You may think of school counselors as just the people who distribute college pamphlets and send out transcripts. But in the contemporary educational environment, they actually play a vital role in the overall success of a student population.
School counselors are responsible for designing and implementing programs that target not only college or career preparedness but also overall academic performance and personal development, according to schoolcounselor.org. Requiring master’s degrees, school counselors are trained to deal with the developmental needs of a school’s specific age group and uphold the guidelines for ethics and professionalism as laid out by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). School counselors are also often involved with the American Counseling Association (ACA), which is a subset of the ASCA.
According to ASCA’s National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs, school counselors hold a unique position in the school as they advise students on both academic and behavioral affairs, but they do not teach or serve in any kind of administrative or disciplinarian capacity.
An infographic created by Counseling@NYU, which offers an online master’s in school counseling program from NYU Steinhardt, suggests that student access to the specific tools provided by a school counselor improves performance in three major areas: college readiness, academic outcomes, and social-emotional skills.
School counselors play an influential role in a student’s college plans. According to Counseling@NYU, students who work with school counselors or have access to college guidance have higher college application rates. Additionally, high school graduation rates rise more than 29 percent after schools uptake ASCA’s National Model.
Studies referenced by schoolcounselor.org also suggest that school counseling efforts can help address inequalities within student populations that can likely hinder marginalized students’ paths toward college. One study concludes that intentional school counseling work can contribute to reducing racial disparities in proportions of students enrolled in advanced placement classes, and another says that a culturally and language-appropriate counseling intervention can aid in reducing the achievement gap for Latino students with limited English proficiency.
School counselors can also play a key role in academic performance outside of college preparation. Schools with one counselor for every 250 students or less, for example, have 91 percent graduation rates, 94 percent attendance rates, and 2 percent discipline issue rates, according to Counseling@NYU. For elementary school students, small-group counseling improves failing grades by 83 percent.
A study performed on professional school counselors in Missouri suggests students with increased access to school counselors are more likely to perform successfully both academically and behaviorally, and that this could be particularly true for students in high-poverty schools.
Myriad investigations have looked into the ways school counselors influence students’ social-emotional skills and affect schools’ behavioral environments. School counselors have been suggested to improve attendance records, increase students’ feelings of connection to school, and serve as vital resources for students who face mental health issues.
The Counseling@NYU infographic displays that programs led by school counselors improve student abilities in cognition, attitude, self-regulation, behavioral, and social areas.
Pop culture depictions of school settings can mask the vital role school counselors play in ensuring student success. In reality, they work in tandem with teachers, school administrators, and parents to create a space where students can thrive academically, work toward college, and develop social-emotional skills that will carry them through their next chapters.
Alexis Anderson is a digital PR coordinator covering K-12 education at 2U, Inc. Alexis supports outreach for 2U’s school counseling, teaching, mental health, and occupational therapy programs.