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REL Southwest Ask A REL Response

College and Career Readiness:

Benefits of Effective Middle School or High School Counseling and Advising Practices for Secondary and Postsecondary Success

October 2021


What are the benefits of effective middle school or high school counseling or advising practices for secondary/postsecondary success?


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Thank you for the questions you submitted to our REL Reference Desk. We have prepared the following memo with research references to help answer your questions. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southwest research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on the benefits of effective middle school or high school counseling or advising practices for secondary/postsecondary success.

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive, and other relevant references and resources may exist. References provided are listed in sections with sources in each section in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. We do not include sources that are not freely available to the requestor.

Research References

Arrastia-Chisholm, M. C., Bright, S. B., & Grimes, L. E. (2017). College and career counseling in rural schools: A review of the literature. Georgia School Counselors Association Journal, 25(1), 60–69.

From the abstract: “The recent legislation calls for attention to be given to rural education. Although the minority of the Georgia population lives in rural areas, school counselors play many roles in the lives of students in rural areas due to limited resources. This review summarizes the current literature on strategies utilized by school counselors in rural schools. Implications for practice and future research to assist rural Georgia school counselors are discussed.”

Belasco, A. S. (2013). Creating college opportunity: School counselors and their influence on postsecondary enrollment. Research in Higher Education, 54(7), 781–804. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “School counselors are the primary facilitators of college transition for many students, yet little is known about their influence on college-going behavior. Analyzing data from the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002, this study employs coarsened exact matching and multilevel modeling to examine the effects of student-counselor visits on postsecondary enrollment, as well as determine whether the effects of such visits vary by socioeconomic background. Results suggest that visiting a counselor for college entrance information has a positive and significant influence on students’ likelihood of postsecondary enrollment, and that counseling-related effects are greatest for students with low socioeconomic status.”
REL Southwest Note: What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) issued the following rating: “Does not meet WWC standards because the equivalence of the analytic intervention and comparison groups is necessary but the requirement was not satisfied.”

Bryan, J., Moore-Thomas, C., Day-Vines, N. L., & Holcomb-McCoy, C. (2011). School counselors as social capital: The effects of high school college counseling on college application rates. Journal of Counseling & Development, 89(2), 190–199. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Using social capital theory as a framework, the authors examined data from the Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 (Ingels, Pratt, Rogers, Siegel, & Stutts, 2004) to investigate how student contact with high school counselors about college information and other college-related variables influence students’ college application rates. In addition to some college-related variables, the number of school counselors and student contacts were significant predictors of college application rates. Implications for school counselors and counselor training are included.”

Carey, J. & Dimmitt, C. (2012). School counseling and student outcomes: Summary of six statewide studies. Professional School Counseling, 16(2), 146–153. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The six statewide research studies presented in this special issue use a variety of designs, instrumentation, and measures. Nevertheless, they can be integrated at the level of results to shed light on some important questions related to effective practice in the field of school counseling. In fact, one can argue that, when separate studies that are conducted in a variety of contexts achieve similar findings, greater confidence can be placed in the conclusions. These six studies provide valuable evidence of the relationship between positive student educational outcomes and school counseling program organization, student-to-school-counselor ratios, counselor time use, and specific school counseling activities. Throughout this article, the authors have made suggestions for future research, including the development of reliable and valid measurements of school counseling programming and practices, an increased understanding of the impact of state contexts on school counseling, information about how school counselor education programs are and are not preparing future counselors for the current educational reality, and studies about which specific school counseling practices within the domains identified are most effective.”

Carey, J., Harrington, K., Martin, I., & Hoffman, D. (2012). A statewide evaluation of the outcomes of the implementation of ASCA national model school counseling programs in rural and suburban Nebraska high schools. Professional School Counseling, 16(2), 100–107. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “A statewide evaluation of school counseling programs in rural and suburban Nebraska high schools investigated which features of the ASCA National Model were related to student educational outcomes. The authors used hierarchical linear regression and Pearson correlations to explore relationships between program characteristics and student outcomes. Analyses suggested that school counseling program features accounted for statistically significant portions of the variance in a number of important student outcomes. These findings provide support for previous studies linking benefits to students with the more complete implementation of a comprehensive developmental guidance program. Implementing features of the ASCA National Model was associated with improved student outcomes.”

Engberg, M. E., & Gilbert, A. J. (2014). The counseling opportunity structure: Examining correlates of four-year college-going rates. Research in Higher Education, 55(3), 219–244. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This study examines the relationships between the normative and resource dimensions of a high school counseling department and four-year college-going rates. Utilizing data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS: 09), we employ multiple regression and latent class analysis to identify salient factors related to the college-going culture of a high school and to classify schools according to their underlying counseling opportunity structure, respectively. Results demonstrate that both norms (i.e., average caseload and hours spent on college counseling) and resources (i.e., college fairs, college course offerings, and financial aid) are important predictors of a school's four-year college-going rates. These results, in turn, produced a three-level typology of schools based on a divergent, emergent, and convergent classification system. The study concludes with a discussion of findings and implications for researchers and policymakers interested in improving and better understanding the counseling opportunity structure.”

