The fourth episode of the Future College Parent Podcast features Ms. Suzanne Gluck, Guidance Counselor at East Williston Union Free School District. This episode is special to me because Suzanne was actually a student of mine back when I worked in the college housing program at the University at Buffalo. I remember Suzanne as an undergraduate student herself, and specifically the joy, the energy, and the passion she has for life. It’s such a thrill to see her now helping students navigate all that is high school and beyond. She’s super knowledgeable and is such as caring professional. What a great honor for me to see how much Suzanne has grown. I’m extremely proud of her! And I’m confident you’ll see in our talk how she provides a solid structure for students but allows them to exhibit their own creativity to achieve their individual goals.
[01:01] Introducing Suzanne Gluck!
[02:50] Suzanne’s role in supporting parents and students in getting college and career ready.
[04:52] Why prepare students for college right from 8th grade?
[06:03] About Naviance and its role
[09:13] How a high school guidance counselor is helpful to students.
[12:18] Solutions for students who don’t advocate for themselves
[14:50] How to include all students on the guidance and counseling radar.
[17:06] Does every school have a counselor?
[17:54] How parents can assist students with college preparation.
[22:29] Putting a student in a safe uncomfortable position
[24:57] Advice for the higher education system
[28:55] Partnering with parents to overcome higher education websites communication issues
[30:43] Justin’s 5 takeaways from the episode
Five things I learned from my talk with Suzanne!
1. You can start preparing and creating your student’s college going identity as early as the 8th grade by helping your student get to know who they are (I suggest even as early as the 6th grade). Parents can begin to develop this identity by asking open-ended questions to help their student reflect on what they’ve learned and liked. Or parents can challenge your student to step out of their comfort zone, they may surprise themselves or fail. Either is a good thing as they’re growing!
2. Check to see if your school uses a platform to create and track post-secondary plans. For example, Suzanne discussed her school uses the Naviance College, Career, and life readiness platform as a locker to track all the stuff and things her students are doing to become college and career ready. If your school isn’t using a platform, that’s OK, you can start a notebook or begin to create a portfolio of experiences to track everything! Note, I am not affiliated, nor do I endorse Naviance and only mention it by name as Suzanne mentioned using it in her school.
3. You can help your student to be their own self-advocate and learning to speak for themselves by helping them articulate their needs, wants, and how they’re going to be successful. Try this first before asserting yourself as their advocate.
4. Know the name of your school counselor and encourage your students build the relationship with that person.
5. When you’re at the college choice stage, reach out to a potential campus and ask to speak with an admissions counselor and/or student representative that represents or has a similar interest as your student. For example, a specific major or interest. This will help the student determine the feel and fit they get from the institution.
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Parent Action Plan!: Parents can download the action plan document to actively engage with their student, secondary, and post-secondary professionals to help their student prepare, chose and finance college.
Lesson Plan & Worksheet: Leaders of activities your student is involved in, and your school administrators can download the Lesson Plan and Worksheet for this episode to help teach all Future College Parents the content of this podcast episode.
American School Counselor Association: The national average student to school counselor ratio was 415 to one for the 2020-2021 school year. https://www.schoolcounselor.org/About-School-Counseling/School-Counselor-Roles-Ratios
Justin Alger 00:23
Suzanne, welcome to the future college parent podcast. Thanks for being here and helping future college parents it also thanks for being one of our first six guests in the six-episode premiere of the future college parent podcast and let’s start off if you could please share your role and describe what capacity you support parents and students in getting college and career ready.
Suzanne Gluck 02:58
Sure. So, I am a high school guidance counselor. Many schools call it school counselors, my school it’s titled guidance counselor, it really just depends on where you work. Essentially, I support high school students grades eight through 12. And I am with them all five years. My school is a little unique in that we have our eighth graders in the high school, but I support them all five years that they are in the school. So, I have a portion of the alphabet. My role in regard to parents and navigating the college process is it’s an ongoing process starting from eighth grade, getting students prepared with Naviance, which is a tool that we can dive into a little bit. Many of you may not be familiar with the program, many schools utilize it in terms of career exploration, Hollins traits, as well as resume building surveys to help communicate with the school counselor, as well as navigating the college process in terms of searching for schools, helping find matches a housing spot for standardized tests. And it also is a way for the students to connect with their actual college applications. So, I am in continuous contact with my students as well as my parents on a daily basis. Also coming from a very high performing high school. My families are really involved in the college process, which makes it very easy. So, you know, one of the biggest advices that I could give to a parent is to be involved in the process. Help your child out with the process because when you are in sync with what’s going on, they’re going to have more success with finding the right fit.
