Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Great Ways for Counselors to Stay Connected with Each Other

By:  Patrick O'Connor Ph.D

Every year you make the same promise.  This is going to be the year you won’t feel isolated in your work as a school counselor.  You may be the only counselor in your building, but this is the year you’re going to connect to other counselors, and stay connected.

And then, September 15th comes by, and you wonder what happened to that promise.

This year really can be the exception to the rule—and you don’t even have to leave your office.  Take ten minutes to sign up for these online counselor support resources, and you’ll find more resources at your fingertips than there are schedule changes in the first week of school.

E-mail  Your introduction to the high tech world of counselor support begins with the old school world of e-mail.  First, while this article is being published in HS Counselor Network, there’s a chance some of you have stumbled upon it without subscribing to this great weekly resource, which is sent for free by e-mail to subscribers during the school year. Editor Gene Kalb scours the news for items of interest to all involved with high school counseling issues; this is your one-stop source for all the news that matters to high school counselors.  Subscribe to your regional edition at  

The National Association for College Admission Counseling offers the NACAC Exchange for any individual working with students in the college process.  Counselors from high schools and middle schools are active participants, as are college admission officers and other college advisers.  I once went to the Exchange with a question and came back with an answer—from India.  Best of all, it’s free.  Sign up at

Facebook  (www.facebook.comThe kids may have given up on Facebook, but that just leaves more room for us grown-ups to play.  Most of these groups are private, which means you have to contact the administrator of the site to request to be added—and in most cases, they’ll let you in once you let them know where you work.
Sign up for one or more of these groups by typing the name of the group in the Facebook search box—the next page will have a Join Group button you click:

Elementary School Counselor Exchange
Creative Elementary School Counselor
Caught in the Middle School Counselors
The Middle School Counselor
High School Counselors’ Network
College Admissions Counselors
Women in College Admission Counseling
The Counseling Geek

Twitter  (www.twitter.comThe social media site that limits posts to 140 characters can be a counselor’s best friend. It sometimes requires some creativity to keep a post to that demanding limit, but with a little practice, your posts can be as inviting and creative as the seasoned Twitterer.
The real challenge with Twitter is finding the groups.  Since they’re all open, you don’t have to join—but you do have to go looking for them.  If you type in #scchat in the Search Twitter box, you’ll see all of the postings school counselors have left for other school counselors.  To post something yourself, just make sure you add the phrase #scchat to any post you make.

Many groups will “meet” on Twitter to do real-time discussions on a specific topic.  A great description of how to participate in a Twitter chat can be found at  For now, sign up for a Twitter account, and do some counseling searches, with these group names (all Twitter groups start with a #)—these will lead you to more:

#scchat (school counselors)
#escchat (elementary counselors)
#mscchat (middle school counselors)
#hsschat (high school counselors)
#ReachHigher (White House Initiative on College Access)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Things Have Changed While you Were Away!

By: Patrick O'Connor Ph.D

Things Have Changed While you Were Away!

July doesn’t seem to be all that long when you’re a school counselor.  No sooner do you close the door a few days after school is out in June, and you’re walking back in the office in August, after what seems like a really long weekend—but not quite a vacation.

Considering July is only a month long, it’s amazing how much changed in the counseling world, especially in college counseling.  As you get ready to welcome your students, it’s going to help to have this information to share in newsletters and in senior meetings: is no more The first change is a good one, and huge relief to counselors working with students applying for financial aid.  For years, we’ve had to tell students and parents to file their forms at, NOT  The first is a website run by the US Government; the second is a for-profit company that will help you file your “free” financial aid form—for a fee.

That’s no longer the case.  The US Government now has the rights, so in a few months, anyone going to that site will be sent, which is where they want to be in the first place.  This is a huge relief to counselors; since the financial aid process is confusing enough, this is one less hurdle for parents to leap. has moved has long been the best website to find a roster of schools in the US that offer merit-based scholarships—and given the cost of college, that list has become more important over the past few years. is now part of, which offers a wide array of college search tools—but that can make finding merit scholarships a little more challenging, unless you know the secret. 

The first screen students see at is a registration form to create an account, so it’s easy to assume students have to register before they can see the list of merit scholarships.  Instead of registering, students should slide down the page, until they see the section that reads Merit Aid Scholarships Offered by Colleges.  There’s a drop down menu on the right side; students just find the state of interest, and search for merit money for free.  Cappex is a great site, so register if you want access to all of their resources—but if merit money is all you’re after, registration is optional.

George Washington goes test optional  The biggest July college news came when George Washington University announced it is now has a test-optional admission policy for most students.  As a result, most students who aren’t real fans of the ACT or SAT don’t have to submit test scores; since there are some exceptions (recruited athletes, homeschooled students), it’s important to see the school’s website for details.

Combined with the University of Pennsylvania’s decision to make Subject Test scores optional in their admission process, it’s clear the role of testing in college admissions is once again under close review.  This isn’t the first time testing has been examined with this level of scrutiny; in fact, it seems more colleges go test optional any time SAT or ACT changes their tests, as the SAT is doing this year. Some colleges have made this change for this year’s class, but more will likely follow next fall.  This means students should double-check the testing requirements of all of their colleges before applying for the next two years.