high school students

Why High School Counselors Struggle (And What We Can Do About It)

I spent my entire K-12 education attending public schools in the same district. I received excellent academic support services from my schools’ counselors, without which I would have never been able to attend Vanderbilt University as an undergraduate.

Years later, I returned to my old school district – one of the richest in the United States – to teach at a high school just down the street from the one where I graduated. Over the next four years, I saw a different side of education, one where students lacked the counseling resources that had helped me succeed.

Many of my students, not knowing much about higher education, wrote off college as an unattainable dream. Also, they had no time during the school day to explore career-preparation programs, trade schools, or other educational opportunities that could have prepared them for the next stages of their lives. These issues were not entirely the fault of the counselor. Yes, you read that right. The entire high school, one that catered to at-risk students, had only one counselor.

Unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon in the United States. The average high school counselor works with approximately double the recommended number of students that the American School Counselor Association recommends. And in many parts of the country, the counselor-to-student ratio is growing.

In this article, we’ll look at how proper counseling can help students, why this isn’t happening, and how myKlovr has stepped up to provide a service that assists high school students with college admissions and makes counselors more effective professionals.

The Challenge High School Counselors Face

In a perfect world, counselors would have time to analyze students’ academic – as well as emotional and social – needs. Counselors would meet with students at multiple points throughout the year to discuss progress, challenges, and goals. Finally, counselors would have detailed notes to refer to before working with a student – much like a patient file a doctor uses during a checkup. In this world, high school students would not only receive excellent advice but would also have a solid action plan for after high school.

However, the typical high school counselor is responsible for nearly 500 students. This workload leaves them little time to address students’ needs, let alone learn names. As a result, students spend only a few minutes each year with a counselor.

Sadly, too few counselors working with too many students is only one part of the problem that 21st-century counselors face.

Only So Many Hours in the Day

School counselors’ job responsibilities extend much further than what most people realize, and when Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)in 2001, counselors found themselves with an even larger job description. Before NCLB, high school counselors were responsible for administering some high-stakes standardized tests (e.g., AP, ACT, SAT). In the district where I grew up and taught, each of these tests took place during school hours, further reducing counselors’ time for other activities.

By the time I started teaching 10 years after NCLB became law, my school’s counselor was responsible for state- and district-level assessments. There were pre-assessments, formative assessments, and benchmarks sprinkled throughout the year. Although teachers administered these tests, it was the counselor’s responsibility to analyze the data, further taking time away from students.

Besides additional responsibilities, counselors are some of the first targets when a school or district tightens its budget. Districts make this choice despite overwhelming evidence that reducing the number of counselors increases the dropout rate.

Although some school districts have embraced change and hired additional counselors, most counselors still struggle with finding time for their primary duty: serving students. For this reason, counselors need resources that can make their limited time with students more efficient and effective.

One such resource is myKlovr.  

The myKlovr Advantage

Our goal at myKlovr to provide college-bound students with personalized college admissions advice. Our service helps students identify their academic strengths and weaknesses, create an action plan, and research colleges that would be a good fit. Concerning the latter, we develop a College Match for each user – a list of schools that a student would have an excellent chance of receiving admission if he or she followed the action plan we recommend. Parents, counselors, teachers, and other trusted adults can stay up to date with that student’s academic and extracurricular progress by receiving notifications or accessing the student’s profile.

We are so confident in our ability to help students go to college that if a student cannot gain acceptance to any of his or her College Match schools, we will gladly refund the entire subscription fee.

Final Thoughts

High schoolers throughout the nation suffer from a lack of counseling resources, and counselors are overburdened to the point where they cannot provide their limited resources effectively. MyKlovr aims to close the gap. Students receive individualized advice, and counselors can keep up to date with their students’ evolving needs.

What Does Test Optional Really Mean?

If your student excels in extracurriculars and has a good GPA, but doesn’t test well, then Test Optional schools are great options. About 1, 000 colleges accept applications without requiring SAT or ACT scores; they refer to those schools as test optional. This option gives the student more opportunity to be valued by their strengths, instead undervalued because of their weaknesses. But make sure your student has a good GPA if they don’t submit test scores.
Universities tend towards tests because they receive so many applications they need some way to screen candidates. But some universities are becoming test optional. The University of San Francisco, for example, is finding that a better indicator of how well a student will do in college is their grades in college prep classes, not SAT test scores. More liberal arts schools are test optional because they have extra resources to review individual applications.
“About half of the top 100 liberal arts colleges ranked by U.S. News & World Report are test-optional. Institutions that are test-flexible allow applicants to substitute scores from other tests such as SAT Subject Tests or Advanced Placement tests.”
FairTest: The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a non-profit that advocates against the tests. is the best way to find test-optional schools and has a list of over 1000 colleges that are test optional listed alphabetically.
If your student plans to apply for financial aid, then they might need to do some additional research. Candidates may not be eligible for merit aid if they don’t supply their scores, so please make sure your student asks the colleges about merit aid.

