Difference in the Roles of Guidance Counselors in Elementary Vs. High School


School guidance counselors serve a unique role in elementary schools and high schools. In both elementary and high schools, counselors strive to maximize student success, provide a safe learning environment, and support the social, emotional and academic needs of each student. Guidance counselors are certified and licensed educators who typically possess a master’s degree in school counseling. The developmental and academic needs of elementary and high school students are what differentiate the role of guidance counselors at each level of education.

Developmental Needs of Elementary Students

  • Elementary school marks a period during which students begin developing their attitudes toward themselves and their peers. According to the American School Counselor Association, this is critical period for prevention and intervention strategies addressing a child’s social needs, which is important to remove barriers that could hinder learning. Students develop decision-making skills as well as character values. The training elementary school counselors receive also prepares them to manage the mental health component of guiding young students of a diverse population.

Preparing Elementary Students for Academic Success

  • A student’s academic trajectory begins at the elementary level. A student’s attitude toward learning and her confidence as a learner begins at this stage. Elementary school counselors support educators in the school to teach study and test-taking skills, as well as organizational techniques that will prepare a student for her academic career. The counselors instill goal-setting and decision-making skills that provide an academic foundation and encourage students to excel in their studies for years to come.

College and Career Guidance

  • While in elementary school, students are just beginning to chart their academic path. Students in high school are planning for their future outside the K-12 environment. High school counselors are critical in helping students find the right college, manage the application process, research scholarships and financial aid and develop career awareness. The college application process has grown increasingly competitive, and counselors must also prepare students for high-stakes testing, including the SATs and ACTs, and the competitive job market they are entering.

Creating Safe Learning Environments in High School

  • Peer groups provide a major influence in the development of high school students, says the American School Counselor Association. High school is the final transition into adulthood, and high school counselors are often the initial point person for social issues such as bullying, sex, drugs and alcohol. Students are finding their independence, and in addition to needing college and career guidance, they look to counselors to cope with the added stresses of adulthood. Counselors play a critical role in keeping the school climate safe and conducive to learning.

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