We’re guessing Target won’t be carrying a Mossimo back-to-college line next fall, but there are bigger things to worry about.

By Paul Culp, MA (Oxon.), CFT, GCDF, CCSP

The recent “Varsity Blues” college admissions bribery scandal has trained a cold spotlight on the entire college admissions process and on legitimate consultancies like The Coaching Educator, as much of the scandalized public decries any adult influence on any college applicant’s application process, even that of parents. Few events since the Great Depression have prompted so many utterances beginning with “Why, in my day…” We suspect that the same people likewise bewail the rising cost of college and the mushrooming student debt crisis without stopping to ask how well any high school student of today actually can do at shopping realistically for the right college, determining how to meet all its requirements, and finding a way to come up with a six-figure sum without help. More reflective critics ask a far better question: “Isn’t the admissions and financial aid process what school counselors are for?”

We’re glad they’re asking. The Coaching Educator’s founder and president, Rebecca M. Carroll, is credentialed as a school counselor, with long experience in that field, and we do everything we can to support counselors and work with them as closely as possible. All of us at TCE are certified as career services professionals, unlike a great many other people in this line of work. We love school counselors. We’re all for them. And that’s why we’re concerned about the fact that there aren’t nearly enough of them to cope with the load the world wants them to bear.

According to the American School Counselor Association, the recommended ratio of students to counselors is 250:1. That doesn’t sound very good, but most schools are nowhere near even that. The national high school average is 311:1, and only one student in five is enrolled in a school with sufficient counselor staffing. That’s 11 million kids. Only three states—New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wyoming—have statewide averages better than 250:1.

While the ASCA recommends that counselors spend at least 80 percent of their time actively helping students, most are unable to meet that standard because of a heavy burden of administrative tasks. Counselors often are pressed into service as registrars and test monitors as well as delivering a daunting variety of student support services ranging from college and career planning to mental health and family crisis counseling.  

Education Weeks analysis goes some distance toward indicating where companies like The Coaching Educator fit in:

The impact—or lack thereof—that school counselors have on students is easiest to understand in the high school context, where students face an increasingly dizzying array of choices about what comes next after high school. There are more types of colleges with more specialties than ever before…If they choose college, what kind of college—community or four-year? Is there a scholarship for that? And does anybody know how to fill out a FAFSA? (That’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid.) And would a 16-year-old know she needed one without a counselor? Without knowing their options, students inadvertently may miss out on the best path forward or simply make no choice at all. Unfortunately, some counselors are so overworked that they themselves may struggle to stay abreast of the latest trends and programs available [emphasis added].

Even the most expert and energetic counselor rarely has time to give each college-bound student the necessary attention. Meanwhile the escalating cost of college and the ever-increasing complexity of the admissions and financial aid process make it very difficult for today’s students to determine their potential and their needs and devise a strategy for achieving their goals, without some form of professional assistance.

Bribes, kickbacks, and reckless promises have no place in the pursuit of admissions and financial aid. A legitimate college and career adviser will be devoted to helping families help themselves and educating students about how to put their best foot forward. At The Coaching Educator, we’ve always taken the high road. We don’t write essays for anybody, encourage embellishment on applications and resumes, or make any guarantees beyond a promise to give our best effort at all times. We’re in our tenth year, and it’s been ten years of holding our heads high and cheering kids on as they follow their dreams. The more closely we can work with the heroes and heroines in school counseling departments, the happier we are. But if they could ever do it all, they can’t anymore.

The Coaching Educator emphasizes being strategic and making wise decisions. That’s a big part of why we’re here. To learn more about our philosophy and capabilities, be sure to watch our free webinars, listen to our podcasts, sign up for our four-week College App Boot Camp, consider our Ultimate Programs and our special services for athletes and performing-arts students, and book a consultation to hear what we can do for you and how we do it. Keep reading this blog, and look for us on social media (see links below) as we keep our clients and admirers advised of new developments in our effort to help students get into and succeed at the right school.

Paul Culp is certified as a global career development facilitator and writes about college admissions, college costs, financial aid, and college life in general for The Coaching Educator team. A former journalist and corporate ghostwriter who now operates Shenandoah Proofreading, Editing & Composition Services (SPECS), he has also been a humanities teacher at all levels from university down to sixth grade. Paul has degrees from Oxford University, Jacksonville State University, and Samford University, and also is certified as a fitness trainer.

Credits, References, and Recommended Reading About College Admissions and College Costs

Photo by Yale University

Carroll, Rebecca M., and Paul Culp. “Scams and Scandals in College Admissions” on The College Light Bulb, audio podcast, The Coaching Educator, http://tce.local/podcasts/, accessed 11 April 2019

Culp, Paul. “An Arm and a Leg and Your First-born Child: Why College Costs So Much,” The Coaching Educator, 6 September 2018, http://tce.local/2018/09/06/an-arm-and-a-leg-and-your-first-born-child-why-college-costs-so-much/

Culp, Paul. “Beyond Tuition, Fees, and Books: The Other Costs of College,” The Coaching Educator, 7 June 2018,    http://tce.local/2018/06/07/beyond-tuition-fees-and-books-the-other-costs-of-college/

Culp, Paul. “Meet the Deciders: College Admissions Officers and What They Do,” The Coaching Educator, 27 October 2018, http://tce.local/2018/10/27/meet-the-deciders-college-admissions-officers-and-what-they-do/

Culp, Paul, “Technology, Intangibles, and the Brave New World of College Admissions,” The Coaching Educator, 29 May 2018, http://tce.local/2018/05/29/technology-intangibles-and-the-brave-new-world-of-college-admissions/

Fuschillo, Alanna. “The Troubling Student-to-Counselor Ratio That Doesn’t Add Up,” Education Week, 14 August 2018, https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2018/08/14/the-troubling-student-to-counselor-ratio-that-doesnt-add.html

“School Counselors Matter,” The American School Counselor Association, February 2019, https://www.schoolcounselor.org/asca/media/asca/Publications/ASCAEdTrustRHFactSheet.pdf

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