Email Status

Volume 30, Number 6
November/December 2014

A New Role for Guidance Counselors

Advocates see need for “college readiness experts” for all students


School counselors can play a crucial role in whether young people enroll in and complete college. In fact, research shows that adding just one counselor to a high school can increase students’ college attendance by 10 percent.

But one in five American schools has no counselor, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights reported earlier this year. And most students who do have counselors spend little time with them, because the average counselor caseload is about 470 students, and upward of 800 in some states, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. This can be particularly problematic in schools with high percentages of low-income and first-generation college-bound students, who tend to rely on information and support from counselors in the absence of firsthand knowledge from family members and peers.

These facts are helping to fuel a growing movement to put school counselors at the center of college readiness efforts and to build their capacity to help all students get to and through college.

The movement is getting a boost from First Lady Michelle Obama and her Reach Higher initiative, an effort to increase college enrollment and completion among underserved students. The initiative supports President Obama’s goal of re-establishing the United States as the country with the highest percentage of college graduates in the world. (Today it is ranked 12th for young adults ages 25–34.) Building school counselors’ capacities is one of four main Reach Higher components, along with college and career exposure, financial aid and affordability, and academic planning.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

M. Bruce and J. Bridgeland. 2012 National Survey of School Counselors. New York: College Board Advocacy and Policy Center, 2012.

The Civil Rights Data Collection

College Readiness Indicator Systems (CRIS)

Eight Components of College and Career Readiness

ACT Engage

M. Hurwitz and J. Howell. Measuring the Impact of High School Counselors on College Enrollment. New York: College Board Advocacy and Policy Center, 2013.

Southern Regional Education Board College and Career Counseling Initiative