Back-to-school season can be an extremely stressful period for school counselors. The first few weeks of school are inundated with tasks: schedule changes, new student registrations, last-minute IEP meetings, staff meetings, and more create long work days.
To avoid feeling frantic and overwhelmed, many counselors begin planning well in advance for their next school year. With strategic timing, counselors can balance their workload throughout all 12 months of the year to minimize stress and ensure that everything goes smoothly. In this blog post, our college counseling experts have put together a year-long timeline of the most crucial tasks that should be completed every month.
- Make a final push for seniors to finish local scholarship applications.
- Many colleges and universities host great summer programs for underclassmen. Some of these programs are very expensive, but there are organizations like the Joyce Ivy Foundation that provide scholarships for qualified students. In February, start advertising these programs in newsletters and bulletin boards, and call qualifying students into your office to encourage them personally.
- Juniors should start planning their postsecondary application process. Schedule a classroom lesson to make sure all students have the information they need. February of junior year is also a good time to meet one-on-one with students, without an imminent deadline looming.
- Continue junior interviews. Document students you couldn’t reach and why.
- Host an NCAA night for grades 9-11. If prospective college athletes wait until senior year to learn about eligibility, it will be too late.
- Coordinate AP exams: add exam dates to the school calendar and post signs around the school. Email teachers, parents, students, secretaries, and other staff to make sure everyone has visibility. Encourage teachers to practice, practice, practice! They should go over not just exam content, but locations, what to bring, testing tips, etc.
- Students receive many admissions decisions from colleges in April. Counselors should make themselves available to meet with students to discuss their options and go over their financial aid packages.
- May 1 is College Decision Day! Make it a celebration, with custom t-shirts, pictures, announcements, and in-class festivities.
- Host honors night and graduation.
- If possible, get a head start on scheduling next year’s classroom lessons and evening programming.
- Gather end-of-year data reports on the success of your counseling program (college-going rate, participation across all segments of your student population, programming attendance, etc.). A robust software platform like Transeo College can help you easily track and present this data!
- Write a summer newsletter for students and parents, sharing highlights from the year and upcoming events for the fall.
- Update all college information handouts you use for students.
- Book in-class lessons: work with senior teachers to choose the best spot for your senior lesson and schedule it for early September. Senior English classes usually work best if your school doesn’t have an advisory or homeroom period.
- Schedule parent and evening programming (for FAFSA night, admissions Q&As, etc.). Choose evenings that are generally free for your school and community (many communities avoid Wednesday nights). Make sure to reserve any tech equipment you’ll need.
- Write announcements for school newsletters, including all testing dates, parent events, any test prep your school uses, application platform information, etc.
- Present college application lessons in senior classrooms.
- Meet with seniors individually if possible for questions and concerns. Encourage students to make appointments for a block of time when you can give them your full attention.
- Host important senior parent events like Senior Night, College/Career Fair, and AP Parent Night early in the school year. Advertise everywhere you can, including a recorded voice phone call and/or texts to parents.
- Schedule dates for local college admissions reps to visit your school and meet with students.
- Begin writing counselor recommendation letters (see our recent blog post for tips on creating persuasive letters).
- Continue appointments with seniors who need assistance.
- The PSAT is an important exam qualifying juniors for the National Merit Scholarship. Advertise exam dates in classrooms, through announcements, and via parent emails. Encourage sophomores to take it as practice. Many districts pay the fee for all juniors to take the test for free, or ask your district foundation to pay for the exam.
- Deliver an in-class lesson to seniors about financial aid and scholarships. For more information, see our post on helping your students with the FAFSA and financial aid.
- Set a target date in November by which seniors should have submitted at least one letter of recommendation.
- Host workshops for first-generation students, low-income students, and minorities to share information about selective programs and scholarships.
- Continue writing counselor recommendations.
- Distribute and advertise local scholarships.
- Announce that PSAT results are available to students in their College Board testing account. Create written directions or a video to explain how to access and interpret the scores. Meet individually with students who score above the 96th percentile to talk to them about National Merit Scholarships.
- Deliver an in-class lesson to sophomores about getting started with postsecondary planning.
- Host parent nights for freshmen, sophomore, and junior parents.
The job of a college counselor is never easy–but with a clear timeline and a robust college application platform like Transeo College, you can ensure that every student has equitable access to postsecondary education. For questions or to learn more, contact us today!