When they aren’t meeting with students, they are giving talks on financial aid and test prep or proctoring a test at school. There’s never a dull moment in the life of a counselor.
Many are counseling students from different grade levels, meeting with parents, and helping students complete the college application process.
That’s why Robin Jasinski, a school counselor at West Bend East High School in Wisconsin, says the preparation is crucial.
With student conferences taking up the majority of the day, school counselors like Jasinski only have about two hours to deal with other daily demands.
She has some advice that works for her school and helps focus on the students’ futures. Jasinski and her colleagues have been working at perfecting their approach for years, and it’s paying off.
“It gets a little bit easier every year,” she says. “It’s a big push from the beginning and then we can breathe and get ready for next year.”
And counselors can’t do it alone – it’s a team effort with support from staff members, teachers, parents and the students.
So here’s her recipe for success:
I think our biggest secret is keeping organized, she says. We are planning now for next year, updating materials to present from and to share with students.
Counselors are able to meet one-on-one with parents and students, conducting more than 200 individual meetings a year. In some schools this would be unheard of – resources aside – because there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day. But that’s where the pre-planning comes into play. “You won’t do it unless you schedule time for it,” she says. Her entire month of August is focused on prepping for the year ahead.
Plus, they’ve learned some shortcuts along the way. For instance, counselors work on career exploration with students, using online research and resources to check out options and find a good fit. This information is constantly updated as counselors meet with students – by doing the paper work as you go, Jasinski says it keeps the meeting productive and moving forward and it reduces the amount of post-meeting paperwork you have to do.
Find time to meet
It’s very strategic in terms of how her time is spent. The entire department meets weekly. “We find that helps us keep connected,” Jasinski says. “We don’t get a lot of time to chat.”
So they meet one hour a week to try to catch up on loose ends and report on progress. But even those meetings aren’t always enough. That’s why the department purchased a white board where counselors and staff can list things that come up to address at the meeting. It’s a sort of working agenda to ensure nothing falls between the cracks.
Help each other out
“We help each other a lot,” she says. It’s very seldom that all three counselors have a parent meeting at one time. If there’s a crisis and we’ve got a parent waiting in the waiting room – we have to see that parent because they’ve taken off of work,
Everybody’s willing to help out. Administrators help, too. Counselors often rely heavily on support staff for scheduling and sending out reminders to students.
“It takes a lot of work. We’re busy from morning to night and sometimes longer,” Jasinski says. But she’ll also be the first to tell you it’s worth every minute!