The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) celebrated National School Counselor Week from February 1-5, 2016. It’s about time we all tip our hats to these professionals and the dedication they bring to their calling.

Given the budget pressure faced by school districts, and its impact on the ranks of school counselors, it’s important to recognize the challenges counselors face in making sure the individual students they serve reach their goals.

For those not close to this challenge, consider that the average counselor is responsible for keeping over 400 high school students on track for graduation and the student’s next steps — whether they are college or career bound. ASCA recommends a student caseload of 250 students per counselor.

In many schools, reaching this recommended level could mean adding just one more counselor. Furthermore, there are many technical solutions available to help these professionals serve their student clients. A small investment here could make a huge impact.

Is it worth the investment? Just look at what these professionals do for their students: Today’s school counselor is responsible for ensuring each student is meeting graduation requirements; helping students change classes; helping struggling students get the additional support they need; helping college-bound students maintain grades, explore colleges, take SAT or ACT tests and apply to colleges on time; guiding career-bound students as they explore careers, pursue required training and get themselves in front of prospective employers.

Now multiply this by 400 students to better understand the challenge facing a school counselor.

Seems to me it is time to address this choke-point so critical to student success. But what can the average person do to help alleviate this “crisis in counseling”? Here’s a list of my suggestions:

  • Visit the ASCA website to learn more.
  • If you can, visit the counseling office in your student’s school to understand the challenges they face.
  • Ask your school district administration to provide a report on the student-to-counselor ratio in your district and at your student’s school. Find out if there are any special programs to address this.
  • Ask your school district or high school administration what they need to provide more counseling support to students.
  • Attend parent association meetings for your student’s school, and make the topic of student-to-counselor ratios a focus.
  • Attend school board meetings and raise the student-to-counselor challenge in your district to a higher level.

I’ve had countless conversations with counseling professionals during my career and I’m always struck by their passion for, and dedication to, helping students, despite the high number of students they serve. Their energy and dedication to helping every student is inspiring.

So, thank you, school counselors. We’re lucky to have you in our schools and engaged in our students’ lives.