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Career Story: High School Guidance Counselor

High School Guidance Counselor

Job Title: Guidance Counselor High School

Type of Company: I work for an urban school district in southeastern Massachusetts.

Education: BA, Sociology, Boston College •• Masters of Social Work, Boston College •• Head of Guidance certification, Bridgewater State College (Bridgewater, MA)

Previous Experience: I worked as a specialized foster parent coordinator for two years and then as a guidance counselor in an elementary school. I also did counseling at a local community center.

Job Tasks: As a high school guidance counselor, my main job is to keep kids in school and see that they graduate in four years. With the seniors, a main focus is seeing them through the college application process. We start with a group meeting at the end of their junior year and resume with 1:1 counseling sessions in the fall. With the junior class, we begin to look at colleges, but also make sure they are taking the appropriate courses. Colleges like to see rigorous course selections. The sophomore class focuses on passing the state graduation test. We make sure that they have taken the necessary prep courses and that they're prepared to pass the MCAS test (a statewide assessment of educational ability and progress). With the freshman class, it is important to help with the transition from middle school to high school. Along with these class expectations, we are there to make sure that the student as a whole is cared for. Outside therapy referrals, contact with local service agencies, homeless issues, are just a few examples of other things that you may face as a high school guidance counselor.

It is important to understand that you are the person responsible for all aspects of a student's four years. You play an integral part in course selection and steering them in the right direction for the right colleges, making sure that they have signed up for the SAT test and that applications are sent in on time.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is the connection you make with the students. It is rewarding and challenging. Some students are there to make the best use of their time and to do well in school; while others are there to have a good time and seem not to care about their studies. The rewarding part is to see that the "difficult" students make it through and that the "focused" students get into the college of their choice.

The most difficult part of the job is the fact that you are working with teenagers. It can be difficult to balance the drama they bring into your office and help them re-focus on what the priority needs to be. Another difficult part is dealing with the wishes of the administration. There will be times when you are asked to do things that you may not fully agree with.

Job Tips: While preparing to be a guidance counselor, remember that your life experiences shape how you view situations and that the person you are dealing with may not see things the same way. When in college, take as many classes as you can about data collection. Everything is data-driven in a school system and the more knowledgeable you are about this, the better off you will be. In most situations, guidance counselors are the primary communicator between parents, teachers and other folks involved in a student's life. You must be a great communicator and a team player.

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