4 Helpful Things I Wish I Knew as a First-Year High School Counselor

From the first year of being a high school counselor to the eighth year, I was constantly learning or re-learning the ins and outs of this amazing career! There was never a point where I felt like I had arrived or learned it all, and that is one of the main things I loved. You get to use creativity to reinvent the systems and resources you incorporate into your program, and you get to constantly reevaluate how you’re serving students in hopes of reaching ALL students in your school or on your caseload. As a school counselor, I get to be a lifelong learner!

In your first year as a high school counselor, there is definitely a steep learning curve… but stay the course! It will level out a bit! You will always still be learning but it will gradually not be as overwhelming as the first day, week, or year.

1- Believe in yourself. 

You are prepared for this. Don’t doubt yourself! People are looking to you for your expertise and your intuition. You will be challenged every day, and a lot of your decisions will live in the gray. They won’t be black and white, easy, or clear. Don’t let your self-doubt or your imposter syndrome get the best of you. Rest assured… you WILL make mistakes.

There are some days your confidence will skyrocket, and you’ll be confident that you are in the right place. There are other days you’ll doubt your effectiveness as a high school counselor. Keep a folder of happy notes and words of encouragement to go back and read on the hard days. If you remember where you’ve come from, how you’ve grown, and who you’ve helped, you’ll have more encouraging days than discouraging days!

2- Show yourself grace.

Set boundaries for yourself. This means inside and outside of work. The work will be there tomorrow even if you didn’t get your entire to-do list done today. You will not last in this career if you don’t care for yourself. If you’re sensing burn out, stop and recharge yourself. Practice what you’re preaching to your students and your team.

It’s okay to make mistakes. I promise, you will make them. You also get to choose how you respond to them. And it’s okay to not have all of the answers. Of course, you won’t know everything your first year… but you’ll also not know everything your 17th year or your 34th year. 

3- Try your new ideas. 

Everyone benefits from your ideas and energy. Using creativity is one of the most fun parts of this job. Some teammates won’t give your new ideas the time of day or will be skeptical of “doing things differently than we’ve done in the past.” Some of your new ideas will receive zero recognition. Even a plan that doesn’t pan out how you hoped or doesn’t give you the results your anticipated is a lesson learned. 

4- Ask for help from other high school counselors. 

Lean into others’ strengths. You are not the best at everything, and you don’t love doing everything. If you have a team, chances are… there are places that one of your teammates can fill that gap. Don’t delegate all of the dirty work, but use something like this free responsibilities matrix to plan your programming for the year. Everyone is able to rate what they like or don’t like doing… and this plan can be reevaluated and updated each year giving space to learn, grow, or change things up. 

If you’re in a place where you’re hoping to solidify your job plans for the upcoming year, maybe you’re in the midst of high school counselor interviews. Join my High School Counseling Job Interview 3-Day Video Challenge! When you’re on my email list, you’ll be the first to hear about other news from my Counselor Clique like the Clique Collaborative, a high school counseling community and membership– coming soon!!

First Year High School Counselor

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