remarkable is that he literally missed HALF the questions in the sentence completion part of the PSAT. So obviously he had to have near-perfect scores on the rest of the exam to still pull himself above the cutoff.
Anyway, I know you probably didn't intend to suggest that learning disabled students shouldn't go to college, but I did want to raise that point. LD students should *not* be lumped together with the truants and problem kids, because many of them are the ones who really are college material, and can benefit the most from someone knowledgeable who can help them find colleges suited to their learning styles.
|By Lynn Walker on Saturday, February 16, 2002 - 01:21 am: Edit|
Of course, LD kids should go to college if it is appropriate for them. My other daughter, a sophomore is academically-gifted but struggles with ADD, auditory processing and mild dyslexia. Many ADD/ADHD kids are very bright. My rant was that the typical class teaches down rather than meeting the needs of ALL individuals in the classroom. LD kids have many more rights than gifted kids in a California classroom. Can you tell I'm not a proponent of mainstreaming? I went through the California schools when we were tracked. It was a wonderful system.
I'm sorry if you thought my intent was that LD kids should not go to college. Many probably can and should; some should be guided to a vocational ed track. I could say the same of many students who are not LD. ALL kids who need the services of a college counselor should have that service provided.
|By California Mom (Calmom) on Saturday, February 16, 2002 - 04:39 am: Edit|
Lynn, I didn't have the impression that you thought that - only that your post could be misinterpreted.
I do feel that kids like your daughter and my son are the ones most in need of knowledgeable college counselors. It is pretty easy to point a kid who performs high academically all around to the standard set of college prep courses available at the high school, and to look at their GPA and test scores to suggest appropriate colleges. But the kids who are college bound but don't fit the regular pattern also are the ones who probably need extra help.
For example, what about the A student who is obviously very bright, but can't do well on standardized test scores? Or the kid who would have straight A's but for their inability to muster anything better than a C or D in a foreign language class? Or the brilliant writer who struggles with basic math?
I do agree with you that it would be best if the college counselor job at high schools was separated from the other duties of guidance counselors -- and that the services of the college counselor should be open to any student who wants them, no matter what the high school record or what others may think of his or her potential. Of course, the student with poor grades may need to be steered toward a community college rather than a 4-year college -- but there may be other opportunities as well -- such as an art college, or a conservatory (for those who are artistically inclined) -- or a college with a nontraditional program. There is more than one path to a college degree.
|By Dadster on Saturday, February 16, 2002 - 07:30 am: Edit|
Calmom, although I hadn't thought of LD kids at first, the problem is really the same one that I identified above: guidance counselors stereotype kids and immediately dump many of them into a "not college material" category. I see it happening with kids from lower socio-economic groups, too. They do this with just a few data points - maybe some grades, or test scores, or knowledge of the kid's circumstances.
I'm not trying to say every kid must go to a 4-year college. Rather, the guidance counselor should assume that every kid CAN go to college if he or she wants to, and it's up to the GC to help make it happen.
|By Lynn Walker on Saturday, February 16, 2002 - 05:08 pm: Edit|
I, too, think that a college counselor should be available to any student contemplating college. I also think that no one should ever tell any student that they aren't college material if that is what the student wants to try. I do think that a counselor should be realistic with students about what they may face if they have deficits in learning. A lot of kids don't mature until after high school or long about the end of the senior year. They may have done quite a bit of damage to their college prospects by then. There are ways to help them navigate through what course they should take to fulfill their dreams.
Not all high schools have college prep courses for A students. Ours does not. There are no college prep courses even offered in our town or the neighboring town. Also, preparing for the standardized exams is only one small part of the equation. Simply being an A-student does not make a kid capable of figuring out what college is best for them, what college options there are, what major options there are, or how to apply. Unfortunately, many parents won't or can't take the time to help even their A-students. There is a need for high schools to provide college counselors to help ALL students.
|By Linda (Shennie) on Monday, February 18, 2002 - 11:55 am: Edit|
I am a middle school counselor. So I have a professional stake in this discussion. The fact is, not all kids ARE college material. I would never tell a kid that, especially in middle school, but I see a lot of kids who go to college because they can't think of anything else to do. They are not motivated, have no goals, and don't really enjoy school, but go to college because their parents expect it or because they think that if they don't go to college they must be dumb.
