Tips for the High-Tech College Counselor

Take a strategic approach by using technology tools to improve college counseling services.

By Ashley Henshaw | April 21, 2014

A high school counselor in Irvine, CA, discusses college options with a student.

With hundreds of students to keep track of, college counseling has its challenges. It can be overwhelming to not only stay up to date on every student’s college admissions process, but also ensure that you’re providing personalized and detailed information that will help them each get into a good school. Fortunately, there are some great tech tools that are specially designed to help you achieve this task. The following are some of the top tips for high-tech college counselors.

Stay Organized

The sheer amount of information that college counselors need to track is staggering. Let’s say you’re only responsible for 100 students. If each student is interested in applying to three colleges, that’s 300 institutions to research, evaluate and communicate with. There’s also the fact that each student will have unique needs when it comes to financial aid, academics, applications, etc.

Use these helpful tech tools to help your students succeed.

So how can you keep all this information organized? Many counselors have found that one of the best tech tools for streamlining the college admissions process is Naviance. This useful online program has a separate application for schools and districts that is designed for managing college planning on a student-by-student basis. Counselors can tap into this platform and take advantage of numerous helpful tools, including automated transcript delivery and student surveys. It even allows counselors to track their interactions with students and measure alumni success. Meanwhile, all of this information is easily organized, sorted and searchable in the Naviance program.

Many counselors have found that one of the best tech tools for streamlining the college admissions process is Naviance.
Photo: Thinkstock

Gather Data

Keeping tabs on high school alumni after graduation provides useful information that can help future students meet their college goals. In addition, having hard data about your outcomes is a great way to show your school district that you’re providing real results for students.

Finding data is simplified through a number of technology tools. One of the best-known and most reliable sources of alumni data is the National Student Clearinghouse StudentTracker. This program follows up with alumni to find information on numerous data points, including how many students enroll in college, how long it takes them to earn their degree, and which colleges they attend. As more and more high school graduates attend college, this is something that’s increasingly useful for college counselors. In addition, the program can put together an organized, detailed report that can be used for presentations or professional reviews.

In addition to using a program like StudentTracker, many college counselors are staying in touch with graduated students via e-mail, the school newsletter, etc. This is a great way to get more personalized feedback about their counseling results and their college experience. Plus, it can potentially create networking opportunities for younger students.

On a broader level, counselors need to keep up with trends and changes in the college admissions process nationwide. Finding research and reports can be tricky using most search engines. However, the American Institutes for Research’s Pathways to College Online Library has compiled all of this useful information into one place, making it easy for counselors to get the data they need. Topics like financial aid, college readiness and underserved students are covered in publications, technical reports, websites and other resources, all of which are searchable on the Pathways to College site. This information can be invaluable to counselors who want to make sure their students have access to the best services and are meeting or exceeding national standards.

In addition to using a program like StudentTracker, many college counselors are staying in touch with graduated students via e-mail.

Help with Financial Aid

As always, one area that many students need the most help with is figuring out how to pay for college. There’s an overwhelming amount of information available on the Web regarding student loans, but one of the best resources is the U.S. Department of Education’s Financial Aid Toolkit. Designed with counselors in mind, the website offers excellent, up-to-date information about federal student aid. In addition, there are wonderful free tools to help students grasp the financial aid process, including everything from infographics and PowerPoint presentations to videos and social media content. Counselors can even find out about special financial aid trainings and workshops.

Beyond federal aid, many students also need help with finding outside aid through scholarships, grants or private loans. There are dozens of scholarships databases, but there aren’t many useful resources for understanding the various types of scholarship and grant aid available. Meanwhile, many students don’t understand why private loans are so different from federal loans and how taking out private loans will affect them after college. To help students understand these aspects of financial aid, there’s the student section on Debt.org. This is an excellent resource for counselors who are trying to help students wrap their heads around the confusing puzzle of financial aid.

Today, being technologically informed is a major advantage for counselors. Not only will it put you at the top of your game professionally, but it also helps you to connect with students who are more tech-savvy than ever. Use these helpful tech tools to help your students succeed, and check out our helpful counselor resources at Campus Explorer.

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