College Access Counseling

My firm, College Access Counseling, Ltd., works with adults and organizations who counsel and support first-generation and minority students on the way to college. I teach the ins and outs of the college process, helping them build social and cultural capital for their students. Click here for more information. I also write for NACAC's blog, Admitted. You can read my entries as well as some of my colleagues', here. Click here to read one of my entries in the New York Times's blog, The Choice.

June 9, 2009

Just a few recommendations

No fire and/or brimstone about anything or anyone this time, just some credit where credit is due. (A slightly different version of this entry can also be found on NACAC's website at Admitted Blog)

Coming from the college side of college admission, I didn’t realize how much counseling was involved in college counseling until I started meeting with students and their parents, their divorced parents, and/or their divorced and remarried parents; with students who refused to meet with their parents in the room, with parents who refused to meet with each other, and with children who refused to speak in their parents’ presence. (I won’t mention the times I had to ask parents, as politely as possible, to let their children get a word in edgewise or to review their records a bit more objectively as they considered college possibilities.)

I quickly realized I had stepped into a cultural maelstrom, especially at my very highly competitive school. “College” affected everyone day to day, so knowing the mechanics of the process was only the beginning. Attending to psyches and personalities in the throes of college selection kept me plenty busy.

Now that I work with adults who counsel low-income and first-generation students, I’m in a whole different arena, but the goals are the same. As a result, I often rely on two organizations that have significantly shaped my college-counseling outlook: the National Runaway Switchboard (NRS) and the American School Counselors Association (ASCA). NRS taught me how to listen actively and enable students to express themselves; ASCA has provided an essential framework for joining counseling and college counseling.

I’ve volunteered at NRS, a teen crisis line, for over ten years. “Liners” complete an extensive training that teaches them to listen actively, help callers develop options, and, most important, put callers in the “driver’s seat” as they talk through the reasons they ran away or want to. As a result I’m committed to “guiding without steering.” (I didn’t know how much I’d incorporated this methodology until one of my students who had been through the NRS training came in and asked I thought about his college list. “Well,” I replied, “What do you think about it?” He laughed and said, “Aww, Mr. Dix, you don’t have to do that NRS stuff with me!”)

The ASCA addresses primary and secondary school counseling topics. Its “strengths-based” perspective means being alive to students’ potential and reaching out to students, especially valuable in first-generation contexts. It informs my sessions with counselors and teachers.

Two ASCA publications are important reading: ASCA School Counselor magazine and the Professional School Counseling Journal. The former is for a generalized readership; the latter is “research” oriented (not always rigorous) but full of excellent commentary from practitioners and academics. (Here is one particularly helpful article. For the full publications you need to be an ASCA member.)

The ASCA also has just published two new reports in conjunction with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and the College Board: "A Closer Look at the Principal-Counselor Relationship" and "Finding a Way: Practical Examples of How an Effective Principal-Counselor Relationship Can Lead to Success for All Students" that are worth taking a look at. They are publicly available for download here.

My college counseling, as well as my professional development opportunities for colleagues, has benefited immensely from these resources. I highly recommend them.

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Blog Archive

Books About College, Teens, and American Culture

  • A History of American Higher Education
  • A Hope in the Unseen
  • Admission
  • Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic
  • African Americans and College Choice
  • Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture
  • Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men
  • Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers
  • Campus Life
  • Class
  • College Access & Opportunity Guide
  • College Admissions and the Public Interest
  • College Admissions Together: It Takes a Family
  • College Gold: The Step by Step Guide for Paying for College
  • College Knowledge: What It Really Takes for Students to Succeed and What We Can Do to Get Them Ready
  • College Unranked: Ending the College Admissions Frenzy
  • Colleges that Change Lives
  • Consumed
  • Contradictions of School Reform: Educational Costs of Standardized Testing
  • Doing School: How We are Creating a Generation of Stressed-out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students
  • First in the Family
  • Fiske Guide to Colleges
  • Going to College: How Social, Economic, and Educational Factors Influence the Decisions Students Make
  • Harvard, Schmarvard
  • Higher Learning, Greater Good: The Private & Social Benefits of Higher Education
  • Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood
  • I Am Charlotte Simmons
  • Increasing Access to College:
  • Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admission and Beyond
  • Leveling the Playing Field: Justice, Politics, and College Admissions
  • Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered America
  • Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams
  • Looking Beyond the Ivy League
  • Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions
  • Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class
  • Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes
  • Race and Class Matters at an Elite College
  • Rescuing Your Teenager From Depression
  • Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education
  • Sophomore Guide to College & Career: Preparing for life After High School
  • Standardized Minds: The High Price of America's Testing Culture and What We Can Do to Change It
  • Status Anxiety
  • Taking Time Off
  • Tearing Down the Gates: Confronting the Class Divide in American Education
  • The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy
  • The Bond: Three Young Men Learn to Forgive & Reconnect with Their Fathers
  • The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools
  • The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton
  • The Culture of Narcissism
  • The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College
  • The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in American Life
  • The Little College Handbook: A First Generation's Guide to Getting in and Staying In
  • The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College
  • The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfull a Dream
  • The Pressured Child: Helping Your Child Find Success in School and Life
  • The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges--and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates
  • The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids
  • The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager
  • The Secret Lives of Overachievers
  • The Unintended Consequences of High Stakes Testing
  • Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education
  • What Color Is Your Parachute? for Teens