A student with less than stellar grades and scores may still be appropriate for college if they are motivated, want to work hard at classes they may not always enjoy, and like learning overall. And a top student who is burned out may benefit from a year or 2 out of school. If I were a hs counselor, I would encourage students to look at different options, not just assume that college was a best choice for everyone. We have a large population at our local technical school of people with a several years of college or a degree, but who end up at technical school because it can best meet their career goals. Many wish that they had gone that route the first time around.
Eighteen year olds often don't know what they want to do, and college seems like a logical choice, but don't belittle counselors who encourage students to look at other things. The idea of college is so pervasive in our culture, that it often takes some pushing to get some students to realize there may be better choices out there for them.
|By Roger (Roger) on Tuesday, February 19, 2002 - 08:59 am: Edit|
Hi, Linda, thanks for being brave enough to enter the lion's den here!
I think the distinction that needs to be made is that while all students may not benefit from college, to tell students at the junior high or high school level that they "aren't college material" is wrong.
I knew a student who was told (as a sophomore, I think) "With these grades, you clearly aren't headed for college... which vocational courses do you want to enroll in?" The student's parents were furious when they heard this. I think the counselor might have phrased it more positively, e.g., "Your grades are going to make it difficult to get into any reputable college. If you hope to go to college, we need to work on your grades, and on choosing the courses you'll need."
A couple of years ago, I read about a guidance counselor at a parochial high school in a New York City borough (Bronx, maybe?) that served a mostly low-income clientele. This counselor got EVERY graduating senior into college that year. In one sense this accomplishment is impressive by its very impracticality. Clearly, there were probably a few students who might have benefitted more from a non-college option - nevertheless, her efforts insured that every student at least had a chance to attend college. I'm sure there were a few students that nine out of ten counselors would have pegged as "not college material" that ended up surviving and even thriving in the college environment.
This issue of "expectations" is crucial - too often, kids get sidetracked by low expectations engendered by their test scores, grades, behavior, economic status, etc. - and never recover.
|By Dave Berry on Tuesday, February 19, 2002 - 11:43 am: Edit|
I'm going to jump in here too. I used to do some promotional work for our local school district's vo-tech school. In working with the vo-tech director, I learned of his "marketing mindset," if that euphemism can adequately portray the line he fed to parents and seniors in our region. He was the driving force behind changing the name from "[City] Vocational-Technical School" to the far more grandiose "Greater [City] Career and Technolgy Center." I was duly impressed.
The centerpiece of his marketing campaign was the concept that, for many seniors, a four-year degree was a waste of time and money. He then took great pains to bring forth numerous charts and graphs extolling the earning potential of certain specialized technical careers, the upshot implication being, "Why waste money on college when you can make these kinds of dollars by studying here?"
Granted, while a formal four-year degree program is no doubt superfluous for some seniors, I just can't help wondering how much more interesting life might be for some of them if they had the chance to be exposed to some of the grander concepts of life. Instead of just knowing how to splice a fiber-optic cable, perhaps they might also derive some pleasure from pondering a Beethoven adagio or Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," among countless other soul-expanding aspects.
While, indeed, I see higher education somewhat cynically from time to time (it is, after all, Big Business), I can point to myriad examples of how my education has enhanced and immeasurably enriched my time on earth. I was headed for "computer school" way back in the mid-60s when I was a high school senior, but an unexpected sports scholarship offer herded me to a four-year liberal arts degree.
I often wonder if I would resonate today to the musical subtleties of Scriabin, Brahms, or Stravinsky, the terrific impact of Edward Albee's plays, or even the ballet of our galaxy's rotation had I not encountered music, literature, and the physical sciences taught by learned, dedicated professors. How much poorer my life would be!
So, to all those seniors who may be under pressure to eschew a college education, I exhort:
"Grow your mind; embrace the world at large. Find out who you are and declare yourself." Sure, it's possible to declare oneself through a machinist's craft or a repairperson's trade. However, it's a big world out there and the pathway to a much more rewarding and personally enriched horizon for many flows through a college's gates.
End of rant. And, as Dennis Miller's universal caveat allows, one final thought: This is just my opinion and I could be wrong.
|By Linda (Shennie) on Tuesday, February 19, 2002 - 03:58 pm: Edit|
I, too, found that my horizons broadened in college and I hope that happens for my kids, also. I know that there is so much more to be gained in college besides preparing for a career. The point is, some kids are not at all interested in widening their horizons, and the thought of reading British literature or having to study music appreciation or struggle through intro chemistry is not at all appealing to them. For those of us who loved college and thrived in that atmosphere, it can be difficult to understand why it may not be for everyone, but the fact is, it isn't.
