Graduation Day isn't just coming up; it's already upon us! Students everywhere are getting ready to turn their tassels if they haven't already. The Class of 2021 is undoubtedly one-of-a-kind, having come up against completely unforeseen obstacles and persevering anyway.
It's hard to understate the role of the high school counselor in all of this: the counselor's office has been a pillar of student support in every conceivable way, from catching students before they fall through the cracks, providing much-needed mental health support, guiding college applicants through an unprecedented season, and much more.
Oh, and they've had to do it all in both in-person and completely virtual settings. Now, in the home stretch with a semblance of normalcy on the horizon, counselors can prepare for success next school year while they wrap up outstanding to-dos.
What to do for graduating seniors:
1. Send and collect senior exit surveys
Before you wish them well, gather post-graduation planning information from the departing class and take any last-minute opportunities to provide resources to grads without a clear plan.
If you’re using SchooLinks, check the completion status of exit surveys under the Analytics tab on the counselor dashboard, then nudge outstanding students to turn theirs in before graduation.
2. Answer final transcript and records requests
With final grades recorded, answer transcript and record requests. Make sure that students with provisional acceptance agreements know how to access eligibility documents later.
3. Anticipate summer melt and plan to act
Identify students that are most susceptible to summer melt and consider setting up text or email reminders to nudge them over the summer. Research shows that staying in touch can increase matriculation by nearly 7 percentage points.
If you’re a SchooLinks counselor, use the Message Center to freeze summer melt by checking in with students periodically over the summer.
Take a deep breath, sign senior yearbooks, and enjoy Commencement Day with your students and family.
If you’re using SchooLinks, mark the moment with a special virtual event, then invite students and family to celebrate before sending seniors off to success.
What to do for your rising seniors:
5. Course & credit check
Take a look at where juniors stand at the end of the year and note of anyone in the "danger zone". Reach out to kids at risk of not earning the credits they need or completing courses on time to graduate next year.
6. Student-athlete eligibility check
Look at your student-athlete list and check academic information against NCAA and NJCAA eligibility requirements to ensure they're on track to meet them.
7. Send testing accommodation requests
Send out accommodation requests for students with 504s or who are otherwise eligible if they plan on sitting for exams in the fall.
8. Take stock of your decisive students
Make a list of juniors you know plan on applying for early action and early decision deadlines and make sure they know what deadlines to track over the summer and into the fall.
9. Check-in with juniors who aren't quite there yet
Send a note to students who need more direction, options, resources, time, or guidance regarding postsecondary planning next year, to let them know you see them. Set a reminder to chat early on next year.
10. Make a financial aid action plan
Check your case file for students you anticipate needing extra direction, resources, or help to navigate financial aid and scholarship applications and consider making an early draft of next year's calendar that has space for one or more FAFSA events.
If you partner with SchooLinks to level the financial playing field for students, be sure to update the deadlines on FAFSA and financial aid to-dos for the upcoming school year.
What to do for your entire caseload:
11. Send out program surveys
Seniors aren't the only ones who can provide valuable feedback by answering a survey. Bite-sized (or in-depth!) counseling program surveys can help you plan improvements and identify professional development goals for the fall
12. Schedule last-minute 1:1s
Meet one last time with students who have outstanding appointment requests or schedule your own to dot and cross any final "i"s and "t"s.
Knock this out on SchooLinks by updating your availability through the end of the year, and then have students book an in-person or virtual meeting with you before the start of summer break.
13. Identify new students who need extra attention
Take a look at incoming students, whether they're arriving as a transfer or new ninth-grader. Make a note of students with 504s, IEPs, or unique circumstances that will need a little extra attention to settle in when the new year starts.
14. Introduce yourself to new families
While you're at it, drop a line to incoming newbies and their guardians to introduce yourself and share counseling resources, forms, and contact information they'll need in the new year.
If you’re using SchooLinks, use the Message Center to send a quick group chat to introduce yourself to the whole family!
15. Outline your orientation plan
Think about how you will introduce high school guidance counseling services to incoming students and get a rough idea of early in-service tasks that will help make that easier.
What to do with your data:
16. Gather and organize your end-of-year data
Gather the data you know administrators will expect to see, including accountability metrics, perceptual, process achievement, and behavioral data. Earmark anything required to establish funding eligibility or needs to be included in funding planning when the time comes.
17. Explore trends and knock out your needs assessments
After you've turned top-down insights in, take a look at your needs assessment data and sketch out next year's goals and action items while it's all fresh in your mind.
What to do for yourself:
18. File, organize, and purge
If there has ever been a year that could use some ritual cleansing, it's got to be this one. Organize your desk, file away what you need, and dispose of what you don't.
19. Make a basic calendar
There's no need to over plan - but a 6X2 table in a word processing document with a few bullet points in each cell can help you get a headstart on next year's calendar or events and priorities.
If your district partners with SchooLinks, be sure to check to-dos that have been assigned to you by your school or district for next school year and add them ahead of time.
20. Jot down your top five to-dos for the fall
Make a list of the things you want to prioritize at the beginning of next school year, and then put it somewhere that you can reference when the time comes. Have Siri remind you in July, or put it on the whiteboard before you lock your door for the last time this year.
21. Make self-care a priority
Enjoy your summer. Make time for the things and people you enjoy. Do something you haven't been able to do in over a year, or do nothing at all.