You Need A College Counselor
I often times joke that over-thinking is my super power. So I have been using my super power to think about who needs a college counselor and why and putting these thoughts in a few manuals: for students; parents and families; K-12 school districts; and colleges & universities. I’ve also been playing with the idea of creating something for large companies. As you know, we all can easily say there is an issue with the outcomes and maybe I’ll say, productivity, in public education. Yet we are quick to point the finger to someone else: Universities say it’s the fault of K-12 for not preparing students; K-12 schools say it would probably be easier to just prepare students for work because college is expecting too much; Large companies say they have to go abroad because students are not prepared well enough in the United States; and families are wondering what is happening.
But imagine something different.
One of the great things about living in the Bay Area is that we are surrounded by alternative thinkers in various fields. It’s way outside of my wheel house but I really enjoy reading anything I can get my hands on as it relates to design thinking. Designers take a problem and use the tools available to solve the problem right then and there. Sometimes they agree on what the problem is before getting to work; sometimes they let people know that the problem is something way different than they thought. I remember reading something from Steve Jobs where he said we would have been perfectly content with the portable CD player, having to carry all those CDs, skipping all the time, and being too large to fit in your pocket. We probably thought, well at least it is better than a cassette player. Or worse, I’ll just wait for someone else to think of something better while the technology to create smaller phones, digital television, and whatever else was happening all around us. I absolutely love music. When I was in the Peace Corps and we had discussions about essential items to bring in case we had to evacuate the country, I actually went back to my luggage, emptied out my medical kit and filled it with CDs, rationalizing that enough people would have their medical kits and we would need Rage Against the Machine if faced with the apocalypse. Imagine if I had an iPod!? I could have survived the revolution and gangrene!
Now imagine that same sort of thinking being applied to schools and schooling. In education, we are taught to go with one method for as many students as possible for as long as possible. In a conversation with a colleague, I might say, “The unit on Haiti is pretty sparse.” And get a response such as, “Well, we’re getting new textbooks in about five years so maybe we update the curriculum then.” To which I respond, “Who cares about a textbook when it takes as long as it takes me to type ‘Haiti’ in a search engine to pull up thousands of articles? We can do that now, without waiting for textbooks.”
With regards to college, most teachers, families, workplaces, and students will say they know nothing about college. This is always shocking to me because in my near twenty years in education, I’ve had colleagues with degrees from Berkeley, Princeton, Stanford, UCLA, USC, Georgetown, Harvard, Cornell, and everywhere in between. If their experience is anything like mine, I know they are getting calls and letters from alumni associations regularly so even if they don’t know what it’s like there today, universities absolutely love to share swag and whatever else to help them find out.
With workplaces, is it really cheaper for Intel, Google, or Microsoft, to go halfway around the world to recruit and retain employees rather than creating programming in the high school down the street? Hard to believe.
Point is: design thinking looks at problems as all having viable solutions in the immediate future.
And that’s where I come in. 😉
There are a lot of college counselors out there and we all certainly have various strategies. One thing I’ve noticed about everyone else is that the strategy is applied to that one person, in that one scenario. But we know the lack of matriculation is systemic and there are quite a few systems in play here.
As an example, a friend of mine talked about how independent middle schools are pushing to have students take Geometry in grade 8 because studies are showing that most students in universities have taken Geometry by grade 9, at the latest. If I am hired by the family of a middle school student and as I am reviewing her transcript I see that she is ready to take Geometry in grade 9 and I absolutely don’t want her to fail, I may recommend a number of tutoring programs so that she does well in the course. But what if her school says she can not take Geometry then regardless of her readiness, most likely because it is full and they cannot afford to hire another teacher qualified to teach Geometry? I could recommend that student take Geometry in a community college, be super intimidated and lose the age-appropriate support she would receive at her school. Or I can work with the school myself, having worked in multiple public and private institutions, to think creatively about how to offer this young person Geometry. Sometimes this is how I coach families to advocate for themselves and ask the right questions to the right people. On rare occasions, I can make that contact myself especially if I happen to know someone who works there. In this situation, it is about asking the school to think differently about what drives curricula and course offerings: need or budget or a different combination of both?
Most people will then say they are not concerned about what happens with other students, just their own. And this is where I came up with the tagline I’ve been using thus far–creating a better student, not just a better applicant. In the above example, learning to advocate for oneself, understanding school structure to know who to talk to about various needs, is a major skill that should be applied throughout one’s life. A good college counselor, like any counselor, doesn’t want you to keep coming back with the same questions and problems. The next year when the English she needs is full, she should know what to do. When she is in college and needs a course to graduate, again, she knows what to do. And when she is in her workplace and needs something to advance to the next level, she knows what to do. It’s about knowing how and why the problem exists in order to appropriately address it.
So you need a college counselor and you is a lot of you.
I am able to take clients now for the remainder of this school year and the next. Usually 11th graders get wise around April or May and by then my hands start to be tied and I’m full so my preference is to start working with 11th graders in January of their Junior year. But I work with 7th graders all the way through college students and the institutions that house them all.
I offer scholarships and tiered pricing but there are limits to both options the later one inquiries.
If you would like to know more, please contact me and take a look at some of the services I offer here.