If I were working with a student with poor grades who wanted to go to college, I would help them in whatever way I could to meet their goals, but ultimately, it would be up to them to do what they had to do to meet admission criteria somewhere. I have also seen students who have excellent grades be discouraged from pursuing something other than college because it is viewed as not using their talents. But we are not all wired the same way.
In order for kids to be successful in college, they need to have a desire to learn for learning's sake. They need a certain curiosity and the ability to pursue things. They also need a determination to study on their own and ability to carry through on tasks that may be difficult or uninteresting. Kids who don't have these things will have a difficult time of it. And why should they pursue something that is of little interest to them?
We as a society place a higher value on a college education than we do on a technical education. Those of us who are college educated tend to think that we are smarter and better thinkers than those who don't have that. And yet, while the world would be a poorer place without us college grads, it would also not function very well without the technical school grads either.
And pursuing one path does not rule out pursuing the other later on. I think that people who get the most out of college are those who have been out of high school for a while and really make a committment to get a degree. They don't do it because they can't think of anything else to do, but because they see the value of it and work very hard to get it. (These folks are also often paying for it themselves.) In my ideal world, all career paths - college, tech and trade schools, military service, apprenticeships, and on the job training - would all have equal value. Then students could truly choose that path which best meets their needs at the time.
|By GFI on Tuesday, February 19, 2002 - 05:44 pm: Edit|
In my ideal world, all career paths - college, tech and trade schools, military service, apprenticeships, and on the job training - would all have equal value
I disagree with this concept, Linda. Often a student who doesn't start college immediately (or shortly) after high school may find that option very difficult later. Once a high school grad gets locked into fixed payments for a car and/or an apartment, or starts a family, it gets VERY hard to take four years off to get a degree. An extended part-time, non-residential college experience is often the only option.
I think there should really be a hierarchy of desirability in post-HS options. A four-year college offers the greatest possibilities for intellectual development and future career flexibility, and should be encouraged. Not every college student starts with a love of learning, but even those who slog through the boring requirements will benefit in the long run. Tech and trade schools may offer real education, albeit in a more specialized and inflexible area. The military is a bit trickier, in that some HS grads use the opportunities for education very effectively while others do not; certainly those opportunities exist. Apprenticeships and OJT offer limited career horizons, and should be encouraged only for those students who, despite the best efforts of counselors and teachers, fail to demonstrate the capacity or commitment to achieve higher levels of education.
I just don't see these as equals - slotting a young person who might (with help and encouragement) go to college into a brick-laying program makes no sense at all to me.
|By Dadster on Tuesday, February 19, 2002 - 06:57 pm: Edit|
I don't want to put words in Linda's mouth, GFI, but maybe what she means is that students shouldn't be criticized or looked down upon for choosing a non-college career path.
|By GFI on Tuesday, February 19, 2002 - 08:45 pm: Edit|
Dadster, I'm not saying we should publicly humiliate non-college-bound students, but rather that we shouldn't be afraid to recognize that attending college will probably produce better life outcomes than becoming a framing carpenter.
All this "equal value" talk reminds me of educators who feel it's a good idea to praise incorrect answers to avoid damaging anyone's self-esteem. Sometimes, you just have to tell it like it is.
|By Linda (Shennie) on Tuesday, February 19, 2002 - 08:48 pm: Edit|
Thanks, Dadster, that is part of it. A couple of examples. I have a friend whose daughter is an average to above average student. She struggles with school and does not enjoy it much. She does as well as she does because she works hard and knows that it is important that she do the best she can. What she really wants to do when she gets out of high school is go to cosmetology school. She really likes working with hair. However, she is applying to colleges because she thinks it is expected of her and the other kids will think she is dumb if she doesn't go to college. Her parents will support her in whatever she decides to do.
Another student started a pretty selective college this past fall. He was a reasonably strong high school student, but did not have a terribly good work ethic. His first semester was pretty bad. The college strongly suggested he take at least second semester off, and that he was welcome back whenever he thought he was ready. He is currently taking computer programming classes at a local technical school. He thinks he might like to go back to school in the fall, but is not sure. His parents are convinced he needs some time to mature.