Justin Alger 04:50
Thank you for sharing and now, you mentioned that you start in the eighth grade. Doesn’t that seem a little bit early?
Suzanne Gluck 04:56
You know, it’s one thing to go and take tours on an actual college campus. And I do believe students need to start their college going identity. So that belief that they can maybe go off to college, post high school life early. But at the beginning, what’s really important as an eighth grader, is getting to know who you are your passions and what you like, specifically. So, when I meet with my eighth graders, most of our questions aren’t tailored as to what college do you want to go to. And some of them have aspirations already, maybe because they have an adult’s an older sibling. Some of them may have friends or family that have high profile jobs, that that’s what they’re looking for. But getting to know what they’re good at, what they like, is really important, especially helping students start tailoring elective choices, extracurricular activities, as well as opportunities for in school community service, as well as out of school community service.
Justin Alger 06:03
And now is that where this Naviance comes into to track those activities?
Suzanne Gluck 06:08
Absolutely. So, this year, specifically, my school was back at 100% capacity, which was amazing. Since day one, obviously, things were a little unique with math with given COVID however, we had the opportunity to push into our eighth-grade classrooms and ninth grade classrooms, which we haven’t been able to in the past under the regime of a new director. And one of the goals is to get our students even actually earlier than that collaborating with the middle school, onto this program Naviance. So Naviance has access for students throughout the district if the district purchases the program. And at the eighth-grade level, I’ll talk more there or even really, ninth grade is where the high school comes into play. The students have the opportunity to start building their extracurricular resume, which is we go over the importance of that if they’re going on an interview for a summer job for an internship opportunity, a summer program, we want them to be able to start housing their information in one spot. Why? Because when you get to 11th grade, and I asked you for your activity resume for me to write your letter of recommendation, you’re probably going to forget the nuts and bolts and the details that you want to have. So, it’s a really great place to kind of store information I like to tell my students, it’s a locker. So, you have privacy, it’s not getting sent off to a college, but at the same time, you can store whatever you want in there, and we can fine tune it later on. So, a great start is that but then, like I mentioned, there are some career clusters, which will help students connect to what jobs they may be interested in. And you might think, well, why are they thinking about jobs in eighth grade? Well, jobs and skill set that you might be good at, will connect to possibly taking electives in high school. It’s not about taking all the mean academics and doubling up. I see that a lot at my school. And I’ll explain that concept of doubling up, which means accelerating in the math and science areas, maybe taking two or three mathematics, colleges want to see a well-balanced individual. If you love music, you keep your music while four years or five years that you are in high school, we want you to start exploring, we don’t want you to go off to college, not knowing what you like, that’s what’s important, not knowing your major is okay. But really finding that passion, knowing what you like. And being able to balance yourself throughout your time is so critical. So that’s why we get our students started at an early age, we inform the parents that we’re getting them started on the program, and the parents can even have access to their children’s Naviance accounts as well. So that this way they can track some of the information and make sure that they’re completing activities that are assigned.
So that makes sense to start early track everything. And then, when you get to that point where you’re putting together all of your activities for the college application, it’s all right there in one place. Makes a lot of sense. So, what other types of things can a high school guidance counselor be helpful with?
Suzanne Gluck 09:19
Sure. So, in addition to obviously helping the student program out their time, throughout high school, we really work on a lot of the social emotional aspects of a student and a lot of that is preparing them to become a self-advocate. And what that means is that the student and I see tremendous growth again from the eighth grade to the 12th grade, being able to articulate their needs, their wants, and how they are going to be successful. Some of my students that I’ve seen tremendous growth are even some of my students with disabilities. Why? these students attend their IEP meetings. Really, it’s called the committee for special education. So CSE meetings for their IEP, which is their individual education program, or their section 504, which are is an accommodation plan meeting. And I even had a student in 11th grade, when she was in 11th grade moving into 12th grade now graduated, actually run her own CSE meeting, which is called a self-directed IEP, a phenomenal process. And granted, not every student is going to have this access, if they don’t have a form of a disability and they require services. But learning what you need is our job to help you to start having those conversations come into my office each day, talk about what was great about the weekend, tell me what you did with friends, I want to find out all the things that you don’t do inside a school, that’s part of my job, and then helping you put that to paper or helping you really craft that into clubs, activities, ideas, creating your crafting your essay, these are things knowing your personal story in terms of your family, this is why it’s so important to stay connected with the parents as well, knowing what’s going on, you don’t know the circumstances that go on all the time. But when you have that ability to really connect with the students, you’re going to help them progress. When connecting back with art, my principal this year on a faculty meeting discussing what things would we take away from COVID and bring it to next year? I want to say my students were phenomenal with advocating for themselves and why? Because the parents weren’t actually allowed in the building. And that’s not to say I don’t love connecting with the parents. I absolutely think it’s an essential piece. I think it’s important but having the student being able to come down and feel comfortable to ask the question, our students did that more than ever this year, because parents weren’t allowed in the building. So now they have a question. And their parents will say, well go see your counselor, go see Mrs. Gluck, she’ll be able to help you. I would talk with the student. And if we need to get the parent on the phone, we’ll get the parent on the phone. But having those that ability to be able to talk and speak for yourself is so critical for success moving forward.
