Recent college grads build a bridge for tomorrow's college students

In an effort to relieve overburdened guidance counselors, Michigan colleges have begun training recent college graduates to help out in local high schools, Lori Higgins reports for Detroit Free Press.

The ratio of students to guidance counselors in Michigan is 732:1, one of the highest in the United States, according to the American School Counselor Association. The recommended ratio is just 250:1.

To fill the gap, several local organizations have created training programs that prepare recent college graduates to assist guidance counselors in high schools. For example, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan partner with the national College Advising Corps to provide counselors to more than 50 high schools.

Once trained, participants help high school students with a variety of tasks necessary to prepare for college, including selecting and applying to colleges, applying for scholarships, and completing the FAFSA. The programs typically limit participants to two years of service, partially to ensure that participants continue to represent the perspective of recent graduates.

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Kimberly Ellis, a guidance counselor at Ferndale High School in Greater Detroit, says she was skeptical about the program at first. However, she says Daniel Lewis, a recent graduate of the program at Oakland University (OU), has been "a positive person to have in the department" as well as "another set of hands so our kids get as much care as we can give them."

Lewis says a typical week for him might include: chatting with students one-on-one, holding office hours, hosting representatives from local colleges, organizing college fairs, or teaching a senior seminar course.

The training programs have been so successful that they've seen a flood of interest from both prospective participants and local high schools, says Melissa Steward, director of AdviseMI, the college advisor training program run by MCAN. "Each year we receive double the applications than we're able to bring on board," she says. Some high schools have even hired former participants to their permanent staff, Steward adds (Higgins, Detroit Free Press, 10/12).

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