Achieve Small Group Student Buy-In With These 4 Ideas [Episode 62]


Here's What to Expect In This Episode:

Did you catch last week’s episode? We talked all about the benefits of running high school counseling small groups. This week we’re continuing on the small group trend and exploring ways to get student buy-in for these groups.

Deciding to move forward with small groups and getting approval from your admin are the first steps. But then comes another challenge. How do you actually get high school students to want to be a part of these small groups? And once you get them to buy-in, how do you actually keep them engaged and excited to come back week after week? 

I’ve asked myself these same questions and experienced push-back from students before, so I know what you’re working with! Over time I found what works, and I am happy to bring those ideas straight to you. I’m sharing four ways that you can get (and keep) student buy-in for your high school counseling small groups. 

Once you achieve student buy-in and see the impact your groups are having, I just know it’s going to give you life as a counselor. When your students are invested, everyone will reap the long-term benefits!

Topics Covered in This Episode:

  • How to establish and leverage relational capital in your building
  • Examples of how to nurture relationships with students before approaching them about small groups
  • Why having a social media presence can go a long way when it comes to establishing credibility (dancing not required!)
  • The crucial importance of knowing your students’ names
  • How to build up student confidence by explaining intentional details of your small group
  • The amazing things that happen when you get the right students in your groups

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Read the transcript for this episode:

You’re listening to Episode 62 of High School Counseling Conversations. Before we get into today’s episode, let’s read a review that MJ 192634 left on Apple podcasts. They titled it finally a podcast for us. As a secondary counselor, it’s been so nice to have a podcast from one counselor to another. Lauren has a way of making you feel like you’ve known her for forever, and it’s truly a conversation.

When I listened to this podcast, I really feel like I’m in the Counselor Clique. That review just made my heart sing. Thank you so much for that kind review. Leaving a review on Apple podcasts is super simple. And it’s a great way to show your support for the podcast for high school counseling conversations.

So to leave a review, just go to the show on Apple podcast and scroll down, you’ll see the option to leave your rating with five stars if you’re feeling funky, fresh, and then write a review below it. I love hearing what you think of the podcast. So head over and leave your review and you may hear yours in an upcoming episode.

Last week on the podcast, we talked about the benefits of running high school counseling small groups. And I gave a quick mention and a hint at what this week’s episode would be about student buy in. Maybe you’ve got the coveted green light from your admin to run a small group or to you’ve got some teachers to lead you there students, you’ve committed to working small groups into your busy schedule.

Or at least you’ve decided to try it out and see what happens. Do one group and see how it goes or see if students like it or see if it’s worth your time to keep going. I actually promise I’m gonna go ahead and swear on it. I think that you will really enjoy it if you haven’t done it before. But now comes the second part.

This part feels a little less controllable. How do you get high school students to care about the small groups that you’re about to run? Or how do you get them to be excited about being a part of a small group? Once you’ve got the right students in front of you, how do you make sure they want to be there week after week?

Keep listening to this week’s episode because that’s exactly what we’re discussing today. Here are four ways to get some student buy in for your high school counseling small groups.

High School Counseling Conversations is a podcast where we talk about exactly that a casual potpourri of school counseling topics intended to grow with a school counselor, but also give us space to enjoy each other’s company. I’m Lauren from Counselor Clique and I’m sharing my experiences and perspectives as a high school counselor.

No topic is off limits. And I’m certain we’ll cover it all. I’m your high school counseling hype girl here to help you energize your school counseling program and remind you of how much you love your job. Whether you’re just getting your feet wet as an intern, or you’re nearing retirement, you’ll feel like you’re just popping in to catch up with your school counseling bestie. Let’s go.

The first idea to garner student buy in starts long before you get to the small group thing. You’ll be able to cash in on this piece that I’m about to mention. I want you to think about the relational capital you have in your building. What do I mean by that? Those establish relationships that you’ve already got going on. If you’re sitting here thinking like I’m brand new, I don’t have those relationships. Now I want to put this on your radar as relational capital being a really important thing to establish in your building.

If you have a strong presence as a school counselor in your school, already, students will be so much more open to hearing about your idea for a small group, especially if it’s already an extremely foreign concept to begin with. Like they’ve never heard of this thing before.