That’s fantastic. Now for those students who don’t necessarily advocate for themselves, or, they don’t have that skill set. How do you how do you follow up or interact with those students?
Suzanne Gluck 12:30
Sure. So, I am extremely fortunate that I work at a really small high school. So, like our graduating class that just graduated yesterday was 147. Meaning I have about 30 to like 35 students per grade. So, it’s a very manageable caseload. And I understand this is not the norm whatsoever. So, for me, I happen to have a really great relationship. And no most of my students and I always say it’s those middle students, right in the middle who really don’t need that much support aren’t necessarily the highest achieving students, or not necessarily disciplinary students. And again, I’m not a disciplinarian, but they’re not the ones coming down for the support after maybe a discipline issue in the school. So those middle ground students, that’s the great question, you’re asking, how do we, you know, help them with advocacy? Well, frequent communication, and this is where the parents should step in a little bit. If they feel that their child is not being seen, if they don’t know who their school counselor is, that to me is a problem. I don’t care if the school counselor has 500 students, they should at least know the names of their caseload, they may not know every little detail. But as a parent, I would want my child to know their school counselor, I would want my child to start building that relationship. And I would almost preemptively say, Listen, go down there, introduce yourself. Doesn’t always happen with there’s definitely students who would not want to do that. But even a call to the counselor saying, hi, my son and daughter or daughter is going through XY and Z right now, or my son and daughter is has mentioned they’ve struggled through this. If we don’t know whether it’s from a teacher, whether it’s from the student, if the parent reaches out, I’m going to definitely meet with that child if I’m made aware of a specific situation. So again, those middle ground students, it’s a lot easier to get lost in the shuffle when you’re in a larger school. But there are definitely ways and this is where it’s so important for parents to step up and then be the voice that hopefully it gets to the point where come junior year, even senior year or when they go off to college at that point that they’re able to, you know, speak from themselves, especially a college where the parents aren’t going to be able to be their voice.
That’s good. And just, I’m just trying to get to, you mentioned that your scenario your ratio very, you have a very small caseload which is which certainly is unique. And I’m just trying to figure out, how can we make sure that our students are on their guidance counselors’ radar? How do we how do we make sure that that’s happening when the ratio is so? You know, in a lot of cases 200 300 to one?
Suzanne Gluck 15:21
Yeah, that’s a difficult, you know, question that I feel many school counselors that I speak with struggle with, like how they’re going to get to everybody? And the answer is, they just don’t, it’s not okay. But a lot of it comes down to, you know, manpower. However, one of the unique things that my district has added is surveys, a lot of surveying with our students. So especially when we came back this year, and we surveyed our students, we surveyed our parents about like, how they’re feeling their anxiety is coming back, you know, to school, wearing masks, what they’re looking forward to, anything that they struggled with at home during COVID, things that they’re struggling with now. So those surveys are really powerful, because it’s a quick scan to see what the needs are of not only the students, but also the families. And this way you can start connecting. It’s also really important that you have a collaborative, you know, school, my school is extremely collaborative, we work really well with our social workers in the school. So, if I’m not able to see the student, or I’m not available at that moment, and you know, somebody is in need, not only will a social worker step in, but even another school counselor, if I’m not available, will step in and fill me into the situation. We don’t usually work on it alone. But again, if the parent can’t necessarily communicate with the child, it’s really important, I feel for districts to start putting out some of the surveys and feelers for the needs. Because that’s one way that you catch so many students who might fly under the radar, and you really may not get to know.
Justin Alger 17:06
So, every school has a counselor, is that is this true?
Suzanne Gluck 17:10
It depends on the state laws. But New York State, technically you have to have a counselor available within the district, how many is really dependent on the school, there’s a big push through some of the organizations for school counselors to make sure that the out even the elementary schools are now getting staffed with school counselors. So, that’s something that’s up and coming. But you mostly hear of school counselors in the high school as well as the middle school, all schools will have a social worker available, they may not be directly in their building, as well, as a school psychologist, again. It’s however, this district is budgeting their resources.
