Q. What is the role of a high-school guidance counselor?
A. The guidance counselor is typically assigned when the child enters high school. At the start of freshman year, the role is to help the child acclimate academically and socially, says Jim McCabe, a guidance counselor at Harborfields High School in Greenlawn.
The counselor probably will meet individually with each new student, making sure he is neither overwhelmed nor underwhelmed by class levels, McCabe says. "We're tweaking course loads," he says. The counselor also will be available to help kids adjust socially in the new building, he says.
McCabe advises parents to meet the counselor early in the child's high school career, so each can put a face to the name and to open lines of communication.
During freshman and sophomore years, the guidance counselor is ensuring the child is on the right path to achieve any post-high school goals. During junior year, the role progresses to advising on those plans. "The transition to the college process is much easier with a kid you know well," McCabe says. In the junior year, the guidance counselor talks to the student about standardized test scores and grades; by senior year, the counseling revolves around college applications.
The guidance counselor usually writes one of the student's recommendation letters. "The more we know about them, the more interaction we have with them, the more personal the letter of recommendation winds up being," McCabe says.