As a new class of students starts planning their futures, here are six valuable pieces of advice school guidance counselors can offer students:
1. Don’t Let Money Stand in Your Way
As a school guidance counselor it’s your job to help students get where they want to go. One of the biggest obstacles students face as they approach college application season is concern over the financial burden. Everyone knows that college can be expensive, and many students may have gotten it into their heads that the cost of higher education is an impasse between them and their ambitions.
This is a fallacy, and most students just need a little – well—guidance! Most school counselors will have a handy list of promising scholarships that students can apply for, as well as intimate knowledge of how to apply for and receive financial aid and student loans.
Many counselors, however, overlook recommending high-quality online universities to their students. This can be a great option for students looking for an affordable alternative to shelling out tens of thousands on tuition, as well as for students who want to start working after high school.
There are also about a hundred small ways that students can save money on the overall cost of college. One of the biggest “little” expenses for college students is textbooks. Luckily, there are a lot of great ways to get the books you need for free or for cheap.
Every counselor should have a handy list of “hacks” to save money on college. Here’s a great one from fastweb.com which has helpful suggestions like volunteering instead of going on an expensive spring break trip (students may pout, but their resumes and wallets will thank them later.)
2. Follow Your Bliss
Renowned scholar Joseph Campbell would tell all of his students the same piece of advice: “Follow Your Bliss.” When looking into colleges, many students are so bogged down thinking about cost, location, and logistics that they forget to consider what they want.
The only problem with the “follow your bliss” mentality is that many students in high school don’t yet know what their bliss is. Step one, tell them to relax and assure these students that it is perfectly acceptable to be unsure of one’s entire future at age eighteen. Step two, help students turn this big question into a more manageable one by breaking it down.
Guidance counselors can ask a series of questions to help students start thinking about what path they want to follow in life. The point of these questions is not necessarily to churn out an answer, but rather to get students thinking constructively about their futures.
Ask questions about what they have enjoyed studying so far in High School, or what they wish they could have studied but didn’t have the chance. Ask them what they hate doing the most at school and what they love doing the most when they’re not at school. Ask them if they like thinking creatively, working with people or working independently, working with their hands or working with computers.
Their answers will start a dialogue and give student counselors a better sense of how to help.
3. You Can Study Anywhere
One thing that can get students really excited about their education is the prospect of moving to a new place. Whether its East Coasters dying to soak up the sun in California or Midwesterners dreaming of studying in the Big Apple, this can be a great way for school counselors to access student’s enthusiasm and motivation.
Remind students that they can study anywhere they want, even outside of the country.
There is a flipside to this, however. For every student, excited to go set up camp in a new city or country, there is a student who is dismayed because the educational opportunities he or she wants are not in the location he or she needs to be in.
Remind these students that they can study anywhere. Online Universities offer the chance for students to pursue their degree while being anywhere in the world that they want, or need, to be.
4. Make Quality Choices
No matter what path your students are embarking on, stress to them that they should make quality choices. Whether choosing an online university or an on-campus education, find a place that puts a premium on educational excellence.
Make sure students are looking into accredited programs only so that their degrees will truly be worth the effort they put into them.
5. Get Prepared
Many students find themselves overwhelmed during their first years of higher education. Things like living alone for the first time, as well as increased coursework, can overwhelm students and cause big setbacks for freshmen. As a guidance counselor, the best thing to do for students in this regard is to prep them. Don’t sugarcoat the difficulties of college. Be honest about the tough parts, and they’ll trust you even more when you tell them about the rewarding and exciting parts.
Encourage them to start practicing better organizational and time management skills now, while they’re still in high school. Perhaps recommend getting a part-time job to learn about responsibility, independence, and also to save up a little money for late night study coffees from Starbucks.
Here’s a great online resource for students looking to get prepared for college.
6. You Can Do It
The most important thing a guidance counselor can offer, however, is faith. Get behind your students. Help them figure out what they want and want it for them just as much. They’ll feel your confidence in them and it will make all the difference.