There are lots of kids like these. Yes, it can be very difficult to go back to college later. I guess my point is that college is not necessarily the ticket to a successful life. I know lots of people who never attended or dropped out who are doing quite well and are very satisfied with their life choices. Quite a number of them make more money than I do. And I know that it is not about how much money you make. It is about finding joy and satisfaction in what you do.
Finally, you don't need a college education to stimulate yourself intellectually. My father-in-law made his living as an electrician. He raised 8 children (5 of whom now hold Ph.Ds by the way). He is very intellectual. He loves religion and philosophy and is very well read. He has taken many college classes over the years, but has no regrets about his chosen career path and would do the same thing if he had a choice. It was just a different path to obtain his life goals.
|By California Mom (Calmom) on Wednesday, February 20, 2002 - 01:27 am: Edit|
I'd like to simply point out that any student who wants to go to college, can. This is not to say that students who are not interested in going on to college should be prodded or pressured by parents or other adults in their lives -- of course it is acceptable and appropriate for kids who are not academically-oriented to consider vocational training or other options.
A student's past history of poor grades, or dismal performance on standardized tests, may not reflect ability; in any case, some kids are late bloomers and they don't really get serious and focused until it's too late to repair some of the damage.
The fact is that there are many colleges in this country that essentially accept all comers. At least here in California, our community colleges are open to everyone, and the 2-year community college degree is first step for many on the way to a 4-year degree. (The 2-year degree is itself a valid option, and in some cases is required for certain careers).
If a student asks a guidance counselor, "what do you think I should do?" - then it seems to me that it is fine for the counselor to explore all options. However, if the student says, "I want to go to college" - then I think it is the counselors job to work with that student to (a) direct the student toward colleges where the student will likely be accepted, and (b) help the student to structure a high school program that will meet the requirements for the target colleges.
The world is full of people who did poorly in the early years of their education and turned around and were successful in college, even going on to earn professional or graduate degrees. Obviously, the C student is not a candidate for Harvard, but again, that's where the guidance counselor can be most helpful. It's easy to know that all colleges in the US News first tier are probably great schools -- it's harder to sort through and figure out which ones in the third and fourth tier offer the best opportunities for students.
|By Momom (Momom) on Wednesday, February 20, 2002 - 03:32 pm: Edit|
As a student who was pushed into attending community college, I must say that this is NOT necessarily the best thing, even for seemingly non-motivated kids. Twenty-seven years ago I was not encouraged to go to college, even though I made good grades. Finally, about the middle of my senior year, the school counselor asked me what I was going to do after graduation. My response was that I didn't know and hadn't really thought about it. He went about getting me a scholarship to the local community college and I started attending that fall.
I did well in college--but I still had no direction in what I wanted to study. I was a commuter student--still living at home, same boyfriend, same job, etc. Eventually, all I could think of was that I could make more money if I worked full time, and I quit college after a year, with a full scholarship and a 3.85 gpa.
Of course, years later, when I came to my senses and realized that I should have stayed in school, it was too late. Obligations got in the way of finishing my education.
I still think after all these years, that if I had gone away to a four-year school (leaving behind the old familiar distractions of high school), I would have found my direction and finished with a degree and satisfying career.
Although I think community college is a viable option for some kids, I see too much pushing toward this by parents and counselors whose only concern is cost. There are other things one learns in college, and I believe that most students benefit from going to a four-year school that they have researched and is a good fit for them. They benefit from the untangibles--living on their own, leaving the familiar and thus, having to explore new directions, and not thinking that their time there is limited to two years. Any other thoughts on this?
|By GFI on Wednesday, February 20, 2002 - 05:10 pm: Edit|
Well said, Momom. The community college route has financial appeal but isn't too likely to expand a student's intellectual horizons.
I think too much emphasis is put on whether a student demonstrates a love of learning, really wants to go to college, etc. Personally, I found most of my technical classes difficult and irrelevant, and my humanities classes mind-numbingly boring. Nevertheless, I got through in 4 years, earned a degree from a good institution, and found gainful employment with no difficulty. Although shortly after graduation I thought I learned very little in college (that actually stuck, anyway), as years passed I found I had actually learned quite a bit. (In fact, much of my real learning took place from interacting with my classmates and from non-coursework activities.)
