My Top Tips for Attending the ASCA Conference In Person [Episode 79]


Here's What to Expect In This Episode:

Are you a high school counselor preparing to attend the ASCA National Conference for the first time? Or maybe you’re a seasoned pro in need of a refresher? Either way, I’ve got you covered with my five favorite ASCA conference tips.

I’ve attended the ASCA conferences in New Orleans and Denver, and I’ll be at the Atlanta conference this summer! Through these experiences, I’ve taken note of what to pack, (don’t forget a sweater!) what kind of expenses you can expect, how to ask for funding, and how to maximize your time spent at the conference.

If you’re going to be at the Atlanta ASCA conference this summer, send me a message on Instagram @counselorclique. Better yet, come say hi if you see me in person. I hope to see you there!

Topics Covered in This Episode:

  • ASCA Conference tips that will help you feel prepared for your trip
  • Advocating for PD Funding – ask for money and ask early!
  • My personal experiences at ASCA conferences in New Orleans (2016) and Denver (2017)
  • Expenses to expect when traveling for the conference
  • Networking with other school counselors at the conference
  • The importance of sharing what you learned with colleagues
  • My suggestions for what to pack and what to wear
  • A reminder to download the ASCA app for notifications and session planning 

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Read the transcript for this episode:

We are doing a little throwback this week. I’m re-airing last year’s episode. Episode 24 in preparation for the ASCA national conference this summer. Now, do you know why I’m more excited this summer than ever? Because ASCA will be held in Atlanta this year, which is probably the closest it’ll ever be to me. Which means I’m going and I can drive.

It’s going to be held mid July, more specifically July 15, through the 18th. And I will be there. I’m looking forward to attending sessions, connecting with you all and checking out whatever that evening time event is at the aquarium, I already have my ticket. There’s still time to register if you want to go. Now let’s get to this week’s episode, where I’m sharing tips for attending the conference in person.

You got into this profession to make a difference in your students lives, but you’re spread thin by all the things that keep getting added to your to do list. I can’t create more hours in the day, but I can invite you into my Counselor Clique where you’ll finally catch your breath. Come with me as we unpack creative ideas and effective strategies that will help you be the counselor who leaves a lifelong impact on your students. I’m Lauren Tingle, 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.

I wanted to make sure you got to this episode with plenty of time before the ASCA National Conference this summer. It’s gonna sneak up and be here before you know it. This episode was inspired by a blog post I wrote about 100 years ago, after I went to my very first ASCA conference in New Orleans.

I’ll link that in the show notes if you want my perspective from way back when. This episode will be an updated form of that but where I talk through those thoughts and feelings and kind of update it and add to it. When I’ve asked before what holds y’all back from traveling to ASCA conferences, some of y’all have said childcare and family obligations. So I get you.

If cost is holding you back, consider saving up for it or saving up for it in future years. But you could also start to advocate early on in your year to have your school or your district pay for it. And it is so worth it. I have a blog post on getting your admin to pay for your PD. So I’ll link that in the show notes as well. I’m the kind of person that just keeps asking until they say yes, and I don’t give up. So I would encourage you to do the same and be that same kind of person.

There’s something fun about traveling far for the conference. But it’s also nice to have it in your neck of the woods or right in your own backyard like it will be for me. I’ve been to the conferences in New Orleans and then in Denver, and they’re each special for their own reasons. When I traveled to New Orleans, I was super nervous, but also super excited. I didn’t know what to expect.

I went with my counselor friend who was also a real life friend, Nicole, and she was working for a neighboring district at the time. In her district. She oversaw counselors, and she brought two of her counselors from there. So I met two new counselor friends as we headed out from the airport right to the conference.

If I remember correctly, it was a few years ago, I planned this trip at the last minute which would definitely be on brand for me, so I’m gonna go with this explanation. Or maybe it just felt like that because I didn’t have a ton of obligations in life yet. I think I remember it feeling really last minute because I was trying to get those dolla dolla bills to help pay for the trip. And it was really hard to do as I got closer to the summer and closer to the conference.

