College admissions can be a confusing process with a myriad of deadlines, ways to apply, and the challenge of paying for an education. For students who do not have access to a school counselor, the confusion inherent in University admissions can be amplified.
School counselors often help students plan lessons, manage disciplinary issues, and plan their studies. Managing this workload can be complicated given the large number of students counselors are expected to work with in any given year.
The American School Counselor Association recommends a student-to-counselor ratio of 250 to one, a number most states fail to achieve. The national average during the 2018-19 school year, according to ASCA data, was 430 counselors per student, with much higher ratios in some states.
“There’s no way (counselors) will have the kind of time that each of these individuals deserves and needs, whatever their plan, whether it’s pursuing a associate degree, a traditional bachelor’s degree or go to trades school or the military, ”says Zenia Henderson, director of member and partner engagement at the nonprofit National College Attainment Network.
And it’s not just a matter of limited time – some students don’t have access at all. Home-schooled students, for example, or those who attend non-traditional schools, may not have a counselor at all. Even some public school students do not have access to a counselor, as evidenced by an analysis of American Civil Liberties Union federal data released in 2019 that identified 1.7 million students who have police officers in their schools. but no advisers.
The ASCA, who declined to be interviewed for this article, suggested in a Factsheet 2019 on student-counselor ratios that lack of access can be particularly detrimental to certain groups of students. “In particular, students of color and students from low-income families have better access to school counselors. For example, black students are more likely than their white peers to identify their school counselor as the person who has had the most influence on their thinking about post-secondary education, ”ASCA said.
The ASCA fact sheet added that “38 states are neglecting either their students of color, or students from low-income families, or both.”
While the numbers can be concerning, students should be aware of the resources that exist beyond the school counselor’s office. Experts suggest turning to online resources, which have grown in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and to community groups.
How To Find College Counseling Resources
For Michael J. Carter, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Strive for College, it was his experience as a high school student that prompted him to start the volunteer counseling network. Carter transferred from private to public high school in junior and calls back only one adviser for 800 pupils. He started the nonprofit at the college, which now partners with The Common Application to provide mentors.
“Unless you have a really high income, you’re going to need counseling and scholarship,” Carter explains. “And private advisers are very expensive, so we make it possible for any student who needs a mentor to get one by going to ustrive.com. “
The mentorship program takes place entirely online on the Strive for College website. The focus is on high school juniors and seniors, and topics covered in the mentoring program include college admissions, financial aid, and career exploration.
Carter says students can ask for help with the overall admissions process or something specific, like how to write an college essay.
Henderson works with a wide range of NCAN network partners to provide counseling resources online and in local communities.
“For students and families looking for specific guidance support, we really encourage you to look at your local community programs,” said Henderson, adding that while the organizations are not physically open, there are likely opportunities to connect online.
She notes that one of the bright spots coming out of the coronavirus pandemic is the increase in more online resources. But even that positive comes with an asterisk; students must have access to the Internet and the devices necessary to use these resources.
“We can talk about the reach of virtual boards and the benefits of reaching students en masse, but we can’t talk about that without talking about the limitations that exist as well,” said Henderson, adding that school districts are working hard to ‘expand connectivity. .
Know what matters in college admissions
Students without school counselors can begin the college application process by doing their research.
“It is essential to check the specific college websites because that is where you will find what is updated in terms of deadlines, in terms of admission criteria,” said Henderson, noting that admissions to the colleges are governed by the calendar. “You really have to stay on top of the frequent checking of schools’ websites to see what they are doing and how they go about this process, especially in this current pandemic. “
She adds that some colleges have deployed chatbots to help answer students’ questions quickly.
Students should exercise due diligence, she says, and be prepared to ask questions at the admissions office – but check the college’s website for answers first. Henderson encourages applicants to ask questions about student supports, distance learning, and virtual classes.
And if a student is baffled by something, he or she should reach out to the college.
“Don’t be shy. If something doesn’t make sense to you at a particular school, call them,” Carter says.
It also helps to know what matters most about college admissions. According to a 2019 survey by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the most important factors for colleges assessing freshmen are the grades of all courses, the grades of college preparation courses, and the strength of the student. a student’s high school program. Other important factors include ACT or SAT scores, academic trials, and demonstrated interest.
However, the coronavirus has forced colleges to rethink some of these factors, as some high schools upgraded to pass-fail grades last spring and several sessions of standardized testing were canceled. Experts say these developments are likely to reshuffle some admission factors and put more emphasis on academic essays and letters of recommendation.
Noting that many colleges have gone test-optional Due to the pandemic, Henderson encourages students to check these policies at every school. One resource for doing this, she says, is FairTest.org, which tracks college testing policies and lists them online.
Carter also encourages students to think critically about where they are applying to college and to take a close look at how a school serves their demographics. For example, first generation or low-income applicants may want to examine data such as the graduation and retention rates of students in these categories to determine how well a college meets their needs.
Finally, Carter recommends that a student find a community of peers, whether online or in person, when applying to college.
“No one should have to go through this process alone,” Carter said.