High School Guidance Counselors/College Admissions: Big Caseloads and Little Time

Over 20 years being an admissions advisor, I receive calls from parents to retain our services for college admissions.  All of their children have guidance counselors and many are from suburban public schools in the NJ, CT NY RI and MA.  Students were applying to range of universities and BS/MD programs.

Because of the increasing competition to get into top colleges, many families feel overwhelmed and stressed by the college admissions process.  Moreover, the process can seem so complex that families may want the assistance, resources and knowledge of an expert who focuses solely on the college admissions process and who spends more time and individualized attention than school guidance counselors can provide.  Many parents and students discover too late (their children receive rejection letters) in the college admissions process that they should have hired a college admissions expert.

With the heavy workload of most high school counselors, few know their students well or have the time to provide personalized attention needed in this vital process.  Public school systems burden counselors with many duties unrelated to college counseling including but not limited to, testing, scheduling, crisis counseling, social/emotional counseling, occupational counseling/job placement, etc.


Consider the results of studies and sources summarized below:

  1. In a February 2015, in an op-ed piece in USA Today, former First Lady Michelle Obama, wrote eloquently: “There’s the world of the schools most of our kids attend where school counselors are too often under-valued and overstretched, and they simply don’t have what they need to do their jobs. While the American School Counselor Association recommends no more than 250 students per counselor, the national average is one counselor for every 471 students. And often, school counselors are burdened with all kinds of unrelated responsibilities such as proctoring exams, substitute teaching, even monitoring the lunchroom. Many school counselors find themselves doing triage, juggling those duties while trying to help kids in crisis and also keep up with the latest college admissions deadlines and requirements.”
  2. The National Association for College Admission Counseling’s (NACAC) 2018 State of College Admissions reported that on average, public high school guidance counselors spend only 21 percent of their time on college admissions counseling. High school guidance counselors spend the majority of their time on school activities unrelated to college admissions.
  3. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) survey indicated that high school guidance counselors have an average caseload of 195 to as high as 708 students making them unable to provide adequate college guidance.
  4. A National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) 2012 annual survey of school counselors also indicated that regardless of staffing, no counselor reported sufficient training in any of the areas related to college counseling.  Most school counselors learn through on-the-job experiences after they begin work as a school counselor.
  5. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) compiled a report that indicated that school counselors currently serve an average of 482 students, a caseload nearly twice the recommended maximum of 250.
  6. The Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) stated: “An educational consultant brings to the family the knowledge and skills of an experienced professional coupled with a commitment to assuring the [student’s] best interests are met. Educational consultants counsel students and their families in the selection of educational programs based on the student’s individual needs and talents.”
  7. Public Agenda, a nonprofit research organization a survey that indicated that most people who graduated from high school in the past dozen years say their counselors provided little meaningful advice about college and nearly half said that their counselors made them fell “like I was just another face in the crowd”.
  8. The Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA) stated: “A professional educational consultant works one-on-one with each student, helping to identify colleges and universities that offer the best matches for the student’s unique needs, and keeping the student on track through every phase of the college application process.”

“Top qualified applicants, after all their hard work (and parents’ work) and preparation deserve the best and should not settle for less” – Dr. Paul Lowe

“Admissions is a competitive sport!  Why gamble with uncertainty?” – Dr. Paul Lowe

Paul Reginald Lowe, founder and managing director of Pinnacle Educational Center Admissions Advisors Group, provides comprehensive counseling advice, exclusively for admissions to top private schools; Ivy League and highly-selective colleges/universities; BS/MD programs; graduate and medical schools and top visual and performing arts programs.   The admissions affiliate: Ivy League Admissions Advisors specializes in admissions to Ivy League and highly selective colleges,  Dr. Lowe also specializes in helping students who have been wait-listed, deferred or rejected gain admission into their top-choice schools: College Application Rejected. and student who wish to transfer to another college:  College Transfer Admissions Advisors.

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