Let’s shift our focus to your thoughts on what parents can do to assist with the college preparation.
Suzanne Gluck 18:02
Excellent. So again, this starts with open communication, whether it’s at the dinner table, on the car, ride to soccer practice, wherever you have a moment with your child, let’s be real. Most families are on the go these days. And therefore, they’re not always sitting down having that family dinner. I know for me; my husband works different hours. He’s a paramedic. And therefore, when we talk, sometimes our talk is in between him on a job at work, or sometimes our talk is actually at a dinner table like tonight. And with that, start having conversations with your child, how was your day again, you think it’s basic, this is Elementary School Talk, but you will start getting information out and teenagers are not going to want to open up. So, you can’t always ask those, you know, how is your day because you’re going to get good? What was your favorite part about school today? Give it a little bit more open-ended questions and these open-ended questions, you know, will help facilitate, you know, interest again, and knowing what your child likes, the biggest thing I get from some parents says my son or daughter does not know what they like. And I’m like, well, one way to do that is either make them get a job, make them have an experience, whether it’s going off to you know, a summer camp or a program, put them in like an uncomfortable situation or have them interview somebody in a field that they might be considering. So, these conversations are ongoing. So that’s the first piece of it. The other thing is that again, I know we touched upon, and you mentioned you know whether eighth grade is too early to start the college process. We’re not going to start selecting a list of schools in eighth grade. My goal is not to say we need to apply to Yale, Harvard, Princeton, all these Ivy League schools in eighth grade, but if you happen to be traveling, and you are near a college, go visit the College I would say any In high school is really that appropriate time to start visiting, unless you have an older sibling and you happen to go there. Why? Because now you get a sense of what a college campus looks like. And you start to develop the feel, and the fit. Do you want more of a city life? Do you want more of a campus life, suburban, urban, rural, what do you want on that college campus? You could get a lot. And again, I live on Long Island. So, if I went to NYU, Stony Brook, Liu, post, and Hofstra, I would get totally different feelings from each of those campuses. Some are more compact like Liu, post compact, beautiful looks like that old school IV feel NYU is spread out throughout the entire city and Stony Brook, it might take you 20 minutes to get from one end of the campus to the other end of the campus. So, you have to kind of get that idea. And it gets students excited to start feeling Wow, this is something that I could be doing. I like this, I don’t like this, I don’t want to walk across the campus that large. So, if you are traveling, I would say go visit. And I always tell my students, you know, sometimes visiting schools that you never even heard of, is an awesome idea. One gets you to think outside the box. I know, especially on Long Island students really think very narrow minded and very much in a bubble of set schools. Why because they hear from a friend who heard from a friend who heard from a friend that they went to a school, and they loved it. I always say Ohio State was not a thing about 10 years ago, 12 years ago, it is a thing for Long Island students at this point, why one person went, they loved it, and they pass that along. So now put yourself on a college campus that you may not even apply to why because you are going to be more critical, and you are going to start figuring out things that you like and dislike about the school. So that’s one way at the earlier stages that you can get involved as a parent to start facilitating, you know, the college process with your child is just by making those visits and establishing, you know, the likes and the dislikes, and you know, you want list you want a needs list is important.
Justin Alger 22:13
And it starts with having those conversations and meaningful conversations, because the time that you have to have conversations is limited. So, making sure that the time that you’re spending with come in conversation is meaningful and impactful. And I wanted to go back to the comment you made about putting a student in an uncomfortable position, I’m assuming a safe uncomfortable position. Of course,
Suzanne Gluck 22:38
Absolutely. Always safe. Safety is always our number one priority. But things that you that, you know, are hard is a good thing. Because it’s a learning lesson. It’s great. It’s you know, a student who plays it safe. You know, I had a student who was taking all regents classes where there’s nothing wrong with New York State Regents classes. For those of you who are listening, New York State has classes that they take. And they’re the curriculum is geared off towards the New York State Regents examinations, great classes. However, when you are getting as across the board, let’s take a little bit of a risk. And again, it doesn’t have to be in every subject area. Let’s go ahead and pick one or two and advance yourself into advanced placement courses. Those are called AP courses run through the College Board, and they’re streamlined across the country. So, taking risks, and sometimes you surprise yourself and sometimes you fail. And if you fail, it’s you know, it’s a learning experience. I mean, we are often you know, I would say the biggest uncomfortable situation that I would say many of our students face and it’s not just students at my school is, well, I don’t like this teacher. And you know, they’re in that uncomfortable situation where they don’t work with the formatting of the teacher or it’s not the way that they’d want the teacher to present information, or they got one poor test grade. So, all of a sudden, I hate that teacher. Growing Pains is part of the process. And is it uncomfortable? Yeah, it’s uncomfortable if you fail the test to approach a teacher, but why are you going to go with meet with that teacher, you’re going to meet with them so that you don’t make those same mistakes. Usually, those mistakes are the ones you’re going to remember at that point and hopefully get it correct the next time. But that teacher is going to help you try to succeed. The other piece too. If you don’t agree with the learning style, that’s okay. You’re going to work with colleagues, you’re going to work, you know, go off to college and meet people again. You don’t have to like everybody you’re surrounded by you have to be respectful. And at the same time, you need to do your job and if your job is being a student, then your job is going to be going to extra help. If you’re struggling. Your job is going to be doing your homework and come to my office complain all you want. Totally fine. I’m not necessarily changing your teacher. And we’re going to talk about what we use to work through it.
