support

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.

Helping Your Child Who Struggles With Anxiety

Anxiety is an epidemic among teenagers and college students.

In many cases, students are dropping out of college because of anxiety and health centers are seeing more students than ever. The APA sites, “Anxiety is the top presenting concern among college students (41.6 percent), followed by depression (36.4 percent) and relationship problems (35.8 percent).”

So what’s the best way to help if your child is suffering from anxiety?

Talk to them about it. Let them know you understand they are suffering and assure them they are not alone. Encourage them to talk to their friends or roommates. Chances are their friends are suffering too. Visiting the mental health center on campus is also a good idea. Or even the urgent care at school, if they are really concerned.

Often anxiety presents itself with physical symptoms such as sweaty palms, a racing heart, and lightheadedness. It can also bring on numbness in fingers and hands. These symptoms can frighten a student who is otherwise healthy.

My daughter picked up a brochure at the health center about anxiety and the headline read: You Are Not Having a Heart Attack. It then explained the top physical signs of anxiety. She thought it would be a great idea if the college handed out these flyers to all the freshman, since just about everyone she knew suffered from the symptoms.

A friend who is a therapist suggested that sometimes freshman have too much time on their hands since often colleges suggest an easier workload first semester. She said they have too much time to worry and suggests they take on an additional pass/fail classes or find an on-campus job.

Social media is to blame for a lot of this newly brought on anxiety, but so is being away from home for the first time and tougher academics. Anxiety can also be hereditary. This article from the Huffington Post offers a helpful list of seventeen ideas to help with anxiety. My daughter and I are both trying ideas on this list. Just because I’m not in college, doesn’t mean I don’t get anxious. Getting off social media is one of the top items. Not a bad idea for all of us these days.

But please take your child’s anxiety seriously and if you feel it’s becoming a bigger problem than the above list can help with, seek professional help. If you can aid them in managing their anxiety at this young age, they will take those skills with them into the future.

Applying to College and Your Friends

When it comes time to apply to college, you need a support team. And when I say ‘support team,’ I’m talking about more people than your myKlovr support team. I’m talking about your friends, too. They may not possess life experience, but as they’re going through the same things you are, they, better than anyone else, understand your hopes, dreams, and anxieties.

Friends are there to support you, and you are there to support them. However, just how much should you share about your college application journey with them? Are there any downsides to being 100% open with your friends? In this article, we’ll examine why keeping some information private might be a good idea.

When Sharing Is Caring

By all means, tell your friends where you’re applying to college. There’s no real downside. The only thing I’d recommend is not bragging about which schools or how many schools are on your list. Besides being silly, you don’t want to be embarrassed if you receive rejections from your top-choice school.

Stay humble, college applicants.

When Sharing Isn’t Caring

Let me recommend a line in the sand when it comes to sharing information:

  • Don’t reveal which scholarships you applied to.

Why not share scholarship information? First of all, think about your group of friends. In many ways, they’re like you. They take the same classes as you, probably make similar grades as you, and have similar interests. If you tell them about a scholarship you applied to, they might apply as well, creating more competition for you. And since scholarships tend to have fewer applicants than colleges, one additional application on the pile can lower your chances significantly.

Note: This advice also applies long after your college years. Don’t tell friends or family about the specific jobs where you apply. They might apply, too, and snatch that job away from you.

Supporting Friends as the Acceptances and Rejection Roll In

Once you apply to colleges and scholarships, there’s a lot of waiting, and you and your friends have to go through the motions until you receive the emails or letters that will change your lives forever. But there will come a day when you or a close friend find out the news. How should you react? Let’s look at some positive and negative scenarios.

If the news is bad…

If bad news should befall a friend, know that they’ll be sad or at least grumpy for a few days. Suggest that you do something fun, and more importantly, distracting together. Go to the movies, play mini golf, anything to remind your friend that life goes on.

If the news is good…

It’s time to celebrate! If you’ve received the good news, please don’t gloat over your friends. Gloating’s not nice. If they’ve received the good news, please forgive them if they should gloat. And as I’m sure you’ve (hopefully) already heard, don’t do anything illegal to celebrate. Colleges and scholarships love to rescind acceptances to high school seniors who get into trouble.

Final Thoughts

Besides keeping your scholarship applications a secret and not gloating if you should receive good news, there’s no wrong way to discuss the college application experience with your friends. Be there for them, and they’ll be there for you.

In other words, be a good friend. 🙂

Exploring why 30% College Freshman Don’t Go Back After the First Year and How to Prevent It

I recently read the New York Times story, When A College Student Comes Home to Stay. And wow. This would have been very helpful to read when my daughter was in high school. Luckily I still have one more at home and hope my son will benefit from my newly acquired wisdom.

