As the halls of high schools across America empty, counselors and consultants can breathe a collective sigh of relief, having successfully survived yet another academic year. But just as your students shouldn't let their minds turn to mush or their college aspirations come to a standstill during the dog days, counselors should likewise find ways to stay on their game in preparation for the upcoming school year. Whether you have a few months off or are still heading into the office every day, here are a few things you can do to keep your skills sharp and gear up for the next cycle of college planning.
Stay in touch with your fellow counselors and find ways to connect with others you don't know. See if any of the state or national organizations you may be a member of are holding any events over the summer, such as the Independent Educational Consultants Associations. If you can't get together in person, you can network online through Facebook, Twitter, or pages such as the LinkedIn group CollegeXpress for Counselors. Discuss the previous school year's challenges and triumphs as well as any shifting trends you've noticed in your students. Ask questions and exchange ideas. You'll be able to share your own experiences while learning and gaining some new perspective.
2. Visit colleges and universities
Consider paying a visit to the schools within driving distance of you. And if you want to be extra proactive, you might even visit schools in other cities or states while you're on vacation. Drop by the admission and financial aid offices and ask a few questions. Pick up some brochures, course schedules, and anything else you can get your hands on. Wander the campuses and check out the housing options, dining facilities, and places like student unions to get a sense of what student life is like. Assess the parking options and opportunities for socializing at commuter schools. Your first-hand experience will be helpful when students begin narrowing down the list of schools to which they will apply.
Related: Beyond Pretty Brochures: How to Plan Informal Campus Visits
3. Update and build your counseling library
Unfortunately, college statistics are not constant. As you know, things like contacts, deadlines, and enrollment, financial aid, and tuition figures change from year to year, so it's important you maintain a current and accurate counseling archive of resources. Summer is the perfect time to go through your materials and determine what needs updating. Do research on current college admission statistics, renew any subscriptions to counseling materials or websites, and read articles on any important or changing topics in the higher education world. Bookmark the education pages of your favorite news websites. And of course, visit CollegeXpress frequently for articles, blogs, and advice on every aspect of the college admission process.
4. Keep tabs on your students
If possible, consider checking in with your students (particularly juniors) and their parents by emailing once or twice this summer. If you helped any students devise game plans for an application-boosting summer, see how they're panning out. Ask about any job or volunteer experience they're acquiring, books they're reading, and summer programs they've attended. Pass along information about any additional opportunities you think they may benefit from. Ask if they have any questions about the upcoming school year, the courses they've selected, or the college application process. Follow up with any students who had to go to summer school and make sure they're back on track for senior year. Putting a bug in your students' ears will help keep them moving in right direction, and tackling any questions they have now will help you get a jump start on the first day of school.
Related: Top 10 Ways You Can Help Your Students Stand Out to Colleges
You deserve a break this summer just as much as your students. Take some well-earned time off before you dive into these suggested to-do's over the summer. Planning ahead will put you and your students on track for another successful year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some rest and relaxation at the same time.
Help your students make the most of the next three months using tips for fun and academic improvement from our summer blogs and articles.