Five summer suggestions for high school counselors

If you’re a high school counselor about to embark on a well-deserved summer break, I hope you enjoy your downtime and a long-overdue chance to recharge your batteries.   But given that the vast majority of high school counselors I meet seem to never stop working for—and worrying about—their students, here are five summer suggestions that may benefit your work.  Pick based on what you think would work best for you and your particular students.

1.  Fill in a gap in your knowledge. 
Do you wish you understood more about financial aid, athletic recruiting, or colleges with the best learning disability programs?  Take the time this summer to learn as much as you can and eliminate what was once a self-described weakness in your counseling game.  You can certainly consider online counseling certification courses, but much of this knowledge can be gained just as easily, and far more cheaply, by reading a few  good books, blogs and articles.    

2.  Play to a strength.
What are you really good at or particularly knowledgeable about when it comes to your work with students?  Use the summer to figure out how you could put that strength to even better, more frequent use.  Let’s say you have a knack for calming parents down when they start to panic about the college process.  Maybe you could design a monthly workshop for parents to attend next year, or write a series of parent-only newsletters, or design a morning training session for your colleagues to share some of your best practices?  Which brings me to…

3. Share what you know.
Great counselors are also great sharers, always looking for ways to spread the informational wealth to other people who want to help kids.  Use the summer to prepare a presentation you could propose at your local ACAC affiliate conference.  Start a blog where you give away what you know so other counselors can benefit.  Plan a series of pancake breakfasts where every high school counselor in town is welcome to attend.  Sharing what you know multiplies your knowledge in a way that always seems to benefit the ones who need it most—the students.

4. Work for the future.
When you’re at your busiest during the school year, what do you always wish you had time to do?  Consider using the summer to do that work.  Sure, not everything can be done ahead of time.  But maybe you’ve always wanted to send out a series of weekly reminders to your college applicants, or brainstorm a new system for writing letters of recommendation, or review your seniors’ college results to see how that might influence your future guidance.  Summer might be a good time to attack those projects uninterrupted, making it much easier to put them to use during your busy time. 

5.  Enjoy your thinking and planning time.
It’s not easy to carve out quiet thinking and planning time during the school year with phone calls, emails and students needing your attention.  Take some time over the summer to enjoy the quiet time and reflect on what you do and how you do it.  It’s surprising how many great ideas you can generate with 1-2 hours of uninterrupted time, armed only with a pad of paper and a pen (there’s something about writing versus typing that stimulates creative juices).

And however you decide to spend your summer, I hope it involves doing things that are just for you, where you get to enjoy yourself, relax, and recharge.  Have a great summer, and thank you for all the work you do to help get students where they want to go.