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Improvements in college counseling are underway

Brandy Johnson and Patrick O'Connor

High school seniors who are starting the college application process may be feeling stressed about their futures right now, and according to a recent poll, they aren’t alone.

The Center for Michigan has just released the results of a yearlong survey of Michigan residents that found 2 out of 3 participants rated college and career counseling as either “lousy” or “terrible.” Even more sobering is the finding that 54 percent of the K-12 educators who participated gave these same ratings to the counseling efforts of Michigan’s schools.

The center’s work focuses on key areas where college and career counseling could be improved. And steps are well underway to help more Michigan students make strong college and career decisions.

First and foremost, better training in college and career advising needs to be offered to every school counselor. While some counselors have received some training in this area, the consistency and quality of that training needs to be dramatically improved- and progress is already being made toward that goal.

In the last three years, the Michigan College Access Network has trained more than 300 Michigan counselors in a free yearlong professional development program in college and career advising, while the Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling has worked with state Rep. Brett Roberts to introduce legislation that would ensure all counselors are proficient and up-to-date in college and career counseling skills.

Community conversation participants also recognized that too much of a school counselor’s time is devoted to schedule-changing, testing and administrative duties that have little to do with actual counseling.

And polling results confirm the long-known fact that Michigan’s school counselors simply have too many students on their caseloads.

It has never been more important to help Michigan students make strong career and college decisions.

Brandy Johnson is executive director of the Michigan College Access Network. Patrick O’Connor is co-chair of government relations for the Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling.