How Parents Are Becoming De Facto High School Counselors

I woke up this morning from a dream where I was frantically trying to get Rene into this college art class. …

Deep sigh …

Must be all the high-school/jr-high-school counseling I’ve been doing lately.

So why have I been playing high-school/jr-high-school counselor?

Well, because that’s just what moms do now. (You moms of juniors and seniors know what I’m talking about.)

Here’s what’s been on the agenda this spring:

  • Attending “welcome night” in the grade school MPR to select Nate’s electives for junior high next year.
  • Attending “open house” at the junior high for even more information and to figure out Nate’s electives. (Does he need a foreign language? What happens to when these trimester ones end? Will any of these put him behind in high school?).
  • Selecting high school electives for Rene next year. (Why can’t she get an art class? Does that mean she can’t take an AP art? Do all colleges require 2 years of foreign language? Does Health count as an elective? What if she plays sports?)
  • Overriding certain classes that Rene really wanted but didn’t get into. (Still trying to figure out the paperwork on this one.)
  • Sending Ricky’s transcripts to the schools he applied to, along with SAT scores and such.
  • Researching scholarship opportunities.

The thing that’s striking me through this entire spring is how much parents really need to be involved as de facto high school counselors. I mean, when we were all in high school, we had actual high school counselors. Our counselors met with us every semester, made sure we were taking the right courses, made sure we were passing them, helped us know what we needed for college, helped us know when to apply to colleges, found us scholarships if we needed them, sent our transcripts in for us, helped us apply to honors societies, etc. Our parents didn’t need to know all this stuff.

But now there are no counselors — they’ve all been laid off. Or a few remain, but there are like 2 counselors per 3,200 kids. So obviously they can’t meet with all the kids individually, and make sure they’re taking the right courses, or help find scholarships, or help kids find colleges. Now the parents are basically responsible for this.

Yep, that’s right. Cookie-baking moms like me are now scouring school web sites, trying to decipher requirements lists, looking at electives, taking best guesses. I go to the school events where they present to a large auditorium of parents as much information as they can. It’s really overwhelming. And really, I keep thinking I’m a college graduate and I find this overwhelming, so what about all the parents who aren’t even high school grads? How do they help their kids get into college? I worry it’s going to create a series of successive generations who just shrug and give up –both the kids and the parents, I mean — because there’s no one to guide them. I worry that it’s making college seem more and more elitist, which is not the original intent of public colleges. How many kids are slipping through the cracks these days?

And if college is not becoming elitist because it requires parents to get them there, it is certainly becoming elitist because of cost. As schools receive less funding each year, tuition goes up. And now a public college education costs as much as a small home. Our California schools are accepting fewer kids each year because of slashed funding, which is why our UC schools were turning down kids with higher-than-4.0 GPAs and raising rates on those they did accept. And our high schools are so short of funding that our district just put a limit on the number of classes kids can take, so they can’t take those AP classes or “extra” classes to get ahead, making them less competitive, overall, to get into college. … gah …

The whole education system seems really wacky right now. I can’t even picture what it’s going to look like in ten years.

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3 thoughts on “How Parents Are Becoming De Facto High School Counselors

  1. Wow, that doesn’t sound good! Our schools here have counselors that are split up between the students depending on grade and last name. They don’t call them in to “check up” on them, but are available for the kids when they want/need them. Our high school broke down into what they call SLCs (smaller learning communities) and that is supposed to help the kids get a better education focused on what they actually want to do in the future (bio-med, pathways of choice, arts and tech., etc) It is nice for the kids who know they want to be in the arts, or kids that want to become doctors, etc. Not all communities have a lot of classes to chose from in particular studies, though, so you have to be careful. Some might only have one math class to chose from and it might happen the same time as a different required class, so you have to make it up before or after school – it can be hard to figure out. My kids did the Pathways of Choice because it offered the most variety of classes needed to get into college. It definately is hard to figure it out sometimes! And like you said about college, I think it is sad that your home state schools are making it so difficult for good students to get in. It is hard enough as a parent to raise our kids to want to go to school, so to have them work hard all those years just to be turned down because of budget is sad! Like I said in an earlier post you had, University of Washington has turned down a lot of great students just so they can get out of state kids and their tuition! It really makes it hard for everyone! Good luck!!

  2. Dang…no counselors?! My high school guidance couselor was also my cross country and track couch and she was awesome at helping me with classes, college stuff, and scholarships. That is really such a shame that those resources are no longer available for students – especially since they are so valuable. I would venture to say that there are other, less important – less life-altering, areas that they could cut.

  3. Hi, Debi! I like that idea of the SLCs! Sort of like “preprogrammed tracks” to help kids stay on the right path. And it sounds like all the states are doing the same thing: realizing that out-of-state tuitions can help them raise some of the money they’re losing to budget cuts every year. I feel like something is going to have to change with colleges — I’m just not sure what. I read an article yesterday saying that a lot of kids are just opting out of college these days, plus 1 in 4 students is dropping out, so our future as a global economy is kind of slipping. It’ll be interesting. …

    Carrie — Sounds like you had a great counselor, too! Yes, I wondered the same thing, about cutting counselors. I wonder if they feel like all that info is online now — so why have counselors around just to round it up? But it really does leave a lot to parents now, and I wonder how many parents just bow out of the overwhelming nature of it?

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