Students are arguably your most important stakeholder group. Managing their expectations, offering objective advice and getting them invested in your guidance strategy is essential from early years, right through to their final university applications.
Managing expectations with students
Managing expectations with your students is a two-way street. As well as ensuring they don’t have wildly unrealistic expectations of you, it’s vital that they know what’s expected of them.
Student engagement with the process will vary – some students will be active participants in their own university and careers journey, but others will be very disengaged. It’s likely that some students will believe that it’s a counselor’s job to find the perfect university for them, or expect you to be their admin genie – so it’s important to stress that nothing could be further from the truth!
Giving students impartial and realistic advice
Students will arguably put more trust in you than any other stakeholder group at your school. They are coming to you for support at a very important moment in their lives, when their whole future will feel like it’s in the balance.
But students may have unrealistic expectations of the types of universities and courses they should be applying to and a truly trustworthy guidance strategy can’t hinge on just telling them what they want to hear. It’s important that you are honest with students about their future prospects and, more crucially, that they are honest with themselves.
Some helpful tips include:
Encourage students to be strategic in their university and careers planning
Strategy is everything in the university and careers guidance process. Do your students know their own strengths and weaknesses? Do they know where they need to improve to write better university applications? Do they have enough extracurriculars to help them stand out to future universities and employers?
Be honest about chance of acceptance
There’s nothing wrong with aspiration when applying to university. But it’s important that students get realistic advice on their chance of acceptance, and ensure that they are looking at avenues that are the right academic and personal fit.
Getting students invested in your guidance strategy
Students should feel involved in your guidance strategy at all times. They’re always going to be asking ‘what’s in it for me?’ and it can be hard to keep their eyes on the future, especially when university might still be a few years away. Here are a few tips to make them feel involved:
Make it about them
Make sure that any guidance related homework or activity is clearly rooted in their ambitions for the future. Giving them homework without clearly connecting it to something they care about ( e.g. university application, future salary, potential for getting a scholarship), will very likely be perceived as them doing something for you, rather than for themselves.
A whole school guidance process (year 9 or earlier) is essential for integrating university and career preparation into school life. Be sure to set expectations with each year group at the start of the academic year. This is a valuable opportunity for you to set expectations of how students should be furthering their university preparation incrementally year-on-year.
Get hands on
Structure the guidance programmes of different year groups around themed workshops and activities (e.g. skills/strengths exploration, subject/career choices). Remember that variety is the spice of teaching, so think about lesson plans that are innovative, interactive and deliver tangible outcomes. Some examples include:
- Having students present back to the class on what they learned during work experience
- Hearing from external speakers (e.g. presentations from school alumni on their college and career outcomes)
- Workshopping personal strengths/interests and presenting back to the class.