A (High) School Counselor's Step by Step Guide to Implementing Career Readiness for Students
According to the NCES (National Center for Education Statistics), a massive 19.7 million students were projected to get enrolled at U.S. colleges in fall 2020. In the U.S., the number of college students has increased significantly over the years and NCES’s 2020 Condition of Education report found that 69% of 2018 high school graduates attended college immediately.
This increased post-secondary attendance can be attributed to the career advantages that owning a post-secondary degree can bring your way. However, students need the help and guidance of school counselors to become knowledgeable about the workplace and be equipped with the necessary skills (including technical skills as well as soft skills) to compete successfully to create lucrative and stable careers in today’s extremely competitive world where millions like them are in the race. However, since physical counselors usually have to handle a pile of workload and are pressed for time, they can make their tasks a little easier and faster with the help of an online career readiness tool for students like CounselHero.
Let’s take a deeper look into how a school counselor can help students get career-ready.
1- Role of Counselors at Different Stages of Education
One of the primary duties of counselors is to develop their students’ college dreams and aspirations – right from kindergarten through 12th grade. When it comes to the elementary school counselors, their role is to create early awareness together with the necessary knowledge and skills that act as the groundwork for the academic rigor and social development essential for college and career readiness. A simple instance is where a high school student plans to choose Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus, for which he must complete algebra early, by the end of eighth grade. To achieve this goal, the student should be reading proficiently by third grade.
Middle school counselors have their jobs cut out to generate opportunities to help their students explore and deepen their college and career knowledge. Additionally, they help in building and strengthening their students’ skills required for planning their academic careers and setting goals that align with their planned career path.
With the help and guidance of their high school counselors, students can access college and career pathways that encourage the complete realization of their career goals and pave the path to an extensive range of potential career options.
When considered together, the role of counselors at all these different stages are the building blocks of students’ college and career readiness. It’s the efforts of school counselors that build on each other all through the K-12 pipeline, thus ensuring the individual components strengthen one another. Since what the students learn, become aware of, and acquire during this entire period involves multiple interconnected components, laying a strong foundation for them would ensure these students are wired for improvements in multiple areas of their professional lives.
2- Enhance Students’ leadership Skills and Take Steps for Increased School Engagement
School counselors use data to execute effective interventions that result in change. They leverage their students’ data to plan suitable and enrichment activities for them, which keep them engaged and motivated. They also work together with others like parents, teachers, school administrators, etc. to identify students’ requirements, put into practice evidence-based interventions, and assess progress toward results that are advantageous to their students’ success and development. The counselors ensure their students not just have improved school engagement but get the most suitable opportunities that boost their leadership skills.
Doing all these become somewhat easier when they’re based on data. Using their data-based decision-making skills, school counselors can identify, implement, and assess evidence-based programs and practices. This way, they can help students make the right choices to build skills and gather relevant knowledge that aligns with their career goals. They also help students spot opportunities that would help them work on their leadership skills and get better. But since human counselors are often overburdened and may not be able to offer all students one-to-one guidance and counseling sessions, they should think about effective tools to fill the gap. And with an online career readiness tool for students like CounselHero, they can find an effective solution to their problems.
3- Deliver Adequate Motivation
To get their students career-ready, counselors need to motivate students to take up challenging courses. However, this may be difficult, because taking up challenges could mean bringing some necessary changes in their behavior, attitude, the process of learning, etc. – all of which take time and persistence. To speed up such changes, counselors need to offer their assistance and support to their students while helping them stay motivated.
To get students motivated, the focus shouldn’t be just on the relationship between their self-perception and academic performance. Rather, motivational strategies should address the cognitive and behavioral aspects of each individual. Thus, for school counselors, it becomes important to ensure their students
- can see the relevance of new skills or materials in their own lives;
- are self-initiated to learn and take on new challenges as any change is most effective when it comes from within;
- understand the positive impact their learning experience will have on the individual’s behavior;
- have a self-evaluation mechanism to assess their progress rather than just relying on external tools like grades and the teacher’s praise; and
- overcome the fear of taking up something new and challenging by stepping out of their safety cocoons.
Student motivation can be triggered through different ways. For instance, school counselors can encourage students to get actively involved in courses and tasks. Trying to achieve the desired results in these courses or tasks would help students get a sense of ownership, which would make them feel good after having successfully accomplished the task, thus boosting their engagement further.