Maybe they weren’t exposed to small groups in elementary or middle school and just have no idea what you’re talking about. If you’ve earned their trust by being visible in the hallways, providing meaningful individual counseling, showing up in their classrooms, or just generally being accessible to students, they’re going to know who you are.

And they’re going to trust that what you’re laying out is an actual resource, whether they’ve heard of small groups or not. Think of it like being invited to a party or a gathering by someone on the street who you don’t even know. They tell you a little bit about this theme party. They say, Come on, maybe you’ll know some people there, maybe you will, we’ll get to know them. Don’t you want to come with us?

For most personality types, I’m guessing that you’re going to be a little skeptical about what this person is offering you. Most of us are not going to trust a stranger who invites us just because they say it might be cool or fun or meaningful. But let’s flip the script. Picture somebody who you do know who is inviting you. You already know them. You already trust them. They’re inviting you to a fun gathering where they’re telling you you’re gonna make some new friends, you’re gonna do some things that you’ll enjoy.

And then if you’re a high school student, maybe they’re telling you you’re gonna get out of class. Okay, I’m in. The approach and the Ask goes so much more smoothly when you have some solid ground to stand on. But this takes time, energy commitment and intentionality, long before the ask on behalf of the student relationships that you are nurturing.

Now I know you won’t know, like deeply know, every student who you’re asking to join a small group, nor could you know that this is the need that they had. So like you’re not going to be nurturing this relationship with a student for this need that you’re going to run a small group because you don’t know that they have this need, right?

You might stumble upon them having this need through a conversation as you’re getting to know them, or from a teacher referral, or maybe a parent referral when they hear you’re running this small group, or probably most likely, you’re going to do a needs assessment. And you’re going to see that there’s a lot of student interests. And you’re going to know some of those students who have an interest in this topic that you’re putting out there for your small group.

Just work on your general exposure in the school. Like I’m not asking you to know ahead of time, who’s going to need what services and like work those into conversations. Inevitably, there will be students who you invite to a small group who you might not have ever met before, because of like I said, that referral process that will happen, that’s okay.

But to get a group moving in the right direction, these students need to at least be open to knowing and trusting that someone who is trusted in the school building is taking them on this journey. If you need to go back and re establish a gameplan just for being more physically present in the school and more visible in the hallways and in classrooms, now is a great time to do that.

This will not just pay off for small groups, but it’ll pay off for lots of other areas in your school counseling program and then ultimately, the student impact around your school.

My second idea for student buy in is having a social media presence. Hear me out this does not have to be dancing on Tik Tok. I did an entire episode on using social media to build a platform and build a strategy for high school counseling program back in episode 49.

There is space for you here whether you consider yourself a beginner, intermediate or an advanced social media user. You can have a school counseling social media presence, whether you are an avid personal user of social media in your personal life or not.

When I used to be a young life leader in high school, when I was in college, this is like a mentor to students like you go where students are you meet them at their lunches, you show up to their sporting events, you really like get to know them. Okay, that was the backstory.

When I did that, I really learned the value of getting to know students before they would listen to anything that I had to say like they had to know and trust that I knew who they were, I knew things about them, I was taking time to invest in that relationship. This was long before the days of social media, where I could use that to figure out who was connected to who and actually remember students names.

I remember we the other mentors, and I would get a yearbook from the school to see the student faces, connect them to their names and try and remember who was who. And this was at a big school. So it was hard to do. Now, with social media, not that as a professional or as a counselor, I’d spend my time looking up student profiles or Instagram handles or anything like that.

I just think it’s a lot easier to connect the dots between students. And now definitely connecting the dots between trends and like things that students are saying and things that are permeating into the school culture. Consider social media just one more touch point on establishing that credibility. And again, I didn’t I told you you don’t have to dance. I’m also telling you, you don’t have to like talk like with Gen Z slang unless you want to, of course, no judgment.

But just putting yourself out there even in a professional sense, like you’re sharing announcements on your school Instagram page, you’re just being in that space. And that makes you even passively relevant. Does that make sense? Like you don’t have to spend every waking moment on these social media channels. And episode 49 will walk you through some of those strategies for whatever your ability level is, even if that’s just to beat some PR type goals in your school counseling program.

