We don’t have time as high school counselors to waste on irrelevant school counseling professional development. It’s often hard to find relevant PD that we’re excited about and that we feel will actually benefit us in the way we do our jobs. We want practical trainings that put us in positions to impact our students and our school counseling programs.
So how do you find these unicorn trainings? Are they even out there?
Here are 4 places you can look to find relevant professional development and find meaningful material related to your school counseling professional development interests.
1- ASCA U Certificates
I’ve completed a couple of these certificates as school counseling professional development. You can purchase them inside your password-protected ASCA portal. There are videos to watch, articles to read, and books (that you have to purchase) to read. There are currently 14 different courses to choose from covering a variety of topics. If you’re an ASCA Member, the courses cost $99. I’ve seen them go on sale once during National School Counseling Week a couple of years ago, but there are rarely promotions where one course is cheaper than that.
I’ve taken the College Admissions Specialist course and the School Counseling Leadership Specialist course. I have a few others on my wish list as well. I, personally, find the member portal a little difficult to navigate, but it’s doable once you get the hang of it.
You work on the modules at your own pace, and you can earn continuing education units for most of the courses. I logged my hours and used them for the professional development I was required to turn in at my own school. I found this school counseling professional development to be big picture and a little theoretical, and then I found ways to apply it to my own program.
2- Your Own State’s School Counseling Conference
This is something I wish I attended sooner in my professional career. Our professors even encouraged us to attend our state conference during grad school, and, for some reason, it terrified me!
Before I attended, I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. Would I fit in? Would I feel out of place? I was afraid to ask my school for some money to help pay for it (because it seemed way out of my price range when you added up registration, hotels, food, and gas). I was afraid to ask for a day off to use for professional development.
One of the ways I combated both of these problems was to apply to present at the conference. I know what you’re thinking… “wouldn’t that make you even MORE nervous?!” I guess I thought that if I was a presenter, I would feel more legitimate and less like an imposter. I would be more confidence asking for a day off and asking for money. I, honestly also thought, “Wow, there’s a discount for presenters! I’ll do that to save a buck!”
I don’t know why I was so terrified. The worst my administrators could say when I asked for those things was “no.” Now, I have the confidence to ask for a day off to better my craft, and I even have the confidence to ask for a bit of money to fund it!
If you’re considered applying to present, start with what you’re passionate about. Share something you’re proud of in your school counseling program or something you feel like you could do or talk about in your sleep.
Your passion and knowledge will rub off on others and reignite their energy for school counseling. You could bring so much value to your state school counseling conference! I ALWAYS left my state conference reenergized by the passionate school counselors I built a small community with over the weekend!
3- ASCA National School Counseling Conference
I’ve attended ASCA in-person twice (New Orleans and Denver), and, this year, I’ll attend ASCA for the first time virtually. (Here are “5 Tips for the ASCA First Timer.”)
I love that ASCA offers in-person or virtual options. I fully anticipate missing the communal aspect and networking piece to an in-person conference, but I couldn’t swing traveling to the live event this year. I love the opportunity to hear from other passionate school counselors who want to share their best practices with the rest of us. I cannot think of a more valuable school counseling professional development opportunity than the ASCA National Conference.
The energy that I get from this experience is similar to what I get from my state conference… except three times as much! I leave feeling HYPED… my mind reeling with new ideas to try when I get home. I always leave with a handful of practical programs, systems, and ideas to take home to my team.
My biggest roadblock to attending ASCA is always funding. Even the year my school received RAMP, it took a LOT of advocating to get money to help us attend in Colorado (coming from South Carolina). I’ve always looked at this like “every little bit counts.” I will never shy away asking for money for professional development. It’s usually there and up to your administrator or district to decide how they spend it. If you can plant a seed early that you’d like to use some of this money, and show your admin the benefits that you will bring back to their school… you might be considered for funding! Try it!
4- Counselor Fly-Ins
Let me tell you about one of the BEST hidden treasures in the high school counseling game… it’s called a Counselor Fly-In. (Here are “7 Things You Need to Know About a Counselor Fly-In.”)
A Counselor Fly-In is when a college sponsors a group of high school counselors or college counselors to their campus for an informational weekend. Usually they host the counselors in a hotel, provide meals, arrange transportation with the intention of showing them around their college campus, introducing them to admissions counselors and current students, and, ultimately, showing off their university in hopes of counselors sending them students that would be good fits for the school! It’s a win-win for everyone.
It’s so fun to get to see a new college campus in person… and not just via pictures or their social media! You usually get a behind-the-scenes look at their admissions process so that you’re truly able to understand who the best fit student would be for their school.
On these trips that I’ve been on, I’ve loved making new counselor friends! I have gone on these without knowing any other counselors (which is a super fun adventure for my personality type)! Colleges usually won’t invite counselors from the same high school or even the same area in hopes of recruiting students from all different areas to their school.
One more benefit to a Counselor Fly-In? Scheduling another fun trip around your fly-in! If you’re headed to a fun city and you have some time off (maybe it’s in the summer), add on a few more days and make it a full on vacation!
There are so many opportunities for relevant school counseling professional development right at your fingertips! Whether you’re wanting to stay closer to home,
Be sure to get on the waitlist for the Clique Collaborative, a high school counseling community and membership, which launches soon! It’ll combine all of the best parts of some of these school counseling professional development opportunities!