I got a few dollars from my principal and a few from my district supervisor and then the rest was up to me. I think they did pay for a good chunk of it, maybe like half of it. And the big things that you do have to consider when traveling for a conference like this. You have to think about conference registration, hotel, or where you’re staying, air travel, or gas to get there, transportation once you’re there, like renting a car or Ubering if you flew there, food and any extra spending money. It can be a lot.

But again, ask your admin early and often if they’ll help fund even some of it. Any bit helps. Okay, so here we go. I got some money to go which was a very pleasant surprise because I planned on getting nothing but I was really committed to going. Nicole and I shared a room and I snagged some hotel points when we checked in.

When we weren’t conferencing we did touristy stuff, like ate delicious food, and partook in happy hours and social events and meetups put on my ASCA. This all happened back in 2016. So I think I was about four years into my high school counseling career. Counselor Clique was not even a thing yet and wouldn’t even be at its humble beginnings for at least another year. Which is crazy to think back that far.

I say that so that I can mention I wonder what it would be like now to go to ASCA and meet up with all of you. My High School Counseling Conversations listeners and my Clique Collaborative members. It would be really fun to get together in real life. I digress, back to this.

My other experience was when I went to ASCA in Denver in 2017. So this was just the very next summer. This trip was super special because my team and I were going to be recognized at the ramp awards dinner. I will say, I bet going to ASCA the year before we got ramp was a very big motivating factor to get it done and submit it.

My ears were perked up to everything I heard and learned at that first conference so that I could take it back and put it into practice when I got home. It turns out that paid off because we came back this time to receive ramp. I went to Denver with three friends for my school counseling team. And that group of four, me and three others was perfect for traveling because we fit in two hotel rooms, we would share one Uber when we zipped around town.

Obviously these conferences are planned and cool cities, but I just love getting to explore new places. It doesn’t really matter where we would go, I’d be excited about it. I’ll also note at this conference, I was in my second trimester of pregnancy with my first daughter. So I was very thankful that the conference fell at a time during the pregnancy where one it wasn’t too late and I was still able to travel. And two I wasn’t too sick.

Sidenote, you may not know this about me, but my pregnancies have caused me to be horribly, horribly sick. So thankfully, I was in a place where the sickness was manageable with some medicine at that point. And I don’t remember throwing up anywhere which means I must have been doing okay.

I remember this trip being a lot of fun because I was with other counselor friends who were new to the experience and not that I was a pro or anything but I had been there one year before so I had a little more experience than the others that I was there with but we were all still super excited to be there together.

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Let’s talk about some tips for the first timer. Or if you just need a refresher, let’s get to it. I mentioned my first big tip already in the beginning of the episode, but it’s worth repeating. Ask for money and ask for it early.

If you’re just dreaming right now of going to a conference or partaking in some relevant PD one day. Make it a goal to get it funded. If you start asking early, and as often you will be the person they think of when that money is sitting there in the budget.

Check and see if there’s a process for getting your PD paid for. Is there an application? Do you have to write a letter? Do you to put together a purchase order? It’s important that you’re familiar with the process so that you can make the process go smoothly once your school or district’s application is either open, or you’re ready to ask for the money.

You’ll look really professional and put together if you know that process already. Be prepared with an advocacy letter and all of the details about the PD and it will look like you seriously want to go. Also, here’s the thing, if you ask a lot, I mean over and over and over again when they say no the first time, eventually they have to give in right?

Teachers get PD money for curriculum and trainings. Why shouldn’t we as high school counselors? Remember I’m linking more about this a blog post specifically dedicated to this in today’s show notes.

Number two tip for the asker first timer. I’m going to laugh just saying it but it’s important. Bring a sweater. Maybe it’s just me. I live in a sweatshirt and slippers in my own house but I’m always cold at a conference. You forget that just because it’s summertime and blazing hot outside that you might need something to cover up inside in an ice cold Convention Center.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d rather be cold inside a conference room or convention center than be hot. But I also hate to be unprepared for the cold. And that’s usually me. I’m cold because I don’t even think about it or I don’t think I’ll be that cold. And when will I learn I’m always cold.

People often ask what should I wear at the ASCA conference? I’d say just nice casual. You definitely don’t need to be business professional, but I also wouldn’t be wearing like biker shorts and a crop top either. I’d wear a casual or comfortable dress just because I enjoy wearing those or jeans and a nice top. Okay so like my mom now describing an outfit to you just wear some jeans and a nice blouse.

