A High School Counselor Shares Tips for Families to Help Preparing Their Child for College or Career

By: Family Engagement Commission

A high school counselor shares tips on how families and counselors can work together for success after high school.  February 7-11 is National School Counseling Week. Kimberly Goller, a counselor at Canyon High School in William S. Hart Union High School District, recently shared her thoughts on the subject with the California State PTA Family Engagement Commission (FEC).  

FEC: How can families help their child prepare for college or career?

Goller: Talk about your job and the things you love about your work. Kids often have no idea what their family members do for a living and they tend to gravitate toward jobs they know. They see teachers and understand what they do, so they think about teaching. They see their doctor and begin to think about being a physician. Help them begin to think about lots of different career options simply by talking to family and friends about their jobs. There are also lots of free online resources to help families with this: 

For kids who want to aim for college, they will need your support with study skills and scheduling. About 30% of students dropout of college after their first year according to the Education Data Initiative. When we ask students why they are leaving college they often tell us that school is so hard. Many of these kids are sailing through high school AP and honors classes because school has always come easy for them. They begin college and don’t know how to take notes, plan their study schedule, and be more independent learners. Parents play a huge role in helping students develop those skills so they can be successful in college. 

Also, I suggest you begin to visit college campuses as early as possible. The idea of college and the reality are two different things — your child might be drawn to a UC school, but when they realize they might be in a class with 800 other students that might be a turn-off. Let them see what different campuses look and feel like to help them determine the best fit for them.

FEC: High school is a big transition, how can families help their children prepare for this?

Goller: One of the big issues we see at both the transition from elementary to junior high (or middle) school and then again from junior high to high school are changes in friend groups. During these transition times, friends change — kids begin to associate more with the kids from their sports team, their fellow band-mates, or their classmates.  Sometimes kids that have been friends for years, find they don’t have as much in common any more and feelings can get hurt. Families can help their children understand that this is normal. In high school, students may feel a lot of pressure and there can be perceived levels of competition. Parents can help remind their children to be kind to themselves and others. 

FEC: How can the PTA partner with the counseling office to support students and families in the community?

Goller: Our counseling door office is always open — we love to hear from families! We are here as a resource to everyone and we could offer parent education on topics including college and career readiness, parenting groups (dealing with high school kids can be challenging), or social-emotional issues like dating or friendship in secondary schools. We also need feedback from families as to what is going well and what we can do better — we want to be proactive as opposed to reactive. Sadly sometimes parent groups (and parents) don’t reach out to us because they don’t want to be judged. We are here to support you and your child. 

Looking for more information on College and Career? Or just looking for more ways your PTA can create and support family engagement in your school community? Visit our blog and search “Family Engagement” for articles and information from the California State PTA Family Engagement Commission.

National School Counseling Week is February 7-11

By: Family Engagement Commission

There are many people on a school campus that families should become acquainted with — one key person is the school counselor. The week of February 7th is National School Counseling Week. To help families understand more about the counselor’s role, commissioners from the California State PTA Family Engagement Commission (FEC) reached out to Kimberly Goller, a counselor at Canyon High School in William S. Hart Union High School District for her thoughts. 

FEC:  Tell us a little bit about your journey to counseling.

Goller:  I began as a junior high and high school teacher, teaching history, reading, Japanese, and Sign Language. Our district was opening a new school to help students who hadn’t been promoted after four years and I was so intrigued. Turns out I was the only teacher in the district who applied, so I got the job. As I was teaching there I came across a lot of kids who had serious life issues and we had no counselor to support them at our site. One day I was helping a student who had been raped —as I was helping her get the services she needed for her mental and physical health I realized that that’s what I wanted to do full-time. I went back to school to get my Masters in Counseling and have worked as a counselor in both junior high and high school ever since. I have been here at Canyon High School for thirteen years. 

FEC:  How is  counseling different  at the high school, junior high, or elementary school levels?

Goller:  Iin elementary school there are a few counselors for the entire district. They focus mainly on group counseling for things like grief and divorce, and they do very little individual work with students. However since the pandemic, funding for social emotional health of students has increased, so I’m hoping this will change. 

At the junior high and high school levels we focus more on academics with our students — helping them to be successful in their courses. In our district, the junior high school counselors do class presentations on things like college and career preparation, in addition to some group work with students. In high school we are mainly working one to one with students to help them remove barriers so they are successful in high school and beyond. 

FEC:  What are some ways that families can connect with their counselor?

Goller:  First of all, children should be encouraged to get to know their counselor. We can be a great resource for them, and we love it when they come to check in. 

In secondary schools (middle and high school), we do talk about students self-advocating and reaching out to us directly when they are in need of help— however, if your child is in need of assistance and they aren’t reaching out—we hope that parents feel that they can reach out to us as well. Sometimes parents assume that teachers are sharing information with counselors, but that isn’t always the case — so please keep your child’s counselor up-to-date if they are missing school for extended periods or if they need any kind of social, emotional, or academic support. 

We want to be proactive with our students, but often we find ourselves in reactive mode since we were late to get involved. Our counseling offices are also judgment-free zones —we know that parenting is hard (especially for high school-aged kids). If you reach out to us to ask for support, we are not judging your parenting —we simply want to help. 

FEC: What’s the best part of being a school counselor? 

Goller:  THE KIDS!!!! Without question, the best part of my job is getting to know the kids. Before I leave every day I write four summons so I know I will get to see at least four kids the next day. I only have four years with your child, so I’m going to do everything I can to move the blocks out of their way to make their future brighter.

Use National School Counselor Week as an opportunity to begin a dialog with your child’s counselor it might just make their day!