Exploring this Job
Your best resource for information about work as a guidance counselor is right in your own high school. Ask your school's counselor how he or she got started in the career, and about the nature of the job. You may even be allowed to assist your counselor with a variety of projects like career days or college recruitment. With your counselor's help, you can identify some of the particular issues affecting your fellow students and come up with ways to address the issues with special projects. You can also get a sense of a counselor's job by working on the school newspaper. As a reporter, you'll have the opportunity to interview students, get to know their concerns, and write editorials about these issues.
The ACA publishes a great deal of information about the field of professional guidance. Its Web site (http://www.counseling.org) features many articles about counseling; ACA also produces a monthly publication called Counseling Today (http://ct.counseling.org).
Guidance counselors work in a school setting to provide a planned program of guidance services for the benefit of all students enrolled in the school. The guidance program is not one single plan, but is the combination of many related activities. It has several aims, but its most important one is to help each student in the process of growth toward maturity. The guidance program is designed to help students achieve independence.
All guidance programs are unique. Each one is built especially for the school in which it functions. Guidance counselors confer with parents, with professional personnel such as school psychologists, social workers, and health officers, and with other faculty and staff members to assure a totally effective school program. They meet with students on an appointment, walk-in, or teacher-referral basis to talk about students' personal problems or concerns (family issues, peer pressure, alcohol/drug problems, the development of romantic relationships, and illness and death); to review academic, attendance, or conduct records; or to discuss anything else that may be an issue to the students, faculty, or parents.
In addition to dealing directly with students, guidance counselors collect and organize materials for students to read about such topics as peer-pressure, self-esteem, careers, and post-high school educational opportunities. They conduct group guidance meetings in which topics of special concern or interest to the age-group involved are discussed. For example, they may direct an orientation program for students new to the school. In addition, they organize, administer, score, and interpret the school's standardized testing program.
Guidance counselors assist students in choosing their courses of studies, developing more effective study habits, and making tentative choices regarding goals for the future. They help students to select the post-high school training that will best meet their educational and vocational needs. They also assist students in applying for admission to colleges or vocational schools, help locate scholarships, and write recommendation letters to college admissions officers or prospective employers.
Guidance counselors plan, organize, and conduct events such as career days and college days. They may conduct follow-up studies of students who have left school or graduated, requesting their help in evaluating the curriculum in the light of their post-high school work experiences.
Guidance counselors also conduct in-service education courses for other faculty members or speak at meetings of interested members of the community. They refer students with problems that are beyond the scope of the school to address, to such community resources as social welfare agencies, child guidance clinics, health departments, or other services.