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Developing a College-Going Culture: What Is the Counselor’s Role?. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, Ph.D. July 2009. Developing a College-Going Culture:What Is the Counselor’s Role?. Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, Ph.D. July 2009. Session Outcomes Ability to define a college-going culture

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Developing a College-Going Culture: What Is the Counselor’s Role?

Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, Ph.D.

July 2009


Developing a College-Going Culture:What Is the Counselor’s Role?

Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, Ph.D.

July 2009


Session Outcomes

  • Ability to define a college-going culture
  • Ability to discuss and list important
  • elements of a college-going culture
  • Ability to discuss the school counselor’s
  • role in promoting elements of a college-
  • going culture
  • Ability to assess a school’s college-going
  • culture.

My Educational Journey was…

  • Scenic route
  • Congested
  • Extended Vacation
  • Stop & Go
  • Bumpy Road
  • Stop Signs
  • Guided Tour
  • Smooth Sailing
  • No Traffic
  • Uphill
  • Delayed Flight
  • Sinking ship
  • Hang gliding
  • Adventure Tour
  • Foggy
  • Foggy, but clearing
  • Detour
  • Searching
  • Rolling a Rock Uphill
  • Stepping Stones
  • Fly by Night

College-Going Culture

The environment, attitudes, and behaviors in schools and communities that support and encourage students and their families to obtain the information, tools, and perspective to ensure access to and success in post-secondary education.


McDonough’s Conceptualization of a College-Going Culture

  • Clear Expectations
  • College Partnerships
  • Family Involvement
  • Comprehensive Counseling Model
  • Testing & Curriculum
  • Faculty Involvement
  • Information and Resources
  • Articulation

Clear Expectations

  • Explicit goals of college preparation must be defined

and communicated clearly, consistently, and in a

variety of ways by families and all school personnel.

    • School mission statement
    • Four year plans for all students
    • Frequent communication with students about their

college options

    • Ongoing opportunities to discuss college preparation,

define goals


College Partnerships

  • Have active links between K-12 schools and local

colleges and universities that can lead to field

trips,college fairs, and academic enrichment


    • Students at all grade levels have visited local college


    • College dress days, door decoration contests, guest


    • Tutoring programs
    • Pen Pal program with college students

Family Involvement

  • Family members must have opportunities to gain

college knowledge and understand their role.

    • College Fairs for students and their families
    • Evening/weekend parent workshops to learn about

college preparation, financial planning

    • Parents supported in their belief that their children are

“college material.”


Comprehensive Counseling Model

  • All counselors serve as college counselors and

all student interactions with counselors are

college advising opportunities

    • All high school counselors attend state college conferences
    • Counselors at all grade levels have on-going collaboration
    • Counselors distribute college information to all students,

faculty, and staff


Testing and Curriculum

  • Students must be informed about necessary tests,

must be given the opportunity to prepare for these

tests, and testing fees must be taken into account

    • PSAT given on school day to all 10th graders with fees


    • Master schedules changed to make more college prep

classes available

    • Students learn organizational skills

Faculty Involvement

  • Faculty must be active, informed partners with

counselors, students, and families and

professional development opportunities must

be available.

    • Classroom decorations and “college corners”
    • College Talk in class time
    • Mathematics teachers work with PSAT-takers
    • Teachers understand their roles in college prep
    • Teachers visit counseling office

Information and Resources

  • Students must have access to up-to-date,

comprehensive college information and schools

must build college knowledge infrastructure.

    • College-related periodicals
    • PSAT/SAT/ACT materials
    • Financial aid materials
    • College catalogs
    • College choice guides
    • CD ROMS on college planning
    • Workshops on test prep, financial planning, and

high school coursework planning



  • Students should have a seamless experience from

kindergarten through high school graduation, with ongoing

communication among all schools in a feeder group, and

work at one school site should connect with activities at

other levels.

    • Students hear a consistent message at all grade levels
    • As early as kindergarten, students are seeing themselves as college


    • Middle schools connect with students as young as fifth grade
    • High school and middle school counselors are pooling resources and

making connections


Pathways to College NetworkCollege-Focused Schools Do the Following:

  • Expect all students are capable of being prepared

to enroll in and succeed in college

  • Provide a range of high quality, college prep tools

for students and families

  • Embrace social, cultural and varied learning styles

when developing the environment and activities

at the school


Pathways to College NetworkCollege Focused Schools Do the Following

  • Involve leaders at all levels in establishing

policies, programs, and practices

  • Maintain sufficient financial and human

resources for this mission

  • Assess policy, programs, and practices

regularly to determine their effectiveness


In Terms of College Access, School Counselors Must Change…

  • What We Do
    • Effective Recommendation Letter Writing
    • Engaging and Informing Students, Parents, and Teachers
    • Scheduling Students in Rigorous Courses
    • Providing Academic Supports for Students
    • Providing Counseling/Advising That Is College-Focused
    • Examine Data
  • What We Think
    • All Students Can Achieve
    • College Is An Option For Students
    • I Can Help Students Go To College
  • What We Feel
    • I Am A Leader!
    • I Am Angry About the College-Going Disparities!
    • I Love My Job!

