At our recent company meet-up, I announced our most ambitious, exciting initiative in 17 years, one that I’ll be leading at Collegewise in 2016.
We want to help train America’s college counselors.
After 17 years at Collegewise, we’re lucky to count dozens (and dozens) of high school counselors as our close friends and respected colleagues. We revere them for their extraordinary work in a job far more difficult than ours. They’re not just expected to counsel the student who’s failing geometry or who wants to switch English teachers. They’re also on the front lines supporting students who are struggling with emotional or psychological problems, abuse, family upheaval, conflict with students or faculty—the list goes on (and on). Just about every counselor we’ve met is an unrelenting advocate and voice for their student populations. They do more, and they do it better, than most people will ever know.
But where’s the college admissions training?
As high school counselor extraordinaire, Patrick O’Connor, explained in his article, Why You Should Celebrate National School Counseling Week (this is not an implied Collegewise training endorsement by Patrick):
When someone’s life slips or they don’t know where to turn, school counselors give them the space for grace and dignity to rebuild and strengthen their lives, all without fanfare. Sometimes, if you don’t know we’re doing our job, we’re doing our job pretty well. Of course, we aren’t perfect. Most of us work with 450 students at once, and some have twice that number. Since many principals think we should change schedules instead of lives, we don’t have as much time to help students as we’d like, and most of us were never — never — trained how to help students apply to college.
Learning on their own
Somehow, with all of those other responsibilities, high school counselors are also expected to guide students through the college admissions process. Yet most were never trained to do that part of the job. They had to learn it on their own, from colleagues, by studying and reading, and by attending conferences. It takes too much time and attention that they don’t have. Not every counselor needs training from Collegewise (plenty of veteran counselors like Patrick now do that part of the job as well or better than we do). But many more are still struggling to learn the complexities of college admissions on their own. We want to train those counselors.
Admissions and counseling training is at the core of our business. Every counselor who joins us completes an intensive 5-day training program. And that training never stops while they’re at Collegewise. From weekly Google Hangouts with each other to discuss their caseloads and timely webinars from our veterans on topics ranging from highly selective admissions to managing challenging families, to annual sessions at our company retreat, we’ve proven to be not just great learners, but also great teachers.
What do we plan to offer?
We don’t know yet what our specific offerings will be, but we’re considering many options. Some will be live in-person, some will be webinars, and some will be downloadable materials or videos. A few examples:
- Crash college admissions trainings for new counselors
- Advanced trainings for veteran counselors
- 1-hour trainings on specific topics like advising for standardized testing, advising athletes, and helping students find the right schools.
- Lists of our favorite counselor resources
- Highly selective college admissions featuring our counselors who worked at those schools
- Counselor outreach training on how to help colleges get to know your high school
- How to run a college admissions case study night (with all the necessary materials)
- Ongoing subscription programs for counselors to learn from and ask us questions
- Letter of recommendation training for counselors and faculty
- How to run a successful college night at your school
- College essay curriculums for English teachers
- Our guide to professional development for counselors
- Materials such as step-by-step guides and checklists for important parts of the process
No single person at Collegewise is an expert in all of these areas. But we’ve got nearly 40 people at Collegewise with deep knowledge in a variety of different subjects. Our training talent pool is big. Whatever the topic, we plan to put the best trainer in front of the audience.
How much will these trainings cost?
Some will run several hundred dollars. Others will be less than $50. And some will be free. If you’re a counselor in a public school, especially one with a caseload of low-income students, you can expect generous discounts and in many cases, full scholarships. One of the reasons we’re doing this is to help make sure under-resourced students have well-resourced counselors.
Scratching our own training itch
We’re not leaving our college counseling business behind—we’re simply taking a byproduct of what we already do, refining it, and finding a new audience who can benefit. Much of what we create this year, we’ll also use internally. We’re scratching our own training itch, too.
Good for our business
Expanding our training programming to high school counselors is good for our business, too. One of the biggest challenges at Collegewise is that our customer base is constantly retiring. Once a Collegewise senior heads off to the perfect college, there’s nothing more for that family to buy from us unless they have a younger student. It’s much more expensive for a business to find a new customer than it is to sell to a current one. If we can help high school counselors better serve their kids, if we can give them affordable, expert training in areas they would otherwise have to try to learn themselves, and most importantly, if we can do it so well that they ask, “What else can you teach me?”, we’ll have a new customer base who needs and appreciates us, most of whom won’t be going anywhere next year.
What about independent counselors?
Some of our new offerings will be appropriate for—and open to—independent counselors. But we want to stay focused on where we believe we can do our best work for people who need it the most. So the bulk of our training time, attention, and offerings will be for high school counselors. If we can make a difference for them, we can make a difference for their students. And if we can do that as well as I think we can, we can help change the college admissions process.
We can’t wait to start
Nobody helps high school kids more than their counselors, and nobody spends more time training on admissions topics than Collegewise. I am personally excited to do my part to help bring those two groups together. It’s good for us, good for students, and we will work very hard to prove to counselors that we can be good enough for them, too. We’re excited about 2016 and can’t wait to get started.
If you’re a counselor who would like to be kept informed of our training plans for this year, just fill out a quick survey here. There may also be special discounts and early-enrollment options for those on that list. And if your colleagues, administration, or district might also be interested in receiving admissions training, please help us spread the word.