{August 25, 2013}   How Guidance Counselors Work – Edudemic – Edudemic


How Guidance Counselors Work

gc1Students struggle to transition successfully in the major changes of early life; from Middle School to High School, from High School to College, and from College into a promising career. For Guidance counselors, successfully moving students through the obstacle course of early life into long-term success is the ultimate goal. Providing guidance counselors has improved many important metrics in the schools that use them. However, according to the ASCD, an overwhelming majority of young adults rated their guidance counselors either fair or poor. So why are students rating their performance so poorly?

Positive Impacts of Guidance Counselors

Not all schools have the luxury of full-time guidance counselors. Those who do see positive shifts in key areas of student development according to the American Counseling Association.

Students who have access to a guidance counselor throughout their High School years experienced improved social skills, lower dropout rates, higher grades, more career and college information, better preparation for their future, and an increased positive climate at school. (American School Health Association)

Schools have also reported success in counselors helping students reduce test anxiety resulting in less stress and happier students who make better grades.

Purpose of Guidance Counselors

As the name suggests, Guidance Counselors give guidance to students, not only for excelling in the school environment, but for transitioning to college and career successfully. Guidance Counselors help students figure out what they want to be and prepare them to accomplish those goals.

Guidance counselors have to be experts in many fields to be successful:

  • Insights into each student:
    Personality type, temperament, grades, talents, hopes, dreams, resources, psychological issues, and physical issues.
  • Insights into the job market:
    They have to understand the past trends, as well as the future projections, in the job market across all fields and careers.
  • Insights into higher education:
    Guidance counselors have to help hundreds of students transition to the collegiate level. They have to assist them in picking the best majors to match their career goals, giving guidance based on talents, interests, and personality. They also have to give guidance based on financial, academic, geographic, and many other variables that impact college attendance.

In the past, most students attended college in traditional form. Unfortunately, 75% of all college students are juggling families, jobs, and school, guidance counselors have an increasingly difficult job. This is the reality of our culture and economic times.


Counselors have to prepare High School students not just for college or pointing them to a career. They have to help plan and prepare for attending college in a nontraditional way. This requires an incredible amount of insight into each unique situation.

Metrics For Success

  • College Dropout Rate

The United States is doing a woefully bad job at solving the dropout rate of higher education. Of the 18 countries tracked by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the United States is in last place. Our graduation rates for all students lags behind Japan by a whopping 43%

Students who’ve had access to a guidance counselor boast positive increases in all measurements for success in college. Guidance counseling should cause an improvement of student dropout rate at the collegiate level.

  • Grade Point Averages

It’s only natural for students to experience higher grades when they have a counselor to coach them, as the evidence shows. A school taking on a new Guidance Counselor should see an improvement on student GPAs.

  • Better High School to college transitions

Professors are starting to complain that students out of High School aren’t adequately prepared for college-level courses. Statistics reinforce this claim as half of all students seeking Associates degrees require remedial studies. Students seeking a Bachelors degree see more success, however, with 20.7% requiring remedial classes, there is desperate need for improvement.

Not all blame can be laid at the High School teacher’s feet for these statistics. Often times, teaching course material takes precedence over teaching skills for success in higher learning.

Learning course material at one level doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the learning environment at the next level. This is especially true considering how public education has become standardized while the learning environment in universities can differ widely from one institution to the next.

Preparing students with the skills needed to succeed in a different learning environment is key.

  • College to career transition

Only around 25% of all college graduates are working careers associated with their degree. Many of them are in careers that don’t even require a college education, making college a wasted investment.

Guidance counselors as far back as Middle School can have a profound impact on students having the foresight and plan to successfully turn their college education into a profitable career.

Improving Counseling

1. Lower the student to counselor ratio.

The ratio of students to guidance counselor is skewed horribly in the wrong direction. The job or preparing students for success now, in the next step of their education, and for their life is a difficult one. It necessitates relationship and time.

The American School Health Association recommends a maximum ratio of 250:1. The Department of Education claims the current average is 488:1, nearly double to recommended maximum.

Recent graduates ranked their guidance counselors on a scale of 3; good, fair, and poor. In helping them with school issues, 70% of students ranked their counselors either fair or poor. Counselors preparing them for college and careers also ranked higher in fair/poor category than good. (ASCD)

This low ranking was based on individual students experiences. It in no way shows the ability or empathy of any of the guidance counselors, nor their ability to effectively handle a doubled-ratio. Lowering the ratio is imperative.

2. Use Education Technology to decrease remedial numbers

The college graduation rate for remedial students is shockingly low. Remedial students seeking Bachelors degrees enjoy only a 34% success rate. For Associates levels, the success rate drops to under 10%.

Guidance counselors need effective tools and programs to help students overcome the requirement for remedial classes before they reach the college level.

With the proliferation of Education Technology, counselors should be enabled by schools to find applications and programs for students that need help.

If a student is struggling in math, a guidance counselor should have the ability to setup a Khan Academy program with that student to help them improve their aptitude outside of the traditional classroom.

On the other side of the coin, if a student is gifted in certain areas, rather than just suggesting college tracks. If a student shows affinity for programming, for example, a guidance counselor should have the freedom to recommend the student go through a Code Academy program.

In both situations, the guidance counselor is using internet tools to move the student closer to having success in the next levels of their life, in college and beyond.

3. Tools to help students build their future

Happiness is a major factor in the workplace. Companies have been researching it for decades. According to Sean Achor, after much research, it’s been determined that happiness in the workplace raises sales by 37%, productivity by 31% and task accuracy by 19% as well as improving many other health and quality of life variables.

Personality type impacts workplace happiness according to Otto Kroeger, author of Type Talk at Work. Workers outside of their comfort zone often feel drained emotionally, and experience more anxiety simply from a conflict with workplace and personality type.

Passion impacts happiness in the workplace. It’s a two-edged sword that can lead to burnout in a job, or be the driving force behind perseverance for success in the workplace.

Those who never recognize the conflict between their passion for their work and other activities in their life develop unhealthy habits associated with work, often experiencing depression and burnout due to work; impacting happiness, relationships, and workload balance.

Counselors should be given the budget for tools that can help them both identify personality type and passion matches in individual students.

Online tools like Sparkon.com help students learn about themselves and what impacts their happiness in life and their career. Guidance counselors should have access to tools like this to help them quickly decode each students passions and personality types and get insights into their unique identity.

4. Understand the influence each person has on their happiness.

Guidance counselors must connect the dots of each individuals wired preferences and personality type with insights into the job market. Simply pushing to students to careers that pay well will result in college dropouts, changing of majors in the middle of college, and career burnout.

Career longevity is influenced most by each individual rather than their job. Studies show that there isn’t any bad jobs, happiness in each job depends on the individual.

In Employee Work Passion, the authors found in their research that the major factors of intention to stay in a job were those influenced most by the individual worker.

Meaningful work and autonomy ranked the highest in factors to stay in a job. When asked who influenced those factors most, the majority of responses was “myself.” Having harmonious passion for your job, as well as, being happy in the workplace are just as important as the pay scale of each career.

What Should Guidance Counselors and Teachers Teach Students?

  1. Do what you’re naturally good at.
  2. Do what you love to do.
  3. Find a career that is purposeful to you and your personality.
  4. Learn to influence your environment at work.
  5. How to find and retain happiness at home, at school, and in a career.

et cetera
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