Developing Effective Programming for High School Students and Families

School counselors can plan events to help kids feel at ease while preparing for college, while also informing parents and guardians.

Offering college-focused programming at your school is an excellent method to meet the requirements of a large number of kids and their families. These events are relatively simple for novice counselors to organize and are both useful and engaging for your community.

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I work as part of a counselor team that serves about 1,400 students in a major suburban town. The parents of the pupils are very supportive and involved in the educational process. To meet the requirements of our community, we provide grade-level programming. We made a movie for students and parents last year to help them understand the college application process. We introduced recording choices during the epidemic, which we continue to use. Each grade level will have a school counselor program manager this year to supervise curriculum and preparation.

HOLD EVENTS FOR NEW AND RETURNING STUDENTS AND PARENTS

Freshman orientation: Before the school year begins, new ninth-grade students are greeted with enthusiasm and given a tour of the building with a group of students in grades 10-12. Students engage in icebreaker games, go through their schedules, learn more about our community’s culture, and hear anecdotal experiences from existing students. Upper-class students greet new 10th- through 12th-grade students on the same day.

Parents’ meeting for ninth grade: During the first month of the academic year, we host a ninth-grade informational meeting for parents at 8:00 a.m. This conference offers parents a year plan and a brief description of the high school experience, including graduation requirements, clubs and activities, the counselor’s role, support resources, standardized testing, and an opportunity to ask questions.

After the meeting, parents can also say hello to their children’s school counselor—a personalized approach is always beneficial and welcomed. We strive to schedule this discussion before our open house event to alleviate parents’ concerns regarding their children’s transition to high school. Despite the fact that it is an early-morning session, more than 100 parents generally attend. If parents are unable to attend the live event, it can be recorded.

Meet and greet to welcome you back: The 10th-grade year begins with a meet-and-greet in our auditorium for parents and students. As students transition from the ninth-grade counselors who worked with them for one year, the school counselors are meeting the 10th-graders and families for the first time. A PowerPoint presentation is included in the overview, and each counselor gives their best advice and suggestions for parents. The schedule includes transcript development, career exploration, graduation requirements, the résumé, getting engaged, and year-end suggestions.

OFFER HANDS-ON COLLEGE WORKSHOPS FOR STUDENTS AND PARENTS

Meetings for college search: In late August, parents and kids are invited to small group sessions with their school counselor where they will receive a timeline for the college search, application recommendations, and the opportunity to ask key questions. This class is typically held from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Counselors visit Senior English classes in September, shortly after students begin the academic year, for application boot camp. Students work on their college applications on their Chromebooks for 43 minutes while counselors answer queries. Counselors share useful information and offer advice on how to get letters of recommendation from professors, write an application essay, and take standardized tests. If students have any further questions after the seminars, they can meet with their counselor.

Keynote speakers in college workshops: When my daughter was a junior in high school, I realized how intimidating, confusing, and frustrating the college search process might be. After years of working on college and high school campuses, coaching parents and students through the process, having my own daughter was a completely different experience. She wasn’t looking forward to visiting colleges, and working on her essays and applications had effectively become a part-time job for her.

Our junior family night is one of our most popular programs in the late fall. This useful and educational activity is often attended by over 350 parents and students. The event features a compelling keynote speaker as well as multiple sessions on college visits, public and private institutions, financial assistance, navigating the college search process, and résumé writing.

Consider visiting reps at your high school or attending local college fairs. In addition, get suggestions from other counselors in your network. We have excellent ties with college officials, who look forward to this evening program each year. The evening is an opportunity to deconstruct the application process, exchange facts and a doable timeframe, and talk about standardized testing. Parents leave with a plan of action to help their children with their college search.

You can also plan programs that showcase occupations, job searches, the gap year, trade schools, and military possibilities. A colleague at a local school offers hourlong seminars for students during the day to learn about trades, internships, and careers to showcase trades and work prospects. They invite an engaging member of a local plumbers’ union, who delivers information about post-secondary options. In addition to the above-mentioned programs, we have organized very successful daytime employment fairs and evening college fairs.

 

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