Desiring to work with students to address developmental needs as well as academic challenges may encourage a psychology graduate to consider school counseling as a career. Anyone who has a college degree is familiar with the ways in which teachers accomplish similar goals, but the question of what constitutes a typical day as a school counselor is a puzzle for many. Short of completing an internship, a graduate may have no idea of the kinds of activities that fill the day of a counselor in a school.
Planning for the Unexpected
Experienced counselors start the day with a plan that includes a schedule of 15-20 minute appointments with students throughout the day with a break for lunch. However, that plan could be thwarted by interruptions that require immediate attention. A phone call from a distressed parent, a student who is in tears or a report of abuse can make a counselor turn full attention to helping resolve an emergency situation.
Following an Established Daily Plan
When not managing a crisis, a counselor routinely works in four major areas to address these needs:
- Advocacy issues regarding the school environment: Attending a conference for a special-needs student or arranging an IEP class schedule are duties that are performed as needed.
- Guidance activities that assist students with academic and career matters: Students who have tardiness issues or homework problems receive as much attention as those who want to discuss a college search or SAT scores.
- Counseling functions that aid in resolving personal, social or family issues: Conducting individual sessions or crisis counseling that are too time consuming may require a counselor to refer students to agencies or therapists who are trained to resolve complex problems.
- Management duties that support advocacy, guidance and counseling functions: Reviewing student schedules to make sure that requirements for a specific diploma are met is an important aspect of the job that may involve the other areas. Selecting and scheduling speakers requires coordination with others.
Varying Duties According to Grade Level
A day’s activities are usually governed by the age of the school population. U.S. News and World Report presented an article on Money Careers that defined some of the differences. An elementary counselor needs to interact with young children in groups or individually, listening carefully. Some may assist teachers in assessing interests and abilities based on the interactions.
Middle-school counselors often participate in similar situations, with the additional responsibility of preparing students to approach high school with awareness. Counselors who work in a high school environment may chaperone students on college visits, help them prepare applications and proctor entrance examinations while continuing to perform routine duties.
Working as a school counselor, a job that is no longer referred to as a guidance counselor, presents opportunities to help young people adjust to challenges in their academic lives. A typical day is demanding and rewarding, but most agree that it is never boring.