Why Guidance Counselors Are Generally Useless

Using the proven, trusted, and most reliable 80/20 Rule, 80% of all high school guidance counselors are near-to-useless. Most tell parents to simply fill out the forms. End of story.

Roughly 20% of guidance counselors are good at helping your student get into college based on personal relationships they’ve established with many college admission directors.

But what about those right-fit colleges where there are no relationships? This could well signal missed opportunities. I know counselors who still repeat the same mantra about college that was true 20 years ago but no more.

This kind of counselor, with increasing numbers of students and responsibilities that have nothing to do with college admissions, is becoming less available, particularly in public schools.

For the most part, these counselors have too much on their plates, with national student-to-counselor ratios averaging 457:1 at public high schools and 241:1 at private high schools. A 500:1 ratio is not unusual.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation financed a study some years ago that should scare the living hell out of parents everywhere. The near-scariest part of the study, at least from my perspective, is that your child will get not more than 38 minutes a year from a counselor on college planning. Read the last sentence again.

The scariest part is really a national scandal (you think I’m exaggerating, right? Read on.) To become a high school guidance counselor, you must have a masters degree in counseling – not in college planning – but in counseling. You know…giving help to students on drugs and assistance with any other social issue that comes to mind.

Question: What does psychological counseling have to do with college planning?

There isn’t a single college in the United States that offers a degree in college planning. None. Only Long Island University offers ONE course in college financing. That’s it.

In effect, and here comes the fingernail-across-the-chalkboard comment – your plumber is as qualified to guide your child to the right college as your local guidance counselor.

And I know plumbers who are very willing to volunteer their opinion about how to get into college.

In this season of submitting college applications, I have sent my clients this video telling them how to be the “nice parent from Hell” to make sure the guidance office doesn’t screw up.

They will screw up if you’re not the squeaky wheel getting the grease.

This could make you a world-class pain in the posteriors of some guidance counselors, but why would you trust them with the small details that could sink your child’s future? Want to trust? First verify.

One of my clients had a son at a parochial school with a strict policy on handling all the paperwork for college.

The school was suggesting that their son’s future would be placed in the hands of a guidance counselor who barely knew the student and was managing the paperwork for more than 50 other students.

(That’s when you know the red flag of Murphy’s Law is waving triumphantly: if something will go wrong, it will.)

I advised the client to tell the school where they could stick their policy (of course, in some round file), and that the parent had her own policy that would allow the school to send out only the transcript and letters of recommendation.

In short, some high school guidance offices may object to what you’re asking, but it’s your policy about your child that they must honor. Period.

Play hardball with these kinds of stubborn guidance offices because this is your child’s future at stake, and no school’s policy that keeps you out of the loop should be respected.

I’ve seen students not get into the college of their choice because of a distracted or uncommitted guidance counselor who missed a college’s deadline, or forgot to send the student’s transcript. Such unconscionable possibilities should be addressed from the start of the admission process.