The world around us is rapidly changing. School counselors, in particular, are in uncharted territory, having to adjust their practices to continue to serve students.

Connecting with students virtually has become the new norm in a matter of days. We recently connected with several counselors to find out what innovative methods they are employing to help students stay on track. Here’s some of the advice they shared for keeping up with students during these changing times.

  • Stay in touch with students and families by email, text, social media, and in some cases, by phone. Many counselors are hardly surprised that students are looking for direction during these challenging circumstances. Fielding students’ questions via email and text have proven useful. There are, of course, conversations that may be better to have over the phone. Some counselors have forwarded their school number to their cell phone or are providing their home number to assist with urgent student needs. Video meetings have also proven useful in helping students find a sense of normalcy and connection. Zoom , for instance, is providing their platform free to educators.
  • Share critical resources. In these evolving circumstances, key elements of the college admissions process are changing as well. Enrollment deadlines are shifting and standardized test dates are being canceled. Be sure to share with your students by email and on your school’s website and official social media account the most up-to-date information from organizations like Common App, ACT, College Board, and NACAC, who share updates on their websites and social media feeds. Reassure students that colleges and universities are working hard to accommodate the changing situation.
  • Encourage students to take advantage of virtual college exploration resources. This is typically a busy season for college exploration. Just because students can’t physically visit campuses at this point doesn’t mean they can’t learn about what college might be the best fit. Counselors are encouraging juniors to take advantage of virtual campus tours (many can be found through Common App’s Explore Colleges profiles) and peruse colleges’ websites and social media feeds to learn more about what each school has to offer. Seniors who can no longer attend Admitted Student Days can reach out to their colleges to connect virtually and can use this time to seek out and apply for scholarships.
  • Take advantage of virtual conferences and events for counselors. In the new era of social distancing, many organizations are taking their events online. Here are a few to check out:
  • Meet students where they are - on social media. Now more than ever, students are checking social media for both updates that will help them stay on track and lighter content for a touch of levity. Use your school’s social media accounts to share critical information about school activities, deadlines, and resources. Share pictures of yourselves and your lives in the state of social distancing, too. This will help your students keep a sense of community even while they are away from school.
  • Continue to celebrate students. Our hearts go out to the graduating students who will not be able to experience all of the usual joys of senior year. Let’s continue to lift up student success! Check out Better Make Room for inspiration and check out this webinar designed to help you plan a virtual College Signing Day.
  • Remind students that there’s help when they need it. Many counselors are taking care to remind students that even during these challenging moments to stay optimistic. Just because students can’t see their counselor face-to-face doesn’t mean they’re not accessible. Tell students you miss them and are looking forward to seeing them when school resumes. A virtual hug can go a long way.
  • Continue to network with fellow counselors. Professional conferences are a key opportunity for school counselors to connect and exchange ideas and collaborate. Unfortunately, many of these in-person gatherings have been canceled. Find ways to stay in touch with each other through social media groups, virtual conferencing, and email. Collaboration shouldn’t stop even in these unique circumstances.

For additional perspectives on how to support students during the pandemic, listen to this recorded webinar from the Southern Regional Education Board or join the follow up webinar School Counseling from a Distance: Supporting Students During COVID-19 - Friday, March 27, 12 pm ET.

Special thanks to the following counselors from Common App’s Counselor Outreach Advisory Committee for sharing their ideas with the community:

David Barkovich, North Hills High School (PA)

Dana Fairchild, Phoenix Military Academy (IL)

Johanna Fishbein, UWC South East Asia, Dover Campus (Singapore)

Lou Gilman, Coral Reef Senior High School (FL)

Deborah Davis Groves, Davis Groves Educational Services (TX)

Jane Mathias, Nardin Academy (NY)

Michael O’Connor, New Trier Township High School (IL)