With So Many College Majors Available, How Do I Choose The Right One for Me?

School is almost over and it’s time to decide which college major or career path you are going to choose. Well, this is probably one of the first hardest decisions you’ll have to make as it is going to impact your future. Here are 5 steps that you can follow to make sure you are making the right decision.

1. Come up with a list of things you like or interested in

Start to figure out what things you enjoy doing the most. Writing a list of 5 to 10 things you enjoy spending your leisure time in or you are interested in learning more about will help you find out which career fits your personality. You want to study something that makes you feel happy and curious about.

2. Know your strengths and weaknesses

Finding out what your strengths and weaknesses are might help you discover the pros and cons of different majors. An easier way to find out these qualities is to make an introspection of what school subjects you liked and good at in school and what subjects you struggled the most.

3. Project yourself in the future

Try to see yourself in the role that you chose. How would you feel? On the other hand, it’s also important to think about the financial aspect. It’s known that money is not all in life but let’s be honest, everyone wants to make money. Is the career that you are pursuing going to give you financial stability in the future?

4. Try to find someone to guide you

Sometimes you may think you have everything under control, let me tell you it’s never a bad idea to have some extra help. It’s important to find someone you can count on, older people have more experience and can guide you and help you have a clear vision. There are a lot of people that would be happy to help you and give you good pieces of advice. It does not matter if they are family members, teachers or even both, being open and listening to their opinions might help you make better choices.

5. Research as much as possible about your different options

There are different ways in which you can find out more about the different career options. The first approach is the basic and popular one, just google it! Do your own research and see different information. On the other hand, the most “sophisticated” way to do it is by doing interviews, yes! Interviewing people that are working in the field you are interested in.

Final Thoughts

It is important to take the time to make the best decision. Even though this is a hard and important decision you should know that your major is not going to define you. In the end, everything comes down to you as you can achieve whatever you want in life.

How to Make the Most of Summer to Prep for College Admissions

It’s late May, which means summer vacation is right around the corner for millions of high school students like you. As both a former student and teacher, I remember those days fondly. It was like the light at the end of the tunnel. Just hang on a little longer and I’d be rewarded with nine glorious weeks off.

Yes, I expect you to use this upcoming summer break to get a little R&R. However, if you’re a rising high school sophomore, junior, or senior, I encourage you to spend a little time over the following weeks to prepare for college admissions.

That said, let’s dive into what you can do to make the most of this summer while still leaving you plenty of time to relax.   

If You’re a Rising Sophomore

Now that you’ve completed freshman year, you should have a decent understanding of your academic strengths and weaknesses. You also (hopefully) found at least one extracurricular activity that you enjoy. Let’s turn this new knowledge into an action plan.

What You Should Do

  • If struggled with English or math your freshman year, spend 2-3 hours a week reviewing lessons on Khan Academy. Using Khan Academy or a similar service will both improve your English/math skills and prevent you from forgetting what you learned.
    • If your parents can afford a tutor, that works, too. 🙂
  • Spend about 7-10 hours over the summer researching colleges online. Here are some potential Google searches:
    • Colleges that have strong [Insert the name of your favorite subject here] programs.
    • Community colleges in [your state].
    • Best public colleges in [your state].
    • Colleges that award scholarship for [your extracurricular activity/high GPAs/good test scores].
  • As you research potential schools, you’ll notice that a lot of them come with big price tags. Talk to your families about what the can/will contribute to your college education.

What You Could Do 

  • As you’ll take either the PLAN or PSAT test during your sophomore year, you need to decide whether you are going to prepare for either test. Many students take these tests ‘cold’ so they can understand their natural strengths and weaknesses. This is fine, but if you are aiming for a National Merit Scholarship, you’ll need to put in some PSAT prep.

If You’re a Rising Junior

Becoming a junior is a big deal. You’re an upperclassman now, and college is just two years away. This summer you’ll need to take a more active role in preparing for your future. 

What You Should Do

  • Go on at least two college tours.
    • By researching colleges online, you should know already have a few that interest you. It’s time to hit the road with the family and see these colleges up close.
  • Decide whether to prepare for the ACT or SAT.
    • You’ll likely take both of these tests during your college admissions journey. However, as many students discover that perform slightly better on one test over the other.
  • Curate scholarship opportunities.
    • Continue your research from last summer and select 5-10 scholarships that you can apply to now or when you become a senior.
          • Although application deadlines might not be for another year, researching now means that you still have time to improve your grades/increase your volunteer hours/etc.
  • Sign up for challenging classes.
    • No, I don’t mean ‘take all AP courses.’ Yes, for some students, that’s challenging. For others, it’s a recipe for burnout/failure/etc. You need to choose a curriculum that’s challenging for you.
    • In other words, if you made an A in a non-honors course, consider taking the honors course in that same subject area as a junior.
      • The same advice applies if you did well in honors courses as a sophomore. Maybe it’s time to take 1-2 APs your junior year. 

