Creating an Effective In-Class College Counseling Curriculum

A crucial component of any college counseling program is delivering in-class lessons to juniors and seniors to help them along their postsecondary planning process. Ideally, your counseling department already has a curriculum with lesson objectives related to career, academic, and personal/social standards, and a system for delivering those lessons to students. 

In this article, our expert college counselors have provided answers to some common questions on how to create an in-class curriculum that ensures every grade level stays up-to-date on upcoming deadlines, college application expectations, and other important aspects of post-graduation success.

Who should administer in-class lessons?

You can divide the lessons amongst all your counselors or choose one person–possibly your college culture expert–as the designated in-class instructor. The most appropriate division of labor depends on the size of your counseling staff and the existing responsibilities of each member; if only one counselor is in charge of this component of the college counseling program, make sure they have enough time and capacity to give it their all!

Where and when should counselors schedule the lessons?

In the midst of an already busy school year, it can be challenging to find counselor time and classroom time to reach students. Advisory or homeroom is a great time to connect with students about college applications, but those periods are often shorter and may not provide enough time for a full lesson. Every student has an English class, so consider borrowing that period a few times a year to ensure that every student receives your lesson.

What specific lessons should I plan for my curriculum?

The chart below shows one example of objectives, activities, and a delivery system for postsecondary planning lessons. You can also visit the American School Counselor Association website for more ideas!

How should I engage juniors in lessons?

Even though counselors should deliver most content via classroom visits, some one-on-one counseling is still important. Some counseling offices wait until senior year to meet individually with students, but by then, much of the college exploration, visits, and testing will have already taken place.

Consider scheduling a “college interview” one-on-one meeting with every junior. This will help counselors learn more about their postsecondary plans, with plenty of time to get tasks completed by graduation. A few ways to organize:

  • One counselor meets with all juniors
  • All counselors meet with an assigned group of juniors
  • If student caseloads are too large to make one-on-one counselor meetings feasible, consider leveraging advisory teachers to help meet with students

Inform students about the purpose of the interview well in advance, and communicate with parents and other stakeholders as well! They’ll be glad to hear you’re taking such an active role in helping their students succeed.

What do students typically need the most in-class instructional support for?

Many students find the admission/scholarship essay a particularly challenging and confusing aspect of the application process, so make sure to build it into your curriculum. Review do’s and don’ts, sample essays, and possible essay questions (Common App questions are usually posted by spring for the next school year).

Work with junior English teachers to incorporate essay writing into their curriculum as well. Some teachers will actually create a graded assignment, and have students write a personal narrative that they can then use to build their essay later on. Other teachers may create more informal journal assignments just to get them brainstorming. 

And be sure to follow up with students after your in-class lessons–otherwise, they may be tempted to procrastinate, thinking that college application season is a long way away. Emphasize to them that having a rough draft of an essay going into their senior year will help them minimize stress and get ahead in the application process!

What tools can I use to help facilitate my in-class lessons?

A robust college preparation, exploration, and application system like Transeo College can help your counseling staff plan lessons, manage counselor caseloads, and ensure every student (from freshmen to seniors) is prepared for equitable and relevant post-secondary success. To learn more, contact us today!