This summer was my first time going to ASCA! I had my very first opportunity to attend ASCA, the American School Counselor Association’s national school counseling conference, which was held in New Orleans this year.
I had the greatest time and left with a brain exploding with ideas and notes.
For anyone trying to decide if going to ASCA is worth it or what to expect once you get there, read on for 5 tips for the first-timer going to ASCA!
1- Ask for money to fund going to ASCA, and ask for it early.
I stand by the idea that you can get a lot in life by just asking. Your admin or your district may surprisingly be willing to help you!
I asked my principal for the money to fund going to ASCA ($419 registration fee sure is daunting alone), since I knew there was usually money set aside for professional development in the school.
Ask earlier rather than later. I didn’t ask earlier because 1- I was scared to commit to going on the trip, and 2- I was scared of my principal saying “no.”
I didn’t ask until late May/early June. He wanted to help, but that money was already out for the fiscal year (July 1-June 30). He was able to give me $200 out of a general school fund.
Next, I went to the higher-ups. I figured I’d give someone a reason to say “no” to me. I asked my district counseling supervisor if he would put money towards my dream of going to ASCA.
After weeks of buzzing in his ear, his budget ended up paying the entire conference registration fee (and my school’s money went towards my travel costs)! I was able to stay with another friend whose district paid for everything including her hotel and transportation from the airport, so that was quite an added bonus for me!
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask for money for professional development funding before assuming it’s a flat-out “no.”
Read this blog post for “4 Ways to Find Money for Your Professional Development Opportunities” … including going to ASCA and becoming a member of the Clique Collaborative!
2- Bring a sweater.
It’s summertime in the south, but your sessions aren’t outside. They’re inside a frigid convention center!
Throw a sweater/cardigan/outside layer in your purse because you will wear it until you defrost back outside again. This was definitely the most important item and most used item I packed for going to ASCA.
The dress code is very casual for attending the sessions. Think jeans and a nice top and definitely not stuffy, business professional! Dress comfortably. You’ll be glad you did!
3- Share your thoughts with your colleagues.
My counselor friend (who I traveled with) and I strategically scheduled our days to go to different sessions that we were interested in in order to divide and conquer. When we came back together, we couldn’t stop gabbing about what we learned.
We took notes in a shared Google Drive folder and linked them directly to the presenter’s power points for post-conference referencing. (I’ve already been looking at them; it’s like conference DOUBLE time!)
While we sat at dinner each evening, we brainstormed ideas for our high school counseling programs together like a mini-PD session!
4- Follow along with the ASCA app.
This was one of my favorite things about the conference! If you don’t have a Twitter handle going into ASCA, create one at least just for professional networking opportunities and quick snippets of info. (Edited to add: years later… I don’t know that it would be especially important to be connected to Twitter. In 2016, it was!)
Using Twitter, I learned what people were laughing about in the conference room next door to mine because I was following the #ASCA16 hashtag. I got insights into others’ most precious takeaways from the best presenters. Best of all, I got to meet up and network with those who had been tweeting all weekend at the laid-back “Tweet Up” on the last night of the conference.
By staying connected to ASCA through the app, I knew where t-shirts were being given out, where check-in was located, and where the buses were leaving from because ASCA event coordinators posted logistical things to get us through the weekend.
I’m not sure how anyone could make it through the entire conference without using the ASCA conference app.
I was blown away by how helpful it was! You could organize your personal schedule for the day by picking your own sessions, while viewing a description of it and the PowerPoint before you decided to go. As an attendee, you also gave your direct feedback after the session right there on the app… talk about data collection!
5- Talk to people sitting next to you in the sessions you attend.
It’s safe to assume that everyone going to ASCA loves their career or is at least here to remember why they love their career!
Everyone here has something to share and is here for a different reason. Their school is different than yours, and they have different experiences. Find out where they’re from, how they got to ASCA, and what their favorite session has been so far.
I met a new network of colleagues who live all over the country! We already know school counselors are the friendliest people, but that is truly confirmed at a conference where we are all learning together.
Overall, going to ASCA was an unforgettable professional experience. I was blown away by the professionalism of the presenters and the smoothness of the entire conference experience. This was my first ASCA conference, but it most definitely will not be my last!
If you’re looking for more opportunities to connect with high school counselors in a community setting with relevant professional development all year round… get on the waitlist for my high school counseling membership, the Clique Collaborative!