Building High-Quality School Counseling Programs to Ensure Student Success

Mandy Savitz-Romer | Harvard University
Tara P. Nicola | Harvard University

Breaking Down the Issue

  • Access to school counselors improves academic outcomes, social-emotional development, and postsecondary enrollment.
  • The students who could benefit the most from counselors typically have the least access to them.
  • During COVID-19, virtual work and added non counseling duties have further limited students’ access to school counselors while student needs have accumulated.

Strategies to Consider

  • The most effective counseling programs focus comprehensively on academic, social-emotional, and postsecondary domains in addition to being preventative and using data to better target student needs.
  • When designing a comprehensive counseling program, schools can rely on existing, validated, counselor-led interventions in all three counseling domains.
  • Lowering student-to-counselor ratios improves student outcomes and promotes counselor efficacy.
  • When school and district leaders understand the scope of the counselor role, build strong relationships with counselors, and support their professional growth, counselors are better positioned to fulfill their jobs.

Strategies to Avoid

  • Supplemental college access programs run by community organizations can actually increase inequities in access when they are not well integrated into school based programs.
  • Assigning counselors non-counseling tasks deprives students of critical counseling support.
  • Simply hiring more counselors without clarifying their professional roles is insufficient.