Ask Ashley: Advice from a School Counselor
This year marked the start of my sixth year as a school counselor, and my first year in a new school district. While preparing for the school year, I found myself reflecting on how much my time at Hamilton is responsible for where I am in my career today. I first fell in love with Hamilton at a college fair during my junior year of high school. The representatives were showing off the recently renovated Science Center and spoke highly of the swim coach. I decided then that Hamilton was the college for me; a place where I could major in biology and compete on the swim team. I soon learned that what made Hamilton great was not the prospect of continuing my old interests, but the opportunity to explore new ones.
One of the best aspects of Hamilton is the open curriculum. I ended up taking so many courses on a whim that helped shape my career path to ultimately become a school counselor. For example, I decided to try Introduction to Creative Writing my junior year, and I loved it. I wasn’t great at it, but I loved the opportunity to use my imagination. After that class, I realized how much I valued creativity in my work.
I also took advantage of the many clubs and activities outside of the classroom. After my freshman year, I decided to quit swimming to pursue other interests. I became a resident advisor, a volunteer at local schools, a student development assistant in the Alumni Office, a psychology department assistant, and a member of a few other organizations. These experiences were crucial to discovering some of my skills and interests, and for networking when I applied to graduate schools and professional positions.
So here is my “school counselor” advice for all students: take advantage of the opportunity to try new things at Hamilton. Find classes and clubs that sound interesting and give them an honest try. You might discover a new interest or skill you didn’t know you had. Sure, maybe you try a sociology class and realize you’re not interested in it as a major. But I am willing to bet that you find at least one interesting topic you discussed in that class. Check in with yourself about why you found that topic interesting, and if it is something you would want to pursue more.
My second piece of advice would be to make an appointment to talk through your thoughts and interests at the Career Center. Before going to the Career Center, I knew that I liked to work with kids, was good at listening, and wanted to do something that used my creativity. I did not consider school counseling until I sat down with someone at the Career Center, who helped me piece those interests into some career options and set me up with alumni to discuss those careers.
For those considering pursuing a career in education, know that it is not easy. Most situations you will face don’t necessarily have a right answer, and the stakes are high because you are affecting the lives of young people. You’ll feel like the job is never done, and it’s not, but you will learn to set boundaries for yourself. You will find people who you can consult with and rely on to make all of those difficult situations a little bit better. Most importantly, you will be hard-pressed to find a more rewarding career. There is never a shortage of hugs or silly things that kids say. You will have the privilege of making someone’s day better every time you go to school, and you will never stop learning about all of the best practices to support your students.
Finally, I will share the best piece of advice I have ever received: You are enough.