How to be a positive influence as a school counselor

The work that school counselors do helps prepare their students for life in school and beyond. School counselors are an integral part of the support system for any school. They bring a wealth of resources and insight to find solutions to issues faced by students. School counselors work every day with students to help create an environment that supports healthy living, growth and learning.

Depending on the needs of the school, the role of a school counselor can vary greatly. Generally, their work falls into three categories:

  • Career development – The primary responsibility of school counselors is to help prepare students for their careers. Due to the changing demands of the workplace and the variety of learning options available today, students rely on school counselors to get personalized, accurate guidance for planning their careers.
  • Academic development – School counselors work with students and teachers to help students build academic skills and become better learners. They often participate in student planning and personalization. Counselors help students explore different ways to study and help create goals so that they can pursue their interests.
  • Emotional and social development – Counsellors play an important role in the student support system of schools. They work with nurses, social workers and psychologists to create an environment that supports healthy living, personal growth and learning. They help students resolve issues they are facing to find the right support services.

Counselors make a positive impact across the board 

If you are serious about pursuing a career as a qualified school counsellor, it is important to understand how their work makes a positive impact on the lives of students. Walsh University offers a curriculum that trains you for the responsibilities you will be handling as a school counselor. Here are a few of the most common ways that counselors can make a real difference.

Support throughout the admission process 

School counselors help students with their application process for college. They provide personalized career counseling services and personal assistance with admission essays and application forms. These professionals also provide students with the emotional and mental support they need throughout the process. Admissions can be quite stressful for students, and they turn to school counselors for assistance because of the strong bond they share with them. Students are stressed because they want to find the best possible institution, and secure scholarships and funding while managing the high cost of tuition. Other factors adding to the stress can be parental expectations and peer pressure to apply for specific schools. School counselors can help students deal with such high anxiety and stress.

Providing academic counseling 

When a school has efficient counselors, students perform better. Students earn better test scores and get higher grades when they participate in their school’s counseling programs. Counselors work with students to help them improve their study habits and become organized so that they can meet their goals and work toward their dreams. School counselors play an important role because they have the resources and skills needed to guide students in the right direction. Certain counseling strategies can also help improve teaching quality and reduce disruptions so that students can stay focused in class. They can help students mitigate anxiety surrounding assignments and examinations.

Providing personal counseling 

Students may approach school counselors for a variety of mental health or personal issues. Counselors are trained to provide guidance for many issues, such as problems in home life, bullying and stress. School counselors do not provide therapy, but they are trained to recognize mental health issues and can provide referrals to therapists and point students toward resources that can benefit them. They work with students on a daily basis to navigate different issues they may be facing. They provide their students with confidential counseling and help so that they can perform better academically while staying physically and mentally healthy.

Leadership qualities of good school counselors 

Counselors have a lot of different responsibilities, such as administering evaluation tests and setting up schedules. They are strong leaders who are in a unique position to have a positive impact on learning. To be successful, counselors need to know how to collaborate with others, negotiate and communicate effectively. They work with parents and teachers, counsel students, evaluate the counseling programs of their school, and provide students with access to resources they needed. Here are some of the most important leadership qualities needed to be a successful counselor.

Listening 

Every school counselor should have good listening skills. They work with students individually and in groups. They require good listening skills so that they can understand the needs of their students. Counselors should give full attention to their students instead of thinking of other things. Counselors can show students that they understand by reflecting back to them to ensure that they understand them correctly. They must also be open-minded, consider differing perspectives, and must not make judgments.

Empathy 

For counselors to truly understand the challenges faced by students, they need to have empathy and put themselves in their shoes. They cannot make a meaningful difference if they fail to understand what the students experience. Empathy allows counselors to listen better and help students find a solution to their problems. It allows students to feel safe and comfortable so that they can open up and discuss their issues. Counselors must put their own viewpoints aside to be truly empathetic. They need to acknowledge the viewpoints of students, even when they do not agree with them. Everyone has a right to an opinion, and counselors should keep an open mind to understand students better.    

Building strong relationships

Building relationships with students takes time and commitment. School counselors can use empathy and listening skills to gain their trust. Students need to feel acceptance, comfort and trust before they open up to a counselor. They need time to accept that counselors are professionals who will never judge them. Counselors need to build skills that will help them make students feel comfortable and safe in their presence. Developing a trusting, open relationship with students is crucial because it allows counselors to make a real difference. Understanding what students care about and the challenges they face can help create this trusting environment.  

Assessment skills 

School counselors need strong assessment skills in many areas of their careers. The ability to assess students helps them provide good counseling and advice to students. Counselors have to regularly perform assessments such as personality testing, skills and academic assessment so that they can provide career guidance to students. Counselors also need to conduct assessments to determine if students have any special needs. They have to interpret data and tests to determine what programs may benefit students the most. There are many reasons for assessments, but in most cases, counselors must know which tests to administer and when.

They should also know how to prepare, schedule and administer these tests. Counselors have to score tests and send them to the appropriate agencies for scoring when applicable. They need to advise teachers, other staff, parents and students on the interpretation of the scores. They also need to evaluate their school’s testing process and provide recommendations based on these evaluations. Assessments must be combined with empathy and listening. Counselors must also consider their relationship with students to truly understand how these assessments relate to the goals, desires and personalities of students.  

Coordination 

School counselors need to have strong coordination skills because they need to balance various school activities and efforts. Generally, counselors are responsible for coordinating education plans for their students. They have to interact regularly with school officials and teachers so that they can ensure that all student plans, projects and activities will be performed smoothly.

Depending on the school, counselors may also have to perform other duties such as event planning, community outreach, school announcements and parent newsletters. With so many responsibilities, it is important for counselors to be able to manage and coordinate these activities and efforts. They need organizational and leadership skills to juggle these responsibilities. Counselors can show their leadership by teaching students so that they can take responsibility to fulfill their own goals.   

Authority 

School counselors need to exercise some authority to successfully coordinate tasks, direct activities and implement programs. Counselors must be given authority to handle tasks so that they can be viewed as a leader by students and their parents. They must be willing to use their authority to improve the school’s efforts and to make a positive impact on students. They must take charge of challenging situations and tasks, set expectations, and hold others accountable. School counselors need to know when to be a professional and when to be a friend to students. Certain situations will require a professional response, when it is legally and ethically mandated. Counselors have to follow through to ensure that they are fulfilling all their professional obligations.

Working as a school counselor comes with its own challenges. It also gives them the opportunity to guide students and direct them in the right direction so that they will be well-prepared for life beyond school. 

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