I do want you to think about the relational benefits from just being a human being on social media like this can take minimal effort if you’re using it already in your personal life. Think about how it could be a way to help you connect with your students. Whether that’s knowing a popular trend, recognizing a trending song or ask a student if they’ve seen this funny video.

Like that’s a connecting point that you get with your students just because you are keeping your eyes and ears open on social media.

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Next, thirdly, remember your students names. Names means so much we know this about ourselves. But we also see how valuable this is as counselors. Anyone everyone loves to hear their name said and pronounce correctly, at that.

When students are invited to a small group by name and a personal ask like we’re sitting down, I’m using your name, I’m asking you a question, that means a lot like I thought of you for this or your biology teacher, Mrs. Nelson gave me your name and someone who might love to be a part of this group. And she knew about it and you did not. So she passed her name along to me, can I tell you a little bit more about the group that I’m putting together to help students work on some tools to manage their stress?

I guarantee you’re in this job because you love working with students. You love knowing and helping people. So why not call them by their name. If you’re lucky enough to work at a school with IDs, you know, we sneak a peek at their lanyard and see their ID. Or you can head over to a blog post that I wrote with 10 Quick Tips for remembering student names.

Names are a valuable currency that’ll go a long way in getting to know students earning their trust, and then gaining their buy in for something that could feel very vulnerable or weird to them at first. If you feel especially weak in this area, let me encourage you. Just keep trying. Keep showing up. Keep trying at those student names.

Students can tell when you’re making an effort, even if it’s really hard for you. But they can also tell that you really care and you want to learn and do better. This can get you some huge momentum in knowing students in your building better. And then therefore getting them to buy into your idea of counseling small groups. Lastly, remember those benefits we talked about last week?

Those are not just to motivate you to do small groups or to convince your administrator to let you do small groups. Take those benefits out of your back pocket and flaunt them to your students as you’re trying to sell them on the small group that you’re about to run.

Now, I’ve never been in elementary school before, but I kind of imagine, correct me if I’m wrong, that getting an elementary school student to do something like commit to six or seven weeks of doing crafts, playing games and talking might be easier than convincing a high school student but again, no experience there, you’ll have to tell me.

I imagine selling a high school counselor and something really foreign will be received with some more skepticism than their younger counterparts. As you go into one on one conversations with students to invite them to a small group, let them know what’s in it for them. It’s human nature to think inwardly about this stuff.

Now it’s time to put your best salesperson hat on and let them know why you think or why someone else they know and trust thinks that they’d be a good fit for this group. Build their confidence in what they’re getting into by explaining what the group is like. Like give them examples of things that they’ll learn or do.

And you probably already have in your mind what you have laid out for the next six or seven weeks. So go ahead and show them some of those things. Show them some of those examples.

If you know the student well, you can give them specific examples of what you think that they will bring to this group, build them up, share those strengths that you see in them and what they’ll bring to group give examples of the places that you know that they’ll bring value and insight.

If this student referral came from a needs assessment, where they expressed interest in the group to begin with, remind them of that. They may have completely forgotten that they filled out a survey or a needs assessment. Once you’re in that final invitation stage, you’re almost there to getting the right students in your group.

When the right students are in your group, they are more likely to be bought in, inspiring growth with others and growing themselves. If students are bought into the small group experience from the beginning, which remember starts from recruitment and invitations and just who you are and what you’re doing in the school, they’re more likely to show up and participate from week to week.

As a leader of the group I know you’re going to be thankful to have students sharing and connecting with each other week after week it’s going to give you life as a counselor. Everyone will benefit and reap the rewards when students are invested.

Thanks for listening to this week’s episode. Remember to head to Apple podcasts and leave a review for high school counseling conversations this week. Your kind words mean the world to me, and your reviews also help other high school counselors like yourself find the podcast. I’ll see you next week.

Thanks for listening to today’s episode of high school counseling conversations. All of the links I talked about today can be found in the show notes and also at Be sure to hit follow or subscribe wherever you listen to your podcast so that you never miss a new episode. Connect with me over on Instagram send me a DM at Counselor Clique. That’s C L I Q U E. Thanks so much for hanging out with me. I’ll see you next time!

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