What You Could Do

  • Take an ACT or SAT prep course.
    • Standardized tests like the ACT and SAT are a milestone for high school juniors. By preparing for these tests now, you might earn a good enough score that you do not have to retake them later.
  • Intern or volunteer.
    • There are plenty of internship or volunteer opportunities in your local community. Find one that represents a cause or issue you believe in and spend 5-10 hours each week interning or volunteering. 

If You’re a Rising Senior

College admissions season is coming up fast, which means that this summer you’ll decide which colleges you’ll apply to in the fall. The following advice should help you make up your mind and put the final touches on your application packets.

What You Should Do

  • Take additional college tours.
  • Prepare to retake the ACT or SAT.
    • You took one or both of these tests during the spring. Now that you have the results, you can create a study plan that involves tutors or free Khan Academy resources.
    • I’d recommend spending 1-2 hours a week on test prep. This way, you can retake the ACT or SAT in late August or early September. These test windows are excellent as you’ll have your results in hand before college applications are due. 

What You Could Do 

  • Start application essays.
    • It’s never too early to start your application essays. See my article on the topic for more information.
  • Keep interning or volunteering.
    • If you interned of volunteered last summer, keep up the good work by trying a new experience this summer.

Final Thoughts

Summer is a great time to relax. By all means, stay up late, sleep in, and have a good time with your friends. But remember that time is a resource like any other. This summer, invest some time in your future by preparing for life after high school. Future you will thank present you.

 

It’s Time To Start Thinking About Summer Programs for High Schoolers

There are so many ways for high school students to take advantage of summer programs. They can range from trips abroad to experiences in your nearby town. But many require applications and those deadlines are approaching. Here is a list of several interesting programs that have popped up on our radar lately.

Seeds of Peace 

This notable program begins in Maine and expands around the world. The idea is to foster leadership in young adults by bringing together students from all walks of life to discuss global issues. This is a tough program to get into and requires a writing based application. But from what I hear, students make life long friends from around the globe.

National Geographic Student Expositions

National Geographic offers destination programs that may or may not involve community service. Their website is inspiring and trips range from 11 to 21 days. Your student could do community service in Madagascar or focus on photography in New York City. And lots of other options in between.

Global Routes

This program is specifically service driven where students spend time in small communities around the world whether it be constructing schools and health clinics in rural areas or cleaning up streams in the rain forest. The program promotes cross-cultural learning and hands on experience.

Teton Valley Ranch Camp 

I have heard wonderful things about Teton Valley Ranch Camp in beautiful Dubois, Wyoming. A chance to spend the summer in the wilderness working on a horse ranch (ages 11-16).

California Summer State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA)

My son and daughter both attended this in-state program taught by professionals in the arts. Drama and dance in their cases. It was a great chance for my kids to experience college life while being an hour from home. They stayed all week in dorms at Cal Arts and opted to come home for weekends. As a California resident the tuition was subsidized and super affordable for this four week program.

Girls Who Code

This program is a free 7-week immersion program for girls in 10th and 11th grade. The program has locations in most of the major cities in the United States and requires an application. There are lots of hands-on computer science classes as well as field trips to local tech companies.

College Transitions has an extensive article with a multitude of interesting summer programs for teens from Bank of America Student Leaders Programs to U.S. Naval Academy summer programs. Be sure to spend some time looking at some of these other programs too.

But if your teen doesn’t want to leave home this summer there are are many opportunities in their own back yards. Check out the following places for local classes near you:

Public Library, Local Art museums, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA’s and Local language centers. Universities in a city near you offer teen summer programs in various majors as well.

And don’t forget about community college classes. Teens can sign up for those and take care of some high school credits, get a jump start on college credits and also enjoy enrichment classes.

What to Talk About With Your College-Bound Student in Preparation for Their College Applications

My son is a high school junior and we talk about college in small increments. We are trying to balance his life and not make it all about college, because at some point we know he will be shifting his focus to “it’s all about college.”

So what can we talk about now to plant the seeds so we are not scrambling next fall when he officially begins his college application process?

At a recent high school meeting for parents of juniors, we learned that colleges look at what the student will be doing the summer between junior and senior year. The colleges want to see that the student is either working, enrolled in an academic class, or enrolled in some sort of program to enrich their education.

