3 Ways Counselors Can Support Students Headed Back to School

The 2020-2021 back-to-school season will be unlike any other we have experienced. Whatever your district’s reopening plan involves, school counseling teams will play an integral role in encouraging students’ success. Their work will be critical to support students’ mental wellbeing, keep them on track for graduation, and assist their college and career planning – tasks that likely will be done remotely from home.

COVID-19 has impacted students’ aspirations and goals. School counselors will be crucial in helping students adjust to a new path in the current circumstances and environment.

In an interview with Education Week, Hobsons CEO Kate Cassino discussed a recent Naviance report on shifts in student aspirations for college and career planning. A survey of high school students showed a combined 5-percentage point increase over last year in the number of students planning to enter the workforce, pursue a technical certificate, or join the military. On the other hand, students planning to attend a four-year institution dropped by 4 percentage points over the same period.

“More than ever, it’s going to be so crucial for schools to provide those college and career resources and tools that counselors need in order to help students meet their goals,” Cassino said. Read the full interview here.

Another impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is the sudden decrease in completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) over the months of March and April. The National College Attainment Network (NCAN) year-on-year analysis of FAFSA shows that completion rates among high school seniors have dropped almost 3% since March 13.[1] This number increases for students at Title I-eligible schools, which enroll a larger population of financially disadvantaged students and those who would be first in their family to attend college.

Research shows that the completion of the FAFSA helps increase college enrollment, especially for those from low-income high schools.[2] In a recent blog, FAFSA Completion to Increasing College Access and Affordability, we discussed how FAFSA completion is just one step in increasing college affordability, but it’s an achievable target that is available to all students.

Students will need assistance from counseling teams as they adjust to a new normal. But school counselors also will need extra support. We’ve put together three tips for educators preparing to start the school year.

1) Take advantage of free educational resources.

Since we’ve all transitioned to working and learning online, there has been a surge in free learning resources available for educators. Some of our favorites include:

Also check out our recent webinar, Transitioning to Back-to-School: Supporting Students’ Needs for College, Career and Life Readiness Planning. Our panel of educators from across the country share how they’ve adjusted their college and career strategies to support students’ needs. We also discuss CCLR trends to illustrate the full landscape of students’ needs. Watch the recording here.

2) Stay connected with students.

Reaching out to students individually is a great way to remind them that they don’t have to navigate this path alone. In a school building, counselors can easily pull students out of class or set up meetings as they pass students in the hallway. These interactions are critical, and the students who need them most may be more reluctant to reach out. Identify those who may need personal outreach based on survey results, recommendations from teachers, and previous interactions. Naviance users may assign the COVID-19 Student Needs Assessment evaluation tool within the platform’s survey library to assess how well students have adapted to remote learning.

You can also find creative ways to stay connected and support students’ wellbeing: create social groups, set up video conferencing lunches, or schedule individual check-ins. Use social media when appropriate to pass along information or simply share a little humor. Provide interventions when needed. Track each students’ progress, and schedule individual online meetings from time to time.

3) Leverage college and career planning tools.

Technology has allowed us to stay connected with one another and to keep learning, whether in the classroom or at home. While many students still lack reliable internet access or personal devices at home, we hope that more schools and districts address the digital divide. That’s critical now more than ever to boost student success.

Whether you’re supporting students from your office or from home, maximize your efforts by using every tool your district offers. Tools like Naviance allow students to continue college and career planning, as well as communicate with their counselors – anywhere, anytime.

For more strategies on how to support your students’ college, career and life readiness planning needs this fall, watch our on-demand webinar, Transitioning to Back-to-School: Supporting Students’ Needs for College, Career and Life Readiness Planning.

Watch the On-Demand Webinar

At Naviance, we’re rooting for educators and students. Have a safe and successful school year!


[1]FAFSA Tracker – National

[2]National Center for Education Statistics: Education Longitudinal Study of 2002

Topics College and Career Readiness K 12
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