High school students and parents can agree that they aren’t given enough attention from their counselors. This is because there simply aren’t enough counselors to accommodate the thousands of students attending each high school in Keller ISD. According to the American School Counselor Association, counselors are supposed to aid students in applying for college, creating schedules, and meeting with students that need advice. However, it is difficult for counselors to do so when they are overwhelmed with the issues of several hundred students on their minds. Timber Creek counselors simply don’t spend enough time with their students, and this is a direct result of the deficient supply of counselors.
At Timber Creek there are close to 3,223 students in attendance and seven counselors with outlined alphas and students they’ve been assigned to care for. The average 460:1 ratio of students to counselors is understandingly exhausting for Timber Creek’s counselors. Despite this fact, counselors are still trusted with the responsibility of every single one of their students, from sorting out students’ schedules to helping a student through a bad day. How are students supposed to be able to speak to their counselor when they’ve got 459 other students to care for? And how are counselors supposed to be able to balance the schedules, transcripts, college recommendation letters and feelings of 460 students at the same time?
THE MIDDLE SCHOOLS
When the counselors of one school leave to aid students from another school, the ability to help students both increases dramatically and shrinks at an alarming rate. Counselors who have been hired at a particular school should stay on that campus to be able to aid those students, not travel to a different school, in which they don’t have a lot of jurisdiction. A few weeks ago, the counselors of Timber Creek travelled to aid students in the high school’s feeder pattern. Eighth grade students were trying to decide on their schedules for their freshman year. At the same time, administrators at Timber Creek were informing students of a few classes that would be available to them next year, specifically to the juniors coming into their final year of high school, but when the juniors with questions sought the advice of the experts in schedule making, the counselors were at another school, aiding students that don’t even attend Timber Creek yet. The concern of a counselor should be their immediate students, not those that have nearly a semester or two until their arrival into high school.
Counselors have also been semi-limited in their realm of influence due to their lack of a lead counselor this year. Students often come to them with questions of how they can make changes to their schedule. While this is a plausible concern for many students, as they may need to revise their schedule to alter their pathway or AP courses they applied for, in the past it has taken up the time that a counselor could have used to focus on a more urgent issue. A schedule can likely be changed at a later date while life-saving or life-changing conversations need to happen at that time, with a specific person. Students have also needed the attention and advice of the counselors for concerns about friendships, or situations where bullying has been going on. Some counselors have the concern for these issues, but simply lack the time. However, the case is also present where a counselor deems one issue more important than another.
According to The Princeton Review, most high schools have at least one on-campus college counselor to advise students on picking and applying to colleges. Those counselors are also supposed to help find majors and schools that would work for students, complete a student’s free application for federal student aid (FAFSA), craft strong college applications, and help manage anxiety and stress. Timber Creek doesn’t have that additional counselor dedicated solely to helping students find their way, whether that be to college, the military, a trade school, etc. Because of the absence of a specific college counseling role, students are lost when it comes to signing up for the PSAT, financial aid and other college centric applications. Is the absence of an additional counselor an issue of the district having to pay an extra salary or two? Are our counselors slacking, or are they being overworked with the countless responsibilities they have in order to take care of their hundreds of students?
While counselors do have several responsibilities they need to take care of in the few hours of the day, the well-being of their students should be their top priority. Although students are given the resources they need at the Timber Creek Counseling webpage, such as links to scholarships, transcript requests and links to register for the ACT and SAT, many students do not know about said resources as a result of minimal communication between counselors and their students.
The absence of much needed counselors is not only seen by Timber Creek students, but experienced by high school students district wide. The ratio of students to counselors at Keller High School, Central High School and Fossil Ridge High School are 435:1, 359:1 and 369:1 respectively.
The answer to this problem is simple: not only do counselors need to pay more attention to their students, Timber Creek needs more counselors to aid this process. And if the counselors don’t have enough time to work behind the scenes in addition to working with students, possibly new positions need to be created within the counseling department. For example: A few counselors could be devoted to schedule sorting, another few to work on college applications with students, and others to help with crisis and advice. However the issue is dealt with, regularly scheduled student counselor meetings should also be implemented. This would ensure that students feel like they have someone to talk to about topics ranging from a bad day to planning for college. Unfortunately, this will likely only be possible if more counselors are hired.