Offering incentives or rewards to encourage the students to push themselves further and making reasonable demands as well as setting achievable goals are other ways to motivate students. Breaking the monotony by helping students choose topics or learning approaches that bring some welcome variety could be another great way to motivate students. For instance, counselors could encourage students to take up activities, programs, or subject matters where enriching elements like colorful charts, audio and video, etc. are used to ensure they stay engaged and away from getting bored.
4- Help Students Make Informed Choices and Decisions
With changing times, a lot of changes have come in technological advancements as well as in the people and how they work. All these changes challenge individuals to transform and adapt to new ways of living and working. Thus, it becomes extremely important for school counselors to enlighten students about the recent scenario with respect to modern technologies, the overall job market and existing job opportunities in specific fields, qualifications and skills in demand, responsibilities involved in different types of jobs, etc. Having such knowledge and clarity would help students have clear occupational goals and make informed decisions to chart out their career path.
For instance, school counselors can motivate students to take advanced placement courses, which would encourage them to lay a strong academic foundation. By being enrolled in such courses, students can not only get exposure to college-level materials and obtain college credit but even develop intellect and career capacity with respect to communication skills, critical thinking, innovative problem solving, and technology skills, among others.
School counselors can even help students assess their college readiness by meeting them and discussing their level of college-ready skills. Additionally, school counselors can encourage students to use online tools for exploring colleges and the courses they offer along with visiting some of the short-listed college campuses. Doing these will help the students get a realistic view of what their college life would be like in case they choose to take up specific courses in a specific college or university.
It’s among the counselor’s duties to facilitate workshops that address different aspects of college entrance examinations, such as the application process, test formats, and scoring, to name a few. They should also make the students aware of the types of scholarships and federal aids available to them (say, the FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid). From the types of aids and scholarships to the eligibility criteria, process of applications, resources that students can consider to pay for college, and loan repayment options – counselors can help students find the information they need. And once the students have the necessary details at hand and a clear idea of the different aspects involved, they can make an informed decision about their career choices. Making the right career choice is important because unless the right steps are taken, students won’t be able to pursue their future aspirations successfully.
To make their jobs a little easier and faster, an online career readiness tool for students such as CounselHero can be a great option to use for physical counselors. By helping students explore details about career paths and look at a wide range of colleges and their programs to make the right choice, such a tool can make the counselor’s job of getting the students career-ready no longer seem Herculean.
5- Get the Students’ Families Involved
Parental and family involvement is crucial for improving students’ educational outcomes and academic success. Such involvement would also encourage better behavior and peer interaction, increased attendance, higher graduation rates, as well as improved test scores and grade point averages. Thus, it becomes important for school counselors to plan and implement comprehensive strategies, which are culturally relevant as well, in K-12 schools and community settings. This way, they can build partnerships among the family, school, and community to enhance students’ academic preparation, build their college aspirations, and help them and their families with college planning and financial aid information, which would help the students get successfully enrolled in colleges and universities of their choice. To encourage parent involvement, counselors should implement outreach strategies, say for collaborating with Latino and African-American student families.
Since the involvement of students’ parents and families is critical for the students’ success, counselors should try to organize parent workshops. Different topics can be addressed in such workshops, some of which could be an emphasis on the importance of parental involvement, the necessary steps to prepare for the transition after high school graduation, college and career readiness, details of FAFSA, and facilitating access to resources for college planning. Counselors could either conduct individual meetings, group meetings, or a balanced blend of both with parents from time to time. This would help in opening the channels of communication and build a relationship based on trust.
Building trust is important for the active involvement of parents and families to enhance the students’ career readiness. Some parents may shy away from interacting with school counselors or getting actively involved in their child’s academic matters due to their adverse past experiences with counselors. But they need to be reminded how their own experiences could be vastly different from what their child will have. Today, school counselors are certified and specially-trained mental health professionals, who use targeted counseling programs with a focus on wellness and prevention to meet the requirements of all students, not just a few. Typically, such counseling programs address three broad areas, namely academic, career, and social/personal. By mediating, advocating, consulting, coordinating, and collaborating with students’ parents and families, professional school counselors help students understand themselves better and find the most suitable career path. In case reaching out to a physical counselor becomes tough, students can also rely on an online career readiness tool for students such as CounselHero. With such automated counselors, they would not just be better prepared to chart their career paths but even get their families involved to share important information and career progress.
6- Facilitate Self-Discovery of Students
Historically, the primary responsibility of school counselors has been to help students get ready for the transition to college and/or careers. And to choose the right path, it becomes important that the students learn about their inner qualities, skills, interests, and more. It’s with all these pieces of information that a student can understand which career paths or courses or colleges align with his/her intrinsic abilities and skills as well as future aspirations to make the right choice. School counselors can facilitate such self-discovery by providing the students with comprehensive, accurate, and personalized guidance for career and college planning.