This is not the summer to hang out at the beach! Luckily our son has already thought this through and is looking into several summer programs.

I have already put the SAT and ACT test dates on the family calendar, so my son can look ahead at the entire year and see when the tests are coming up. Hopefully, this will allow him to pace himself with his test prep and his social activities.

We’ve printed his transcript and have gone over it together. He understands the difference between his GPA and his weighted GPA. He sees what classes he needs to bring his grades up and what classes he needs to maintain grades.

After winter break, we will meet with his college counselor. Since he is interested in perhaps going to art school or drama school, we have encouraged him to set up meetings with the head of the art and drama departments at his school.

He will be able to get their input on colleges which might be a good fit for him. I’m encouraging him to seek out their advice since they know his work better than his college counselor will, even though she did attend his school play this weekend!

As a family, we will determine if we are going to go on a college tour this spring break. This will be planned and booked over the Thanksgiving holiday.

After getting input from his art and drama teacher, he will start working on his art portfolio and select some audition pieces. I know from past experience that if he wants to apply to drama school, he will need a reel and a resume. These are pieces that will take time pull together and I want him to get started on them as soon as he can.

It helps to have gone through this college prep with my daughter. But even if you haven’t had that experience, it’s not too soon to educate yourselves and jump right in!

College Prep List:

  1.  Plan for your student’s educational based summer activity 
  2. Add SAT and ACT test dates to calendar
  3. Review your student’s transcript
  4. Meet with your student’s college counselor and department heads
  5. Think about what colleges to visit with your student during Spring break
  6. Help your student plan art portfolios or prepare audition materials

Stay Productive This Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving break is soon upon us. Depending on your school or district’s policies, you may receive two days, three days, or a whole week off of school. Between stuffing your face and watching football, the week doesn’t lend itself to productivity.

When I was a teacher, district policy forbade teachers from assigning homework over Thanksgiving break. As such shackles no longer bind me, I’m going to assign you just a bit of homework for you to accomplish over break.

In this article, we’ll look at different things high school freshman, sophomores, juniors, and seniors can accomplish during their time off school. And because I want to make sure you have a chance to relax this Thanksgiving, none of my assignments should take more than two hours to complete.

If You’re a Freshman

As a high school freshman, you don’t have to worry about high-stakes standardized tests and applying to college just yet. Instead of research or test prep, I want you to spend your two hours performing some self-reflection that should help you with the big decisions you’ll face in the next few years.

For each of the following bullet points, I want you to journal a one-page reply:

  • Which subject is your favorite? What about it do you like the most?
  • In which class do you have the most trouble? Do you need extra help to succeed?
  • Do you work better by yourself or with others?
  • What careers (even if they’re pie-in-the-sky) do you think are interesting or would be worth pursuing one day?

What I want you to do is tuck these answers away. During Thanksgiving break for the next two years – when you’re a sophomore and junior — revisit these questions to identify how your preferences have changed. By the time you start seriously researching potential colleges during your junior year, you’ll be better prepared to select those that best match your interests and goals.

If You’re a Sophomore

Sophomore year is the time when you dip your toe into the college application pond. It can seem a bit overwhelming (that’s natural), but you can accomplish something this Thanksgiving break that’ll both reduce your stress and start your college journey off on the right foot.

For your two hours of homework, I want you to research potential colleges and select 2-3 to tour between now and the end of summer break before your junior year. Discuss options with your family, as they’ll likely come with you on these tours and play a significant role in your college decision-making process. 

If You’re a Junior

As a junior, this is the last full year of grades colleges will see when you apply next year. That makes your performance on mid-terms, which are only a few weeks away, more important than those you took in your freshman and sophomore years.

During the break, I want you to set aside two hours to study your most challenging subject. It doesn’t matter what it is. You need not only the practice but also the chance to identify the topics giving you the most trouble. Once you identify them, you can master them over the next few weeks with your teachers’ help and other resources (e.g., Khan Academy) they recommend.

If You’re a Senior

Your college application deadlines are coming up fast. For any remaining applications, here’s what I want you to do:

  • Reread all application requirements and make a checklist for each school.
  • Check off what you have completed.
    • Maintain these lists until you send off your last application.
  • Read all of your essays at least once. Make appropriate revisions.
    • If you’re going to visit relatives this Thanksgiving, it never hurts to ask an aunt or uncle to critique one of your essays.

Final Thoughts

I have one last piece of homework for everyone reading this to accomplish between now and the end of Thanksgiving break: find some quality time to relax. The three weeks between Thanksgiving and winter break are full to the brim with studying, tests, and anxiety. Recharge your batteries now so you can face these challenges successfully.

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