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Researcher Calls for Better College-Readiness Counselor Training

If counselors are to be key players in helping students get ready for college, a new paper by a Harvard researcher suggests they need to be better trained.

Professional College Knowledge: Re-envisioning How We Prepare Our College Readiness Workforce by Mandy Savitz-Romer, a faculty member and director of the Prevention Science and Practice Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, was released today by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the Arlington, Va.-based organization of college-admissions professionals.

Professionals in the college-admissions and -access field include school counselors, professionals from community-based organizations, independent counselors, and college and university staff.

As a diverse group, experience and preparation vary. There is not a widely accepted curriculum or single certification required for college-admission counseling professionals. The paper is an attempt to start a policy conversation about the need for a common set of competencies to define and improve the work of college-counseling and -admissions professionals.

Savitz-Romer proposes core areas essential to counselor success including demonstrating knowledge about:

•Psychological processes that support college-going.
•Sociological context and relationships that influence college access and success.
•Microeconomics and how financial variables affect decisionmaking.
•Education reform policies aimed at supporting college readiness.
•Higher education research.
•Building effective relationships with families.

To help professionals acquire these skills, the NACAC paper recommends states add college-readiness coursework to the requirement for school counseling licensure and renewal requirements. It also suggests districts provide professional-development opportunities for school staff on these issues and create individual assessments to make sure counselors have adequate college knowledge.

"We need to enable practitioners to leave their personal experiences at the door and focus on what decades of research has taught us," Savitz-Romer writes. "Doing so will move our country in the right direction toward effectively preparing practitioners who set the context in which young people can realize their goal of attaining a college degree."

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