I certainly envy students who love learning, have fascinating and stimulating profs, and who find college to be an exciting and vital intellectual experience. (All five of them! )I think most students, though, need to assume that college will not be a bowl of cherries, suck it up, work hard, have some fun along the way, and graduate. This stuff about "Billy just isn't ready for four more years of school" is an excuse for a kid who doesn't have the self discipline to postpone gratification for another four years.
|By Dadster on Thursday, February 21, 2002 - 10:18 am: Edit|
GFI, you make a good point, although I don't think that kids should be FORCED to attend college. That's bound to result in failure, at least in most cases.
You are definitely right, though - for some kids, putting off college is an easy way out as opposed to a well-reasoned decision about the course of their lives. Perhaps parents and/or counselors should work to convince, or strongly encourage, such students to enroll in college as opposed to taking the easy way out themselves.
|By GFI on Friday, February 22, 2002 - 02:41 pm: Edit|
Dadster, I'm not saying that kids should be forced to attend college against their will. The point I'm trying to make is that guidance counselors, and even parents, are too willing to accept excuses for postponing college attendance from kids who could, no doubt, be admitted. At the very least, any kid whose college chances aren't hopeless should be informed of the possible consequences of deciding to postpone college in favor of joining the workforce or doing very limited technical training. All choices AREN'T equal in terms of desirability.
|By AJ on Wednesday, February 27, 2002 - 12:13 pm: Edit|
All choices AREN'T equal in terms of desirability.
This sounds like a lot like a value judgment, GFI. Who is to say that a lawyer is "better" than a carpenter? (There are probably a lot of people who would say that the opposite is true!) Don't you think each kid should be able to follow the path that appeals to him or her?
|By California Mom (Calmom) on Wednesday, February 27, 2002 - 07:16 pm: Edit|
I've never yet met a person who regretted going to college.
I've met plenty who regret that they didn't.
|By Dadster on Tuesday, March 05, 2002 - 03:06 pm: Edit|
Great quote, Calmom... I've already used it once when I had a chance to bend the ear of a school board member...
We ought to get the people who run this site to post it & frame it!
|By ThePrincipal on Friday, March 08, 2002 - 07:43 pm: Edit|
I like the quote, too, Calmom, but keep in mind that college may not be the best choice for all students. Really.
|By Roger (Roger) on Wednesday, April 03, 2002 - 09:35 pm: Edit|
Hey, for all you folks who are fed up with guidance counselors... we just posted an interview with an extraordinary one, Kathy Morgan. She was the subject of a Wall Street Journal article when managed to get 100% of her seniors at a Bronx parochial high school into college. Check it out at: Interview with Kathy Morgan - College Counselor & More.
|By A Parent on Thursday, April 04, 2002 - 11:11 am: Edit|
Boy, I hope they get cloning technology going soon. Can College Confidential get some DNA samples from Ms. Morgan? I think if we put a Kathy Morgan clone in every public HS we'd have a different nation and social structure in a decade or so.
|By burningman on Wednesday, April 10, 2002 - 07:45 pm: Edit|
This Morgan person does sound like a rare example of a counselor willing to believe in her students, and buck the beliefs of everyone else. Unfortunately, I don't think she represents the typical public HS guidance counselor.
|By Jon Zacharkiw on Thursday, November 07, 2002 - 01:56 pm: Edit|
I am a senior in high school. I have had three counselors over the past four years and only just met my most recent GC two weeks ago. Actually I met her 7 weeks ago when i wne to her to express my worries about getting into college and registering for NCAA eligibilty. She seemed to have forgot meeting me however and when i met with her the second time she mistook me for a college recruit because I was dressed up that day. Apparently it is hard to rember meeting someone who is 6'3" and has a last name begining with Z. She still did not recall our first meeting even after I told her about it. What is wrong here?! The problem is that just anyone can be a counselor. It is a cake job where lunch break is one and a half hours and all you have to do is mail things. Something needs to change.
|By Dadster on Thursday, November 07, 2002 - 08:03 pm: Edit|
Counselor turnover, combined with too many students, is a big problem. Bad or apathetic counselors make things worse. (Jon, there really ARE some hard working ones out there, although even they have problems getting everything done.)
Jon, you will have to work extra-hard to make an impression on this counselor so she can write effective recs. Give her a sheet that summarizes your high school accomplishments if the school doesn't provide such a form to you. You might even stick your picture on it if she seems particularly scatter-brained. Good luck!
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