The article suggests many reasons for dropping out of college after the freshman year including; finances, failing grades, mental health issues, and homesickness. But the idea that impressed me most was, “at the end of the day, what your child needs most is practice running his or her own life — and college is a risky place to do that for the first time.”

This rang true because I now understand the main reason my daughter is struggling at college emotionally is because we did too much for her while she was in high school.

She was telling me the other day that now in college she has to make every decision for herself including what she will eat for dinner when she will eat dinner and if she will eat dinner. What I thought would be a liberating moment for her, was more of a stressful one.

These simple choices about food are only compounded as she decides everything for herself. What classes to take, where to study, how to get around campus etc.

I hadn’t realized that while I thought I was supporting her by being on top of her high school schedule and driving her where she needed to go and cooking healthy meals, I was actually weakening her. She needed some training on making her own decisions.

How do I do that for my son? He is a high school junior, so there is still time. The first thing I have implemented is to have him help me with some household repairs, something I wish I had done with his sister.

So when the toilet clogged this weekend, I showed him how to use the plunger. When we needed to change out a deadbolt on our front door, I had him do the work as his dad and I talked him through it. And starting this week I am going to see to it that he finds his own way home from school on Fridays. He can take the bus or the train or ride with a friend. And I think one day of the week, we’ll have him make dinner. He needs to develop according to the article, “skills to take care of himself.”

The article goes on to say that, “students haven’t been given control of their own lives until way too late.” So even as our instincts as parents are to hang on to our young ones as long as we can, we actually need to let go a bit sooner. It’s going to be hard for us, but it will be more helpful to our students in the long run.

College Support Groups for Parents

As soon as my daughter committed to a college, I was sent an email from the school inviting me to join a parent’s Facebook page. I joined and didn’t think much of it.

At first, parents were mostly discussing dorm bedding and the best type of storage bins. As the quarter began, parents posted pictures of their students on moving day. I noticed a couple of posts about fall harvest festivals and a monarch butterfly festival that looked intriguing. I forwarded it to my daughter who actually went with her roommates and sent me a picture of the three of them with butterfly face paint. I didn’t post the picture.

Three months into the college year I now find myself gravitating to that Facebook page often and I notice others do too. Parents now discuss concerns. What to do when your child has anxiety, a bad roommate situation, not getting the classes they want? The parents rely on each other when they can’t find help within the university.

Over Thanksgiving break, there were endless posts of happy teens arriving back home for the holiday. Those were accompanied by photos of unpacked suitcases dumped by the front door. One single dad who had been posting quite a bit lately was so happy to be reunited with his daughter, his post brought tears to my eyes.

When my kids were in elementary school parent support was a big thing; room reps, cupcake baking, helping out on soup days. During middle school, the amount of parent support slowed down and by high school, the parents were not expected or really wanted to help on campus.

It feels like the parents of the college freshman are retreating back to elementary school where they want to get involved and need the support of each other. Leaving your teen at college is not dissimilar to leaving them in the first-grade classroom. You know it’s the right thing, but it doesn’t feel good having them so far away. I remember the first-grade moms clustering after dropping off waiting almost as if they hoped they’d be called back to take their little one home. I kind of feel that way now and I think other parents do too.

The parent Facebook group has become a support group. A place where parents go to share the joy and sorrows of having a child so far away. Even though the parents are from all over the country, I feel like I am getting to know them. And when I have a concern, I know where to turn for answers because someone else has probably had that same concern too.

Can Your Freshman Make it Through the Rest of the Semester?

My daughter was home from college this weekend and she was in heaven. She was grateful for her bed, her home and most importantly her family. She’s met many students with difficult family lives and realized how good hers was. Her revelation made us all grateful.

At the end of the weekend, it was hard for her to imagine a nine-hour bus ride back to college where she would be crammed into a small room with two other girls. Exams are looming and the food in the cafeteria is starting to all taste the same.

“What would your life be like if you didn’t go back?” I asked her when she started to make noises that she couldn’t. She said, she would get a job and then go to community college. She couldn’t finish the sentence without realizing it wasn’t really what she wanted. Yes, being away from home is hard. Especially when everything she has ever known is at home. But I asked her to think about what she wanted for her life and how she was going to get that. She wants to go into politics. So I asked her if she needed to go to college for that career. She agreed she did.

I suggested every time she thought about wanting to be at home, to think about her big goal and know she needs to finish college in order to achieve that. Don’t think about the comfort you are missing at home, but think about the life you will lead in the future. Besides, a comfortable life would be a boring life and I know if she stayed home and did not go back to college she’d be bored in about a week.

