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How to Be Your Child’s Best Guidance Counselor

Written by Lee Gonet

I know you are thinking: “I barely have time to accomplish what is already on my plate, and now she wants me to add ‘Guidance Counselor’ to the list? Doesn’t the school take care of these things?” Actually, many do not, and certainly not as well as you could as your child’s parent.

An article entitled “Identifying Exemplary School Counseling Practices in Nationally Recognized High Schools” and printed in the Journal of School Counseling reported that schools with excellent college preparation and placement records employ college and career counselors who work consistently with students, parents, and administrators.

If your child’s school employs this type of excellent resource, and you have not yet met with him or her, I suggest you schedule an appointment this year and work together for your child’s benefit.

Unfortunately, many small private schools have budgets too small to employ any type of counselors, and many public school counselors are too busy handling other challenges.

Last year, the American School Counselor Association published numerous national research studies conducted between 2009 and 2014 detailing such counselor tasks as focusing on improving basic study skills for underachieving students; narrowing differences in achievement between African-American and White student performance or between native English speakers and non-English speaking students; assisting high-risk students and those with behavioral problems or learning disorders; lowering truancy and drop-out rates; controlling rumor spreading and bullying; and identifying depression, self-harm, substance abuse, and suicide risk.

If you do not have access to a college and career counselor, I suggest you read my articles in the June and July issues of Montgomery Parents where I explained how to teach your child educational ownership, to create a detailed scholastic plan, and to record the fulfilling of these goals on a resume.

The next step in completing a successful 8-12th grade career plan is following a calendar of tasks to help students accomplish their goals. In order to keep children involved and responsible, I have addressed the items directly to them.

In future issues, I’ll be clarifying and providing detailed information on Test Prep, FAFSA, Scholarships, Letters of Recommendation, Applications, Essays, Career Shadowing, and more.


8-9th Grade                                   

  • Practice setting and reaching goals.

  • Create and annually evaluate a tentative class plan.

  • Take the most difficult classes you can handle.

  • Develop good study habits.

  • Volunteer outside of church and school.

  • Begin a resume and update it regularly.

  • Collect letters of recommendation.

  • Explore internships and apprenticeships.




  • Work a summer job.

  • Career shadow a family friend.

  • Take an ACT or SAT prep class, and continue practicing and taking the test through the next two years until you reach your goal score.


10th Grade


  • Dual Enroll in college classes.




  • Look for and accept writing & speaking opportunities.

  • Practice the SAT in anticipation of taking the PSAT in October to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship.


11th Grade


  • Complete a Career Assessment test.

  • Take the PSAT in October.

  • Gather college information and visit schools.

  • Attend college & financial aid events and workshops.




  • Limit activities to those that accomplish your goals.

  • Research private and institutional scholarships.

  • Begin college applications.

  • Write college essays.

  • Keep a chart of deadlines and meet them! Merit-based scholarships are not available for late submissions.


12th Grade


  • September-December: finish applications.

  • January: complete and mail the FAFSA. Colleges determine need-based scholarship awards using this form, and once the money is given to others, it's gone!

  • March-April: final acceptance notices and awards are mailed to students. Read carefully, compare, and ask if any more assistance is available before you sign.

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