Oh and wear comfortable shoes too. Maybe this one is because I’m getting older but I am all about comfort. I don’t want blisters. I don’t want to regret what I’m wearing all day. Be comfortable and casual and I know that you’ll wear something cute.

Moving on to number three. Share what you learned with your colleagues. You’re gonna have so much to talk about. If you’re like me, when you leave a speaker, you’re gonna have furious notes written or typed out, and then you want to unload it all on someone. Plan on heading to dinner or happy hour with counselor friends to talk about what you just learned. It’s so fun.

Your brain will be reeling with ideas, and you’ll be challenged to think differently about something you’re already doing in your school counseling program. You’ll have others to brainstorm with and bounce ideas off of while it’s all still fresh. Take notes, and then talk, talk, talk, about those notes. Our time together always ended up turning into a second mini PD session.

I bet if you’re at ASCA with other counselors, they’re are going to be people who love talking about school counseling too. Likely you’ll have found yourself in similar company. People who want to be reenergized in their workspace, but also a crowd who really does love their job. You’ll be reminded of so many good things about being a high school counselor after you attend your sessions at ASCA.

Next, you’ll want to make sure you have the ASCA app downloaded. I’m sure I didn’t even need to tell you this one. But maybe you’re a pencil and paper person. But listen, it is worth it to download the app. It’ll push out notifications and announcements like where lunch is being served, or that the shops and the sponsor tables are open. It is your one stop shop for everything you need during the conference.

I mainly love the app for organizing who I was going to go see speak and when they were speaking and you can plan it all in there. You have quick access to all the notes and all the slides and all that good stuff. It’s just a great hub for everything.

While I’m talking about using your phone to access the app, it would be worth mentioning, bring a phone charger into the conference or Convention Center with you. I felt like I was always charging my phone in between breaks because I was using it for this app and getting those push notifications. I was also using it to take notes which was draining the battery as I was inside of a Convention Center with less than ideal service. So I definitely needed to either have an extra battery power thing or a charger so I’d recommend bringing one of those.

Last but not least, we’re at tip number five for attending the annual ASCA conference. Talk to people you’re sitting next to in your sessions. Everyone is just like you attending this conference is to learn about school counseling.

Put your icebreaker counseling skills to the test. Introduce yourself and ask them a question about themselves. What other sessions have you been to today? Where are you from? And maybe what is your school like? Or how do you divide your case loads? Everyone wants to be seen and known. You know this.

You’ll sit down before a session starts and it’ll be quiet with seats in between people. Lean over and chit chat with someone. You never know the connections that you’ll make. I’m still friends on social media with people that I met before, during, or after those sessions. School counselors are the friendliest of friendly people. But this is actually confirmed when you go to a conference full of them.

If you’re looking for another way to connect with other high school counselors year round, keep your ears open for the Click Collaborative, my high school counseling membership. Doors only open twice a year and that day is coming. You’ll hear a lot more about it, but I just wanted to plant that seed now because it makes sense as we’re talking about this relevant professional development opportunity.

Let’s recap those five tips for attending asker this summer. One, get money for funding. Ask now, ask early, ask often. Two, bring a sweater. Even if that sounds like a silly tip to add in this top five. Three, talk about what you learned with your colleagues or your school counseling friends. Number four, use the ASCA conference app and bring a phone charger. And number five, talk to people in the sessions you’re in and make new friends. Eat lunch with new people, embrace any awkward interactions, and walk away with new school counselor people in your corner.

That’s it for this week’s throwback episode. If this episode was helpful for you, would you take one minute and head over to Apple Podcasts and leave a review? Just head to the High School Counseling Conversations show page, scroll down, hit that five star rating, and leave your stellar review. It would mean the world to me and more importantly, it’ll help other high school counselors find the pod. I’ll see you here next week.

Thanks for listening to today’s episode of High School Counseling Conversations. All the links I talked about today can be found in the show notes and also at Be sure to hit follow wherever you listen to your podcast so that you never miss a new episode. Connect with me over on Instagram. Feel free to send me a DM @counselorclique. That’s C L I Q U E. I’ll see you next week.

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Cheers + Happy Listening!

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