Virtual Guidance Counseling Is a Thing — and It Works

E-counseling 2.0 helps low-income students go to college

Just this morning I was talking with one of my colleagues, Tech Editor Samara Lynn, and she was telling me that in five to 10 years the world is going to be a completely different place. She said with real conviction that most of our transactions—such as car buying and banking—will be handled online; even the way we work will be affected.

The post I’m excerpting below is an example of what Samara’s talking about. In this case, technology is being leveraged to meet a dire need: the dearth of guidance counselors in schools.

In Indiana, the average guidance counselor is responsible for 634 students. Even the 250-student workload limit reportedly recommended by the American School Counselor Association seems ambitious.

Yet, guidance counselors do important work, from academic and career counseling to mental health to bullying, harassment, and violence-prevention.

Could technology provide the answer by allowing fewer counselors to advise more kids? The idea is tantalizing. Read this excerpt from the Hechinger Report below.

Last December, when Amal Abdi found out she’d gotten into Yale early with a full scholarship, the first thing she did was call her parents, who had fled war-torn Somalia in the 1990s to start a new life in Columbus, Ohio. The next thing she did was text Chloe Collins, a young woman in Minnesota whom she’d never met—but who had been her guidance counselor, confidante, and occasional nudge throughout the college application process.

“I was so ecstatic,” Abdi recalled. “I told her, ‘I can’t believe I got in!’ ”

Collins, however, had no trouble believing it. Abdi was at the top of her class, and Collins had worked with about 200 students like her in a new virtual advising program by  College Possible, a nonprofit founded in 2000. College Possible is one of many college advocacy groups hoping that technology will jumpstart the slow growth of low-income students in higher education. The last couple of years have brought a renaissance in virtual guidance counseling—both new services and existing ones upping their game with mobile, social media, and data analytics. It’s e-counseling 2.0.

The American School Counselor Association recommends no more than 250 students per guidance counselor, but the nationwide average is nearly twice that. For years, College Possible has tried to bridge the counseling gap for low-income students with two hours of after school college prep, held twice a week at partner schools and led by recent college graduates from AmeriCorps. They’ve had success, but doing everything onsite limited their reach.

“After years of working at this, and serving tens of thousands of kids each year, it still felt like we were touching far too small a piece of the problem,” said Jim McCorkell, College Possible’s founder and CEO. “We wanted to help hundreds of thousands of kids.”

Read more at the Hechinger Report.