The Counselor's Role: Supporting Students

Today's young people are living in an exciting time, with an increasingly diverse and mobile society, new technologies, and expanding opportunities. To help ensure that they are prepared to become the next generation of parents, workers, leaders, and citizens, every student needs support, guidance, and opportunities during adolescence, a time of rapid growth and change. Adolescents face unique and diverse challenges, both personally and developmentally, that impact academic achievement.

Secondary School Students' Developmental Needs

High school is the final transition into adulthood and the world of work as students begin separating from parents and exploring and defining their independence. Students are deciding who they are, what they do well, and what they will do when they graduate. During these adolescent years, students are evaluating their strengths, skills and abilities. The biggest influence is their peer group. They are searching for a place to belong and rely on peer acceptance and feedback. They face increased pressures regarding risk behaviors involving sex, alcohol and drugs while exploring the boundaries of more acceptable behavior and mature, meaningful relationships. They need guidance in making concrete and compounded decisions. They must deal with academic pressures as they face high-stakes testing, the challenges of college admissions, the scholarship and financial aid application process and entrance into a competitive job market.

Meeting the Challenge

Secondary school counselors are professional educators with a mental health perspective who understand and respond to the challenges presented by today's diverse student population. Secondary school counselors do not work in isolation; rather they are integral to the total educational program. They provide proactive leadership that engages all stakeholders in the delivery of programs and services to help the student achieve success in school. Professional school counselors align and work with the school's mission to support the academic achievement of all students as they prepare for the ever-changing world of the 21st century. This mission is accomplished through the design, development, implementation, and evaluation of a comprehensive, developmental, and systematic school-counseling program. The ASCA National Standards in the academic, career, and personal/social domains are the foundation for this work. In the Lower Merion School District, this program is named GATE (Guidance and Transition Experience). The GATE curriculum is delivered to students primarily through small group and classroom instruction.

ASCA Student Standards guide the development of effective school counseling programs around three domains: academic, career and personal/social development.

  • Academic Advising: This incudes using data and collaboration with teachers to help students define and develop educational plans through course selection, advising students on high school programs and academic curriculum, and using resources to help students identify and access academic supports.
  • Personal/Social Counseling: This includes stress management, conflict resolution, crisis intervention, substance use counseling, grief counseling or any other direct services designed to meet students' immediate needs and concerns.
  • Career/College Counseling: This includes using career interest and personality style inventories to help students identify strengths, providing opportunities to learn about post high school options and providing support for the college application process.

Secondary School Counselors Implement the Counseling Program by Providing:

Classroom Guidance Lessons:

  • Identifying Academic skills support ( Freshman large group meetings)
  • Organizational, study and test-taking skills, ( Learning styles inventory)
  • Post-secondary planning and application process ( Junior GATE classes)
  • Career/College planning (College Career search)
  • Education in understanding self and others (Personality Styles Inventory)
  • Coping strategies, Mindfulness ( Mid-terms and Mindfulness)

Individual and Small group Student Planning:

  • Goal setting
  • Academic plans
  • Career plans, Career interest Inventories
  • Education in understanding of self, including strengths and weaknesses
  • Communication, problem-solving, decision-making, conflict resolution
  • Transition plans

Responsive Services

  • Individual and small-group counseling
  • Individual/family/school crisis intervention
  • Peer facilitation
  • Consultation/collaboration
  • Referrals

System Support

  • Professional development
  • Consultation, collaboration and teaming
  • Program management and operation

Secondary School Counselors Collaborate with:

Students
Academic support services
Program planning
Peer education program
Peer mediation program
Crisis management
Transition programs

Teachers
Portfolio development, providing recommendations and assisting students with the post-secondary application process
Classroom guidance lessons on post-secondary planning, study skills, career development, etc.
School-to-work transition programs
Academic support, learning style assessment and education to help students succeed academically
Classroom speakers
At-risk student identification and implementation of interventions to enhance success

Parents
Academic planning/support
Post-secondary planning
Scholarship/financial search process
School-to-parent communications
School-to-work transition programs
One-on-one parent conferencing
Referral process

Administrators
School climate
Academic support interventions
Behavioral management plans
School-wide needs assessments
Data sharing
Student assistance team development

Community
Job shadowing, worked-based learning, part-time jobs, etc.
Crisis interventions
Referrals
Career education

Why High School Counselors?

High school years are full of growth, promise, excitement, frustration, disappointment and hope. It is the time when students begin to discover what the future holds for them. Secondary school counselors enhance the learning process and promote academic achievement. School counseling programs are essential for students to achieve optimal personal growth, acquire positive social skills and values, set appropriate career goals and realize full academic potential to become productive, contributing members of the world community. The professional high school counselor holds a master's degree and required state certification in school counseling. Maintaining certification includes on-going professional development to stay current with educational reform and challenges facing today's students. Professional association membership is encouraged as it enhances the school counselor's knowledge and effectiveness.

To see more details by grade level, read the Year-by-Year Overview.