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School Counselors: Not Just Schedule Changers

School counselors are not just schedule changers: the role of the school counselor has drastically changed. They still help with schedule changes but have a much broader job. Keep reading to learn more about school counselors.

The school counselor is trained to enhance students’ academic, social, personal and career development. In 2003-2004 the following statistics were reported:

  • School counselors numbered 99,395 down from 100,901 (a 1.5 percent decrease) in 2002-2003. 
  • Nationally, the ratio of counselors increased from 1 to 478 students to 1 to 488 students.
  • Thirty-six states are at or below the national average. Hawaii, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Vermont and Wyoming had the lowest averages. Arizona, California, Minnesota and Utah had the highest average.
  • The American School Counselor Association recommends a 1-250 ratio of counselors to students.
  • In May 2004, the median annual earnings of educational, vocational, and school counselors was $45,570. 
  • School counselors have to be certified in all but two states. A master’s degree is required in many instances.

So what do school counselors do? Well it varies from state to state, from district to district, and even from school to school. The high school counselor has a distinctly different role than that of the elementary school counselor. However each counselor should be spending time guidance counseling, individual student planning, system support and the remainder of the time in a responsive role as the situations demand. Yet sometimes schools misuse their counselors’ services and training. Here are some inappropriate school counselor activities: 

  • Teaching classes for absent teachers 
  • Sending inappropriately-dressed students home 
  • Disciplining 
  • Registration and scheduling new students 
  • Signing tardy or absent excuse slips 
  • Coordinating achievement, cognitive, or aptitude tests 
  • Clerical work such as data entry

On the other hand, if counselors can be engaged in the following activities, they will be fulfilling their job descriptions correctly, and most likely meeting the needs of the students successfully. 

  • Counseling tardy or absent students 
  • Counseling students with disciplinary problems 
  • Counseling students on school dress codes 
  • Planning individual students’ academic programs 
  • Interpreting students’ records 
  • Providing small and large group counseling services, per the needs of the students 
  • Advocating for students at review boards 
  • Analyzing grades in relationship to achievement 
  • Collaborating with teachers and principals to identify issues, problems and needs

In summary counselors should be available to help the students with their problems, advocate for their needs and help them achieve their academic goals. With around 50 million students across the United States with diverse situations and problems, the need for school counselors is very real. School counselors work with other administrators and teachers to provide a safe learning environment. They set-up and run prevention and intervention programs, work to incorporate collaboration and leadership, and advocate for the student in various review situations. So while they no longer just hand out college applications, school counselors are a vital piece to the educational system and hopefully a haven for students to discuss their problems and their dreams.