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Advising about college termed crucial

MHS still has not filled its advising vacancy but plans to do so

Staff writer

Marion High School students will have resources to help guide their decisions about what they want to do after high school, but they won’t know who will provide those resources until right before school starts.

After Phoebe Janzen retired from the high school counseling position last year, the district assigned Marion Elementary School counselor Kris Burkholder to counsel all grade levels.

Administrators want Burkholder to focus on social and emotional counseling for students, so the career and college exploration responsibilities will be assigned to someone else.

USD 408 Board of Education will decide who that will be in a meeting Aug. 15. School begins for all grades except eighth on Aug. 17. The district does have candidates for the position, Superintendent Lee Leiker said.

Leiker said the plan is to have one person whose primary duties are career and college guidance. Responsibilities will include working with students on interest inventories, analyzing test results, and helping them make connections with colleges and vocational schools.

Preparing for college or a post-high school job is something primarily associated with high school seniors, but it actually begins well before then.

“It starts as a freshman and even before,” Janzen said.

It is important for students to take classes that give them the most options, she said, and that begins by aiming high as a freshman. It is easier to switch to a more vocational curriculum later than to try to catch up with a more academically oriented curriculum, she said.

Hillsboro High School counselor Diana Holub also encourages students to aim high. She urges every student to take the ACT college exam, whether they plan to attend college or not, because their plans may change.

“I think every kid should be encouraged to take the ACT at least once,” Holub said. “Imagine taking the ACT two years after high school, how much are you going to remember?”

Even tech schools want students who are capable in math, Janzen said. She always urged students to complete the Kansas Scholars curriculum, which begins by planning to take the right classes.

Early each fall, Janzen met with all of the seniors individually to review their transcripts, consider what scholarships might be good fits, and arrange college visits. After finishing the individual sessions with seniors, she would review the same material with juniors.

Holub agreed that it is important for students to think about what they will do after high school early. She prefers for students to visit schools early, and especially to visit the financial aid office and individual departments. Schools are the best source for scholarships, because many other scholarships require essays, which students shy away from, Holub said.

Good school counselors are a huge help for students to find scholarships, Kansas Wesleyan University Assistant Director of Admissions Terri Van Slyke said.

Counselors are an important intermediary between colleges and high school students, because they know the colleges better than the students do and the students better than the colleges do, said Van Slyke, who is taking a job as an admissions counselor at Penn State University’s York campus.

“They play a large role, especially for a small, private university,” she said.

Knowledgeable counselors can help students identify colleges that might be a good fit and help them make an initial contact, Van Slyke said.

Counselors can also help students explore what careers they might enjoy, Holub said.

“I think it’s important for kids to take a couple of electives each year,” she said, because those classes are what help students make career choices.

“I think it’s real hard for 18-year-olds to know what they want to do the rest of their lives,” Holub said.

Holub also teaches sixth-grade physical education.

She regrets that it takes time away from counseling students, but it also has an advantage.

When those sixth graders reach high school, they will already know her.

Last modified Aug. 3, 2011

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