An instance could be how school counselors help students take ownership of their learning via self-discovery. Once the students know themselves better, they can figure out what they need to learn, the special things they want to learn, and the most suitable way to manage their learning processes to ensure they are able to achieve positive results. Such self-discovery helps the students recognize the power of making choices about their learning and take responsibility for such choices. Such ability and confidence will help them be prepared for successful and fulfilling lives. By knowing their own self better and assuming the ownership of their learning, students no longer remain a passive recipient of information. Rather, they become transformed into active participants, who can identify and chase learning outcomes that would have the maximum impact on their lives and future success.
Today, there’s an ever-expanding range of learning options available after high school. Thanks to the rapid technological advances and the fast-changing demands of the workforce, students these days are increasingly depending on counselors to know about their own selves better. From assuming ownership of their learning and finding the right approach to their educational path, they rely on counselors a lot. It’s important to note that the role of counselors too has changed. From educator-driven learning, they now focus on student-driven learning and act as facilitators and coaches who guide students in their self-discovery as well as decision making and learning rather than making decisions for them. Instead of telling students what they should do, counselors today help students get useful insights into their own selves and focus on self-reflection to find the most suitable learning and career pathways. This way, they ensure their students are on the road to the highest level of achievement.
Unlike following the path of least resistance and sacrificing growth and development to a great extent, self-discovery paves the way for students to become self-directed individuals. And these individuals are capable of actively managing their own lives, learning, and careers rather than being passive spectators. School counselors can use an online career readiness tool for students like CounselHero to facilitate students’ self-discovery.
7- Proper Alignment of Choices with Passions and Interests
Choosing your majors, finding a college or university, or selecting the courses aren’t decisions that you can take blindly or without any planning and preparation. Because if you, you would soon feel bored or overwhelmed. Sometimes, such misalignment could have a worse effect as it may not just make you completely miserable but even trigger physical illness, depression, or even suicidal thoughts. All of these could ultimately force you to quit the course and start again from scratch with a new course and college. This would eat into your precious time and effort, not to mention the significant wastage of money. To avoid getting in such a situation, you need to understand where your passions and interests lie, and make career choices that align with them.
Studies show that during their undergraduate studies, college students change their majors four times on average. Additionally, millions of college graduates have no idea what they really want to do after college or aren’t even aware of their career options to begin with. As a result, they enter the job market without knowing if their chosen career is really right for them. This is where school counselors can help.
Though there’s adequate information out there in terms of the career options one can choose or ways to select courses matching his/her passion and interests, they don’t often reach the students. Sometimes, students may not know where to find such information or what type of resources they can use to access the information they need to make the right career choices at the right time.
School counselors can help their students navigate these stressful learning and career decisions by helping them access essential information, find helpful resources, take career aptitude and skill tests, discover the most suitable courses, majors, and careers, among others. These counselors could also recommend internships, additional courses, and volunteer opportunities that may help students strengthen their learning and career goals cement or even redefine them if the need be.
8- Why Use Online Career Readiness Tool for Students
School counselors often have so much to handle on their own that they end up sacrificing their primary job – giving proper and timely guidance to the students. But they need not strive to be superhumans and feel either stressed or unsuccessful. They can simply use an online career readiness tool for students like CounselHero to make their tasks a little easier while ensuring their students have all the information, guidance, and help they need readily available to them to make the right career choices.
When counselors use a tried and tested online career readiness tool for students like CounselHero, it can provide different useful features in the school counseling software. Such features would help students navigate college searches; explore career options with respect to colleges and universities, the courses offered, majors they can choose, the duration, course fees, etc; and plan their courses as well as career paths. With this automated tool, school counselors can plan a comprehensive 4-year curriculum and execute the different aspects related to it successfully. For instance, be it tracking and hosting student-counselor appointments, keeping up with upcoming events and deadlines, planning and announcing career fairs and events, or sharing, distributing, or publishing important files, counselors can do all of them with an online career readiness tool for students like CounselHero.
Such a tool can ensure the school counselors never leave their students alone – without help, in their most pressing hours of need. At the same time, they let students become stress-free, knowing they have all the information they need within easy reach to become career-ready and make the right choices that will let them embark on a successful and fulfilling career as well as life. So, start using a reliable and effective online career readiness tool for students like CounselHero today.