Technology Connects Counselors with the Community
Counselors’ online approaches aided juniors and seniors with their applications and, in some cases, involved parents to keep them informed. Zoom extended beyond the classroom in these cases, allowing counselors to meet one on one with students and also host virtual events.
“We had a monthly parent night through Zoom where we would update parents on what’s going on,” says Dennise Villalpando, a college counselor at Cristo Rey de La Salle in Oakland, Calif. “There was always a portion of that meeting dedicated to talking about college-related things, like FAFSA [the Free Application for Federal Student Aid] and tax information, which was at least 15 to 20 minutes long.”
To help students and their families through the process, some counselors turned to unconventional methods of communication. They reached out on social media and disseminated information there.
“A TikTok account has really helped me to get students interested in learning about scholarships,” says Amy Miller, a high school counselor at the School District of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. “Most of the time, my TikToks are really thinking in the mindset of my students, what I think they would really go for and want to apply for.”
Villalpando notes that her team frequently communicated with students via the school’s Instagram account. “Anytime I saw a scholarship go out, or free workshops being offered in the community, I would include them there,” she says.
Tech Solutions Diminish Pandemic-Imposed Impediments
For some students, connecting with their counselor wasn’t as easy as having a video appear on TikTok’s “For You” page. Some had trouble making the adjustment to online meetings, and others faced pandemic anxiety that kept them from connecting.
“Our seniors, our class of 2020, had the most difficulty adjusting to COVID-19. They were the kids who had no clue what virtual was about, how to get on a Zoom call,” Miller says.
Tackling new technology tools with only months — or, in some cases, weeks — remaining in their high school career left these seniors reeling. With the academic year almost over, the School District of Philadelphia opted for Google for Education tools in addition to Zoom. “We quickly learned the Google Classroom basics, we learned Google Meet, we learned Zoom, and we just went with it,” Miller says.