Here’s the thing: there’s no RIGHT or WRONG way to divide your school counseling caseload. You just have to figure out what works best for you, your students, and your school.
Here are just a few examples of how you could split caseloads: grade level (each counselor always works with the same grade level each year); alphabetically by last name; ninth grade counselor the same every year and then alpha split for everyone else; stay with a class and roll with them through graduation; roll with a class through graduation and use an extra counselor to help with seniors; use an extra counselor as a “college and career counselor;” and so many more unique combinations of these!
Consider these 5 questions when dividing up student caseloads in the school setting:
1. How many counselors are at your school?
This might give you a good starting point. Is there a chance more school counselors may be added in the future (to lower your caseload)? You’d want to consider how adding a counselor or two would change whatever model you decided on. The number of counselors you currently (or will) have may rule out some options for different models or caseloads.
2. How are the administrators split?
I definitely do not think this is the question to base your caseload model decision on, because, in my experience, administrators seem to be a bit more resistant to change and like to stick with what they’ve been doing. I believe your counseling team can make a decision regardless of how the admin team is split. The question, however, can just be part of the conversation.
3. What are the strengths of your team?
What does your school counseling team enjoy doing? Where do they shine? Can they grow, learn, and adapt? It may be tempting to say that our strengths are in the familiarity of what we know. Of course, our confidence builds when we get good at our jobs and our daily/monthly/yearly tasks. Some school counselors may be resistant to change because they are comfortable, for example, only working with ninth graders while avoiding working with twelfth graders; of course, it would be uncomfortable to lean into that change, but it may be an awesome opportunity for professional growth. Consider mapping out your year and dividing up who takes the lead on what by using my free, editable “Responsibilities Matrix” spreadsheet.
4. How many students are on each caseload?
Depending on the model you are looking at using, there may be one that stands out more than the others based on the size of the caseload. I do believe A GOAL for the model should be keeping caseload SIZE in mind. Less students on a caseload will give both the students and the school counselors a better overall experience and more accessibility to strong school counseling services.
5. What is best for students and families?
I am absolutely confident this is the most important question to consider when splitting caseloads (and an important question to consider when we look at a variety of programming decisions). This is the primary funnel that all questions should be run through regarding our comprehensive school counseling program. When we keep students and families at the forefront of our decision making, we will remember our WHY. We will think outwardly for those we serve. We will be able to answer “how are students different because of our school counseling services?” in the most genuine way, because we really do have their best interests in mind. Will relationships grow deeper because of our student/counselor caseload model? Will students have better and more intentional access to their school counselor because of the way our caseload is set up?
Once you’ve decided on a caseload model and you sit down to plan more specifics roles and responsibilities, use my FREE, editable “Responsibilities Matrix” to determine how to best plan out your school year!