So higher education and secondary education don’t have a formal way of communicating. Right. So as a spokesperson for secondary education, what advice do you have for higher education as a system?
Suzanne Gluck 25:10
one of the things that I have is being more transparent on their website. The website is obviously a huge poll for students and their families. And it would help actually alleviate a lot of anxieties why I anytime a college admissions rep connects with our school, and we actually invite the reps into our school building this year, we had them virtually, but they come into our building they meet with our students. One takeaway that I always, you know, at, you know, share with them be transparent about your documents when they are due on your, on your website, because parents will panic when parents are involved in the process. And it says the application deadline is November 1 or November 15. And then their high school transcript is not there. By November 1, they panic. But often the counselors have ample time after to submit the documents. So, they need to be a little more transparent with communication in terms of what is do when it’s a really sensitive time. And, and it’s a real anxiety-stricken time in the life of a high school senior, they’re coming into senior year, all excited, you know, they’re running the school at this point. They have all these dreams and aspirations. They’re taking tough academics for them. They’re trying to balance their extracurricular activities. Now mom and dad are nagging them about getting these applications done and ready to go writing their essay SCT classes if they have to continue being transparent about these deadlines are really critical. And to help alleviate anxiety, one props to the Common Application, which is one of the main applications that students use to apply it has over 500 members colleges to it, it’s one application, one main demographic piece, and then you link individual colleges to it, it now can actually show when my portion, if it’s linked to their Naviance account that we use, and not all schools will use it. But for my school, it’s super helpful because we it’s linked, they can see the date that I send everything and just having that helps alleviate anxiety is. And I think my last piece and bridging that gap too is, you know, admissions reps, depending on the school, sometimes come and go in the position in higher education, they may not be there for a while making sure that the admissions team understands the area that they are recruiting is really important. Some things are more of a priority and specific areas that they might be traveling. I know specifically, I have a phenomenal relationship, I’m going to throw it out there named Tulane University, Jeff Schiffman, amazing director of admissions, Jeff takes care of us so well. And he his admissions reps that his team knows Long Island. And when he had a change in personnel, he made sure that they understood the needs of the community and the students, knowing your audience is so important. And I think that’s a huge area that can be bridged better within college admissions offices.
Justin Alger 28:41
Okay, so then the follow up becomes, right, so you’re suggesting that maybe college websites aren’t as transparent as they could be? Or admissions counselors don’t necessarily know the audience all the time that they’re serving? How do you take that advice and share that advice with parents to say, hey, how do we overcome this, this disconnect between website communication and understanding the audience?
Suzanne Gluck 29:08
So, one area is that many college admissions offices will also have student representatives. And although they may not have somebody from every area that you live in, somebody who might be able to relate to you whether it’s through a major that you’re interested in, going into or if you are an athlete, maybe this person plays, you know, the same sport. This is one way to kind of build that connection. So, when a parent calls an admissions office, and says, oh, can I speak to the Long Island counselor? Oh, we don’t have a Long Island counselor. We have somebody who oversees all of New York State. Okay, great. Do you have a counselor who specializes in athletics, which might be your key and your gateway in that then they can also connect you with a student because even if the counselor isn’t the individual who’s really going to connect you to the school There’s always somebody at the school that’s going to draw you in. It might be somebody on a sports team, it might be a professor in a specific department. So don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re looking for and seeing if there’s somebody that they can connect you to.
Justin Alger 30:16
Well, good. I think that that wraps it up for the questions that I have. I thank you so much for being on the future college parent podcast.
Suzanne Gluck 30:25
Thanks for having me.