What DO School Counselors do all day?

Title School Counselors




I was asked to present a session on the school counseling profession for MCAN’s ADVISEMI program. My audience was new college graduates training to be college advisers.  What a wonderful experience!  First, to be able to describe what we do is at times difficult.  There is so much! This experience forced me to really evaluate and reflect on the school counseling profession.

I started with a wonderful anticipatory set that came from Dr. Shawn Bultsma, school counselor educator at Grand Valley State University.

Anticipatory Set

Wow, this opened the flood gates!  I got to hear wonderful stories of great school counselor relationships. They eloquently shared their personal stories. I also got to hear the stories of missed opportunities or frustrated experiences with their high school counselors.  This anticipatory set was powerful because I could use their stories throughout the rest of my presentation!


I then began with our training. School counselors have a master’s degree with a school counseling certification or license. In Michigan, we have to take 6 college credits every 5 years to keep our certification.  I gave them this great handout from ASCA, The Role of the School Counselor.

Role of School Counselors

I found that some of the college advisers were interested in becoming school counselors! Yeah! Some were starting their master’s program already.

I then went on about the ASCA National Model. I wanted them to know that school counselors have curriculum and implement a data-driven, comprehensive school counseling program.

ASCA National Model

I think describing the ASCA National Model can be complicated but I like to use this video clip from Richard Cleveland to help put it into perspective:

video clip


Knowing that the college advisers focus was on the CAREER/COLLEGE domain I gave them this handout to show sample activities (NYC Department of Education, 2011):

career college activities

I also explained the multitude of ways school counselors collaborate within the school and community.


Then came the part to help the college advisers understand their not so good interactions with school counselors or why school counselors may not be implementing the ASCA National Model.

First, were school counselor ratios. If a school counselor has too many students on their caseload they can not implement the ASCA National Model effectively.


Second, was when school counselors are given “Inappropriate Activities” that take them away from implementing their program.


Next, were the school counselors that have not been trained in the ASCA National Model. The Model was adopted in 2003 so it is fairly new. I graduated in 2005 and was not trained either.  Our district provided the training but unfortunately most districts do not.


Last, was the most difficult to explain which was school culture. I showed the first few minutes of this video clip from the Academy for Social Emotional Learning to help:

School culture

I went on to explain that sometimes the school culture does not allow school counselors to run small groups or go into classrooms to present curriculum. I wrote this blog post previously that helps explain what school counselors face, School Counselors: The Unspoken Divide.

I told them my experiences as a high school counselor which I could then explain the iceberg graphic.

tip of the iceberg

We ended with a great discussion on what fears they had working with high school counselors.

barriers to consider

At the end, many of the college advisers came up to thank me and shook my hand. Some even stayed to talk to me about a story they had in high school or their plans for becoming a high school counselor.

By being able to open up about the good, bad, and ugly of our profession it will only afford us to grow and become the best in our profession.

I am so thankful for this experience!  Working with these young adults has solidified my desire to someday pursue my doctorate where I will be able to work with aspiring school counselors!



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