The Changing Role of High School Counselors

In recent years, Danielle Insel, a college and career advisor at the Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women in Brooklyn, has observed a significant shift in the aspirations of high school seniors and the role of high school counselors. Whereas the majority once pursued higher education, an increasing number are now exploring alternative pathways to success, driven in part by influences from social media.

This trend is not unique to Insel’s office but reflects a broader change in the college and career landscape nationwide, particularly evident in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Data from New York City and across the country indicate a decline in college enrollment rates, accompanied by a growing interest in non-college options among high school graduates.

In response to these shifting dynamics and the changing role of high school counselors, counselors like Insel are adapting their approach, moving away from a singular focus on college and towards supporting students in exploring diverse post-secondary pathways. This includes guiding students towards trade schools, apprenticeships, or direct entry into the workforce, based on their interests and career goals.

The New York City Education Department has also embraced this paradigm shift, transitioning from a college-centric approach to one that emphasizes career-connected learning and multiple pathways to success. Initiatives like FutureReadyNYC are equipping schools with resources to offer career and technical education courses and facilitate internships or apprenticeships for students.

While this shift is welcomed by many counselors, it also presents challenges. Counselors express concerns about the availability of quality trade school options and the long-term economic prospects for students opting out of college. They are also grappling with the task of keeping abreast of the rapidly changing job market to provide accurate guidance to students.

In this evolving landscape, social media plays a significant role in shaping students’ perceptions of viable career paths outside of traditional higher education. Platforms like TikTok showcase alternative avenues for earning a living, influencing students’ decisions about their future careers.

As counselors navigate these complexities, they are committed to providing comprehensive support to students, ensuring that each individual has a clear plan for their post-secondary journey, whether it involves college, trade school, or entering the workforce directly. Despite the challenges, counselors remain dedicated to empowering students to make informed decisions about their future, regardless of the path they choose.