The School Counselor and College-Going


  • Leaders
  • Advocates
  • Critical Users and Analyzers of Data
  • Facilitators of Decision-Making Process
  • College Choice Advisers/Counselors
  • Challengers of Bias and Low Expectations
  • Providers of Student Support/Resources
  • Consultants for Parents/Teachers
  • Coordinators of Course Work/Scheduling
school counseling and college access
Counselors have an impact on the following components of the college preparation and advising task:

Structuring information and organizing activities that foster and support students’ college aspirations and an understanding of college and its importance

Assisting parents in understanding their role in fostering and supporting college aspirations, setting college expectations and motivating students

Assisting students in academic preparation for college

Supporting and influencing students in decision making about college

Organizationally focusing the school on its college mission

School Counseling and College Access

Social Justice Framework for School Counselors (6 C’s)

  • Counseling and Intervention Planning
  • Consultation
  • Challenging Bias
  • Collecting and Utilizing Data
  • Connecting Schools, Families, and
  • Communities
  • Coordination of Student Support Services

Holcomb-McCoy, C. (2007). School Counseling to Close the Achievement Gap.

Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

examine and utilize data
Examine Data to Determine

Gaps in Achievement

Gaps in Graduation Attainment

Gaps in Drop-Out Rates

Gaps in Special Program Enrollment (e.g., Gifted/Talented, Extracurricular, Testing Prep.)

Examine and Utilize Data
the highest level of math reached in high school is a strong predictor of ba attainment
The Highest Level of Math Reached in High School is a Strong Predictor of BA Attainment

Clifford Adelman, U.S. Department of Education, The Toolbox Revisited, 2006

advanced math big inequities by race and ethnicity
Advanced Math: Big Inequities by Race and Ethnicity

Source:National Center for Education Statistics. (2007, June). High School

Coursetaking: Findings from The Condition of Education 2007.

Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. (p. 24, Table SA-8).

advanced math even bigger inequities by family wealth
Advanced Math: Even Bigger Inequities by Family Wealth

Percent of 2004 Graduates Completing Math Beyond Algebra II


Research has shown that a powerful

predictor of whether high school students

will graduate and earn a

college degree is the rigor of the high school

curriculum they complete.

a rigorous high school curriculum greatly increases bachelor s degree completion for all students
A Rigorous High School Curriculum* Greatly Increases Bachelor’s Degree Completion for All Students

*Rigorous Curriculum is defined as the top 40 percent of high school curriculum and the

highest high school mathematics above Algebra 2

Note: These numbers reflect outcomes for high school graduates who enter four-year institutions

a rigorous high school curriculum greatly increases bachelor s degree completion for all students32
A Rigorous High School Curriculum* Greatly Increases Bachelor’s Degree Completion for All Students

Clifford Adelman, U.S. Department of Education, The Toolbox Revisited,

What Types of Data Should Counselors Examine In Order To Determine Whether There Is Equity In College Access/Preparation?
data data data
# of Students Who Graduate in 4 years

# of Students Who Drop Out

# of Students in Honors Courses

# of Students in AP Courses

# of Students in Special Education

Grades by Teacher

# of Students Who Visit College Center

# of Students Who Apply To College*******

Who Attends/Applies to Community Colleges?

Who Attends/Applies to Regional/State Schools?

Who Attends/Applies to Out-of-State Schools?

How many AP/Honors Courses Are Available and When?

Do all students have the OPPORTUNITY to take more advanced courses?

PSAT scores? Used for support purposes…not as an indicator of SAT Success!!!!!!


Barriers to Developing a College Going Culture

  • Counselor-Student Ratio
  • Tendency of counselors to do one-on-one work

that doesn’t influence the “culture” of a school

  • Resistance from teachers (feeling like they have

too many “external programs” or some who do

not think the college message is worthwhile).


Dispelling the Myths About Preparing for


  • Meeting my high school graduation requirements

will prepare me for college

  • It’s better to take easier classes and get better


  • My senior year in high school doesn’t matter
  • I don’t have to worry about my grades, or the

kind of classes I take, until my sophomore year.


