College Counseling versus College Coaching

Jim Jump does it again! I encourage you to read his latest in Inside Higher Ed, Ethical College Admissions: Counseling vs. Coaching. I started my career as an IEC as a “college counselor” and though that role does involve coaching, I love Jump’s distinction and that he raises questions that I also think a lot about: Do our students, parents, and schools want college counseling or do they want college coaching? Is the aspiration to transform young people’s lives unrealistic, even naïve, in a landscape that is increasingly transactional?

From his article:

What is the difference between college counseling and college coaching?

College counseling sees the college process as part of a larger quest to help young people figure out who they are and what they care about. Admission to college is the product of that process of discernment. College counseling is developmental, educational, relational and process-oriented. It is more about asking questions than providing answers.

College coaching, by contrast, is transactional and results-oriented. Admission to college is an end in itself rather than a means to self-discovery, and a coach serves as chief strategist for the student in the application process.

Of course, as Jump notes, it’s not that simple. All college counselors help students navigate a process that’s complex and confusing and not at all transparent, to say the least. So in that way, college counselors are college coaches. To me what is important is how much I counsel versus how much I coach, and more importantly, why I do what I do in the first place. Hint: it’s not to help kids who aren’t a fit for college X “win” admission to college X.


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