School Counseling: Caseloads and Responsibilities

During the 2021-22 academic year, each public school counselor was responsible for overseeing 405 students, on average,1 which exceeds the 250-to-1 maximum ratio recommended by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA).2

Importance of School Counseling
School counselors play a key role in assisting students through the transition to postsecondary education. By collaborating with school administrators, teachers, community representatives, government officials, and parents, school counselors can be significant assets throughout the college application and admission process. Counselors serve an important role in advising students as they progress through secondary school and prepare for college. In fact, a NACAC study showed that high school seniors who talked one-on-one with a school counselor were:

6.8 times more likely to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

3.2 times more likely to attend college

2 times more likely to attend a bachelor’s degree program

Variation by State

Student-to-counselor ratios also vary widely by state. Only two states—Vermont and New Hampshire—had ratios below ASCA’s recommended threshold (186 and 208, respectively). The states with the highest number of students per counselor included Indiana (694), Arizona (651), Michigan (615), Minnesota (570), Illinois (522), Utah (516), and California (509).

Staff Time for College Counseling

Postsecondary admission counseling is one of many functions of school counselors. On average, the time that counseling departments in secondary schools spend on various tasks is as follows. The division of time among these tasks differs substantially based on school type, particularly for postsecondary counseling.3

Public Private
Personal needs counseling 29% 12%

Helping students choose and schedule high school courses 24% 14%

Postsecondary admission counseling 22% 51%

Academic testing 9% 9%

Occupational counseling and job placement 6% 3%

Other non-counseling activities 6% 5%

1, US Department of Education. (2021). Common Core of Data State Nonfiscal Survey Public Elementary/Secondary Education: School Year, 2021–22 Version 1a. Washington, DC: NCES. Note: Calculation includes all students and counselors in the state (pre-kindergarten, elementary, and secondary counselors) except for adult education.
2. American School Counselor Association. (2023). The role of the school counselor. Alexandria, VA: ASCA.
3. Joint NACAC/EAB survey of high school counselors. Report forthcoming.

Information from NACAC’s State of College Admission Report. Access the dashboard and tools here (Membership Log in Required) –