Improving College and Career Readiness Training for School Counselors

At MCAN, we believe that school counselors are well poised to lead the charge in ensuring students are socially, academically, logistically and financially prepared for postsecondary education. School counselors are uniquely positioned to change the postsecondary education trajectories for all students. In order for counselors to effectively lead the college access movement in their buildings, however, they must have the (1) capacity, (2) administrative support, and (3) formal preparation in college counseling. While MCAN is actively working on #1 and #2 (stay tune for some pretty exciting developments coming this February!), we have rolled up our sleeves and got to work on #3 by ensuring school counselors get the training they need to be effective postsecondary educational planners.

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We know we can do better in Michigan – we heard that loud and clear from this 2011 survey of Michigan school counselors. We recently launched two strategies to support both in-service and pre-service school counselors. First, we created the School Counselor Postsecondary Education Planning Training Course in partnership with Michigan Association for College Admissions Counseling, Michigan Association of Collegiate Registrars & Admissions Officers, Michigan Student Financial Aid Association, Michigan Student Financial Services Bureau, Michigan School Counselor Association, Michigan Department of Education, Southern Regional Education Board, and Michigan Virtual University. In response to counselor feedback from the 2011 and 2012 National Survey of School Counselors published by the National Office for School Counselor Advocacy, we designed an innovative hybrid eight-month course teaching school counselors strategies to help students navigate the college-going process, including intensive training on college admissions and affordability. Exactly 81 school counselors completed the course in June 2014.

Here's just as sampling of the feedback we've received from graduates of the course:

"I truly enjoyed the course and would highly recommend it to others"

"This course if full of great resources. Along with the resources were great ideas for implementing them, in addition to hearing how they were being implemented by others."

"This course required me to think about how we were doing things and then utilize the resources to plan for a better way to build our counseling program. It left me with specific goals and timelines for implementing."

Our school counselors are beginning to demand this type of information and training. The inaugural run of the training has proven to be a successful tool for reaching current school counselors with the information; a second cohort kicked off in September of this year. The demand for the course was so great (the first 100 slots filled in 26 hours), we expanded the capacity of the course to include a total of 150 participants – and still have a waiting list (see interactive map here). The current course kicked off on September, 29th with a jam-packed day-long meeting.

Here is what a few counselors had to say about the course kick-off:

"Thank you for showing respect for school counselors by providing us the opportunity to network and obtain pertinent information to share with students and staff."

"Good networking stuff. At the tail-end of my career, I wish I could have had this opportunity years ago."

"I am actually looking forward to the homework! It's been a long time since I said that. Please thank the folks that fund this. I am so excited to have this great opportunity. It was great and I felt valued and pampered all at the same time! Thanks again."

In addition to the postsecondary planning training course for practicing school counselors, MCAN also provided grants (and loads of positive encouragement) to Wayne State University, Western Michigan University and Grand Valley State University to reform their School Counseling Graduate Programs. We're thrilled to share that Western and Wayne kicked off their new courses this fall and GVSU incorporated some new content into their existing curriculum.

Because of our bold actions, Michigan has been recognized as paving the way nationally in the effort to train school counselors. In July, Brandy was invited to join "The White House Opportunity Agenda," a task force led by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama that focused on the vital role of school counselors in impacting students' college and career readiness. Brandy also spoke at the White House's higher education summit in July. In November, a team comprised of MCAN staff and Michigan leaders in counselor training and education traveled to San Diego State University to focus on creating and implementing measurable action plans for improving school counseling preparation, programs, and practices with the goal of increasing college access for all students.

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Brandy knows first-hand the impact that school counselors have on students and families. She often recounts the instrumental role her high school counselor, Ms. Carmen Riedel, played in helping her ultimately go to college at Arizona State University back in 2001.

School counselors are an integral component of Michigan's college access strategy, and we won't meet our goals without them. We are honored to work side-by-side with counselors and hope you'll join us in supporting their needs to be effective postsecondary education planners.

For more information on the Postsecondary Education Planning Training Course, click here.

Jamie Jacobs headshot 2013Author:  Jamie Jacobs, director of professional development for the Michigan College Access Network

Posted: December 1, 2014

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