 

So how do you help your college freshmen get through the rest of the semester?

  • Remind them that Winter break is only three weeks away
  • Remind them that their job right now is to focus on schoolwork
  • Plan a couple of fun activities for winter break, a trip or something local. Put that special event on the calendar or buy tickets for it now, so they have something to look forward to
  • Perhaps start planning a community service day for when they return. Visit a nursing home or homeless shelter
  • Read one of the books they have been assigned so that you can discuss it with them when they return
  • Plan a day with you and your college student, lunch, mani-pedi, bike riding, tossing a football. Something where they get your full attention for the whole day. You will love this too because in a couple of years they may be studying abroad during winter break or off vacationing with friends

I believe freshman are confused as to where they belong. They are living between home and dorm. Let them know that when they are home, nothing has changed, you can still do the things as a family you used to. Comfort and routine are what they crave. Adventure is what they need.

How to Help If Your Child is Struggling Academically in the Middle of a School Year?

We just had parent teacher conferences with our eleventh grader. It was the perfect time to review his grades since he still has time to improve before the first-semester report card comes out.

His science teacher, who was concerned that his grade wasn’t as good as it could be after the last test started the meeting by saying, “Don’t worry, your parents and I are your support team. We are rooting for you, not against you.”

After spending 11th grade with my daughter being angry at her if her grades slipped because I knew how crucial that year was, I decided it was important to take a different tactic with my son.

Instead of being upset with a bad test score, we talked to him about the root of the problem. He’s got good grades in everything else, so what was it about chemistry?

During the meeting, we asked his teacher to dissect his last test. During that time she determined he had froze on the first part of the test with the multiple choice problems. By the time he got to the short answers, he had lost his confidence and couldn’t even finish the test. Thus the poor grade.

So she introduced some test taking skills and told him to start with by reading the test through first and then start the short answers. She told him to write out the formulas before starting the math problems and then basically do what he would consider the “easy problems”. If he thought of those as a warm up, then he’d be ready to take on the word problems.

She also implemented a plan that he reviews his chemistry every night not just cram for the test. It had been okay to cram for the test last year, but in 11th grade, the tests are based on the progression of the year’s work, not just that past week. 

I truly believe we are his support team and I’m looking at things differently now. Generally, we are slowing things down at home. I’m trying to cook more substantial food for him and make sure he has eaten protein before school. We are trying to be quieter in the evenings and have asked him to pick one night a weekend to see friends.

He won’t get in trouble for a bad grade, I had to let him know that. I think he had been afraid he disappoint us which just made the pressure worse. These next two years are going to be hard enough for him. He doesn’t need our added stress. 

It’s too late to drop classes, so if your child is struggling, maybe it’s time to get a tutor. Nothing wrong with a little help. Often a local college student who is majoring in that subject is a good choice and more affordable than a tutoring center. Libraries offer tutoring programs for free as do after school facilities like Boys and Girls Clubs. 

Keep talking to your student and perhaps their teachers. Teachers love when students come to them. They really do like to see that the student is making an effort. If you have the chance to jump in now and help, you might relieve some stress all around. 

What Do You Do If Your Child Is Not As Smart/Intellectual As You Are?

You have lived with your child for at least sixteen or seventeen years and by now you probably realize they are not the same as you. In many ways they are, but let’s face it, you are not clones. Now that they are about to apply to college navigating their journey will be different than how you navigated your own.

What if they are not as talented as you were, what if they aren’t as good at math as you were, what if generally they aren’t as smart as you are? These realities might be creeping up as you are looking at Harvard and they are looking at a local liberal arts school.

My advice is notice and embrace the differences between you and your child. You may have thrived in a city at their age, but you might have raised a home-body who loves fresh air and a chance to study under great oak trees.

This is their time to thrive and to shine and your time to support them. If their SAT’s are not as high as yours were, relish in what their accomplishments are. They are individuals and surely they have their own passions and strengths. You can’t put a square peg in a round hole, so don’t make them cram for that AP class if they just can’t handle the workload. Instead nurture their interest in community service or the school newspaper or a sport you never thought you’d want to play.

The differences you see in your child now will only become more prevalent once they go to college anyway. The doctor you thought you were raising might turn out to be afraid of blood. But maybe they discover a love for writing and end up becoming a medical text book editor or author.

Enjoy this time with your student and embrace your differences. The differences might be something that bring you closer together than ever before. And what do you have to lose? College is just around the corner.

Back to Top