Examples From College Preparation Checklist

  • Arrange college recruiting visits for the fall
  • Organize parent volunteer activities
  • Send parents calendar of college-planning


  • Send parents test dates and registration deadlines
  • Prepare SAT/ACT/IB materials
  • Meet with English department to discuss the

college portfolio assignment

  • Gather seniors resumes and summer

information for recommendation writing


Complete the Counselor’s College

Preparation Checklist and




Recommendation Letter Writing Tips

  • Schedule an informal meeting with the student to

learn more about him or her

  • Find out why a student is applying to a particular

school, so that it is easier to customize the letter to

both the student and the school.

  • Make every effort to write about a student’s

character using achievements, activities and

academics only as examples to highlight who he or

she is.

  • Talk to other teachers, counselors, or administrators

who know the student.


Student I

Student Name: Carlos H. Senior

I. Test Score Information

SAT (range 200-800 each section; average is about 500 for each section)

Date: 10/08 Critical Reading 480 Math 410 Writing 410 Overall Score: 1300

Date 3/08 Critical Reading 420 Math 410 Writing 380

Overall Score: 1210

SAT Subject Test Date 3/08 Subject Spanish Score 460

II. Do your test scores and grades accurately reflect your academic potential? If not, explain why.

No. I don’t do well on tests always do better in grades. I kinda freeze when I take tests. The language is hard to

understand and I run out of time.

III. Transcript information. List any college courses taken during high school that are not included on your transcript.

Cumulative GPA: 3.1

Taken 1 honors courses (Spanish); No AP courses

Math courses taken: Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2

List your extracurricular activities and achievements; academic honors and awards; hobbies, special interests,

or talents; community service activities, and work experience

Soccer (varsity team), Hispanic/Latino Student Organization (Vice President), volunteer at center for the disabled in his

community, worked 20 hours per week at McDonald’s Restaurant in 10th and 11th grades


VI. Where were you born? If not in the U.S., at what age did you move to the U.S.?

Born in Mexico and came to this country when an infant (6 months old).

VII. Do you speak more than one language? If so, list and indicate fluency.

Spanish and English fluently

VIII. With whom are you living? Mother Father _ Both parents X Other

IX. Will you be the first person in your immediate family to attend college?


X. Please tell us about your family. List your siblings, providing name, age, current school, grade, degrees, and/or


I have 4 half siblings in Mexico, none of them have been to college. My oldest sister in the U.S. works in Los Angeles as a

bank teller, she completed high school. My younger brother (10 years old) has Down Syndrome. He goes to a special school

(4th grade) in Baltimore. I will be the first to go to college.

XI. Parents’ or guardians’ occupations and highest level of education completed

My mother finished the 9th grade in Mexico. She works as the supervisor of the housekeeping staff at a upscale hotel in

downtown Baltimore.

My father finished the 6th grade. He worked as a handy man at a local resort-type facility but had to stop working when

he hurt his back. He stays home now and cares for my younger brother with Downs Syndrome.

XII. Do you have any significant travel experience? Describe, including dates.

I’ve traveled to Mexico twice (in the 2nd and 8th grades)


XIII. Is there any significant, unique, or unusual experience, situation, or involvement that you want to share?

Since my brother’s birth, I’ve become really sensitive about the issues of people with special needs. I think that people

ignore people with special needs and I hate that. My brother is just as loving as every one else and he deserves a chance

to be happy. My family deals with not only being discriminated against because we are Latino/Hispanic but also the

discrimination that occurs to people with special needs.

XIV. List three adjectives that you feel best describes you and explain why.

Dedicated: I’m dedicated to my family and community

Friendly: I speak to everybody. I really like to talk and enjoy my friends

Tough: I’ve been through some tough times and I made it through. There is nothing that I can’t get through

XV. List the colleges to which you are applying and why.

College: Towson University—I like their programs in special education; close to home

College: Frostburg State University—They have a special ed. program

College: University of Maryland—They have a special ed program and I like big schools. I like their soccer team too.

video discussion
What did the school counselor say that was empowering?

How did the school counselor acknowledge the student’s strengths? Fears?

What are the student’s concerns about rigorous course taking?

How would YOU have motivated this student to take the more advanced class?

Video Discussion

Assessing College-Going Culture:

Questions to Explore

  • What is our graduation rate? (Disaggregate by race, gender, SES)
  • What is our college application rate?
  • What is our college acceptance rate?
  • What are our school counselors’ top three priorities,

and how are days (and year/s) structured?

  • What percentage of our students take the SAT? ACT?


  • How many AP or college level classes does our school offer?
  • What is our faculty’s attitude toward the notion that every

student at our school can succeed in college?


Questions to Explore:

  • How often do our administrators, counselors, and

teachers consult college professors and administration

about curricular decisions regarding student preparation or

ask for data on the performance of graduates?

  • What do we do to promote college information sessions?
  • Do we emphasize college advocacy during our hiring and

evaluation practices?

  • Do all of our students have access to all teachers and classes?
  • Is one of our school improvement goals related to the

issue of college?