Disadvantaged Students and High School Counselors: Institutional Barriers to Academic and College Advising

How do daily demands, administrator expectations, and professional training shape school counselors’ time and college advising practices?

Low-income, Black, and Hispanic students are underrepresented in college enrollment and experience difficulties identifying the best college fit. High-school counselors are positioned to offer guidance on college preparation, but this often does not happen. To inform how to better meet student needs, the investigators will examine how institutions influence the allocation of counselors’ time to personal counseling, administrative tasks, and academic and college counseling. They will also consider how the student–counselor ratio interacts with these demands to affect students’ college-going knowledge and behavior. The researchers will extend work already underway in two high schools within a mid-sized Midwestern city serving a high percentage of low-income and minority students. To offer insights about how to structure counselors’ time in ways tht better assist low-income youth and students of color, the team is completing weekly observations of nine counselors’ work and their interactions with students and administrators. They are also interviewing and surveying these counselors, school administrators, and 40 students. The observations and interviews will be coded to identify administrators’ expectations of counselors, how counselors respond to these demands, and students’ perceptions of the role counselors play in the college decision making process. To better understand the professional training counselors receive, the research team will also interview seven graduate faculty members at different counseling programs and attend a professional meeting.

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