Building Your Path

High Counselor Strain and its 3 Negative Results

School counselor strain is already high. COVID-19 is adding additional stressors by having counselors transitioning into hybrid or online models of counseling. With all this going on, it can be difficult to keep career counseling from taking a back seat. 

Counselor strain affects the day-to-day of students’ lives but it also affects education on a grander scale. Here are 3 results of high counselor strain that we’ve identified.

1) High Counselor Strain Affects Economically Disadvantaged Schools the Most

Counselors are experiencing higher caseloads across the country. Districts are seeing an average student-to-counselor ratio of 464 to 1. That is well above the American School Counselor Association’s recommendation of a ratio of 250-to-1.

A 2016 study conducted by the University of New Hampshire found that California and Arizona have median student-to-counselor ratios of over 750-to-1. This same study found that access to a school counselor can vary depending on district poverty. 


Counselor Access is varied according to district poverty, racial composition, and urbanicity

The US has districts that are seeing higher than recommended student-to-counselor ratios, but they are also seeing districts with no counselors at all.

The poorest districts(85.8%) and those districts with the highest rate of disadvantaged race makeups (86.2%) have the lowest rates of districts with any access to counselors at all.

The lack of access to a counselor, in these already disadvantaged districts, is going to cause students to have lower secondary and post-secondary success.

2) High Counselor Strain Can Reduce Post-Secondary Success

We know that when a student works with a guidance counselor they see improved post-secondary success. A 2016 study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that when students work 1-on-1 with a counselor, they are 3.2 times more likely to attend college and 6.8 times more likely to apply for financial aid compared to the students that do not.

School counselors are scarce, and the number of counselors dedicated to career counseling is even lower, with only ⅓ of schools have dedicated career counselors.

Students are forced to navigate their post-secondary path primarily on their own, or with help from a trusted adult. 78% of students say that their primary career planning source is one or both of their parents. 

This can result in students choosing paths that do not suit them, pursuing college solely because it is a traditional route after high school, or not seeing use in their current education and dropping out of high school.

This decrease in secondary success can have effects on a large scale. A 2012 College Board study notes that if the US met the goal of a 90 percent high school graduation rate (currently at 88%), there would have been more than 580,000 additional high school graduates from the Class of 2011. These additional graduates have the potential to earn $6 billion more in income than without their diplomas.

3) High Counselor Strain Causes Occupational Burnout

Counselors are expected to help their students with more than picking classes and discussing career goals. The reality is that only 22% of a counselor’s time is spent on college counseling. That averages to only 38 minutes of college counseling per student per year.

Counselors assist in helping students with issues like abuse at home and drug and alcohol abuse on top of their other duties. The primary reason for a dip in face-to-face time with students is administrative tasks. In one survey, 39% of counselors reported that they spend far too much time dealing with administrative tasks while 28% said that they spend somewhat too much time on those tasks. 

The large caseload, limited time with each student, and lack of resources can cause occupational burnout. A burned-out counselor can experience emotional exhaustion, personalization, and reduced personal accomplishment. 

These symptoms can cause poor job performance, and in the case of high school counselors, lead to lower academic engagement, lower graduation rates, and lowered post-secondary success.

Scale Your Guidance Team with Pathfinding Technology

Guidance teams are small, spend too much time doing administrative tasks, and can’t spend the desired amount of time with each student to guide them to a career path.

Awato is a low-cost solution designed to scale your guidance team. Awato’s personalized pathfinding process uses local content mapping and artificial intelligence to identify every possible pathway to a given career for your students.

[Read more about Personalized Pathfinding here] 

This allows students to connect with and visually see their career pathways. Counselors are able to reduce administrative tasks, like work-based learning paperwork and connecting students to CTE centers, allowing them to have richer conversations with their students.

When a counselor is able to see a visualization of a student’s self-built path, they are able to offer them more personalized career guidance beyond picking classes and graduating.

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