Hines, E. M., Moore, J. L., III, Mayes, R. D., Harris, P. C., Vega, D., Robinson, D. V., Gray, C. N., & Jackson, C. E. (2020). Making student achievement a priority: The role of school counselors in turnaround schools. Urban Education, 55(2), 216–237. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Much attention has been paid to administrators and teachers in turnaround schools; however, little focus, if any, is given to school counselors and the vital role that they play in improving student outcomes. In turnaround schools, it is critical that all school personnel are involved in improving school outcomes, such as academic achievement and graduation rates, in the lowest performing high schools in the United States. The authors highlight the critical role that school counselors play in turnaround schools and offer specific recommendations on how they may collaborate with other stakeholders to improve student achievement in such school settings.”

Militello, M., Carey, J., Dimmitt, C., Lee, V., & Schweid, J. (2009). Identifying exemplary school counseling practices in nationally recognized high schools. Journal of School Counseling, 7(13), 1–26.

From the ERIC abstract: “The National Center for School Counseling Outcome Research (CSCOR) at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst studied exemplary practices of 18 high schools that received recognition for college preparation and placement in 2004 and 2005. Through interviews with key personnel at each of the high schools, the researchers generated a set of ten domains that characterize the work of the school counselor that seem to be related to improved student enrollment in post-secondary institutions.”

Owen, L., & Westlund, E. (2016). Increasing college opportunity: School counselors and FAFSA completion. Journal of College Access, 2(1), Article 3, 6–26.

From the ERIC abstract: “Closing postsecondary opportunity gaps has become a national, state and local educational priority. To help eliminate these gaps, the U.S. Department of Education initiated a project that provided real-time, student-level Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion status to large, urban school districts. Leveraging this information, school counselors identified and supported students and families as they navigated the financial aid process. In this article, we discuss this initiative and document statistically significant increases in FAFSA completion and college attendance in one participating school.”

Sink, C. A., Akos, P., Turnbull, R. J., & Mvududu, N. (2008). An investigation of comprehensive school counseling programs and academic achievement in Washington state middle schools. Professional School Counseling, 12(1), 43–53. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Student achievement was compared between Washington State middle schools with comprehensive school counseling programs (CSCPs) and those without. Statistically controlling for socioeconomic status, multivariate analyses of covariance revealed minimal differences between students in CSCP and non-CSCP schools. Significant score differences emerged, however, for students attending schools with at least 5 years of CSCP implementation versus their peers in non-CSCP schools. Girls outperformed boys on various achievement measures. The findings and their implications for middle school counseling practice are discussed.”

Young, A., & Kaffenberger, C. (2011). The beliefs and practices of school counselors who use data to implement comprehensive school counseling programs. Professional School Counseling, 15(2), 67–76. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “School counselors are required to implement accountability strategies in order to increase student performance and contribute to closing the achievement gap. This study investigates the beliefs and practices of school counselors who have earned national recognition for implementing comprehensive school counseling programs based on identifying program goals and using data to close the achievement gap. The study asked Recognized ASCA Model Program (RAMP) school counselors how they use data to inform program decisions and their beliefs about using data. The results suggest that school counselors who have earned RAMP understand the importance of using data to provide services to students and drive program evaluation and improvement. Participation in the RAMP process appears to have a positive impact on data practices and school counselors' beliefs about the importance of using data.”

Additional Organizations to Consult

American School Counselor Association –

From the website: “The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) supports school counselors’ efforts to help students focus on academic, career and social/emotional development so they achieve success in school and are prepared to lead fulfilling lives as responsible members of society. ASCA provides professional development, publications and other resources, research and advocacy to school counselors around the globe.”
REL Southwest Note: “Helping Students in Troubling Times” can be found on the website at

NACADA (National Academic Advising Association) Clearinghouse ‒

From the website: “NACADA is an association of professional advisors, counselors, faculty, administrators, and students working to enhance the educational development of students. NACADA promotes and supports quality academic advising in institutions of higher education to enhance the educational development of students. NACADA provides a forum for discussion, debate, and the exchange of ideas pertaining to academic advising through numerous activities and publications.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • [(“academic advising” OR “behavioral advising”) AND (“middle school” OR “high school”) AND (“student outcomes”)]
  • [(“academic counseling” OR “behavioral counseling”) AND (“middle school” OR “high school”) AND (“student outcomes”)]
  • [(“advising frameworks”) AND (“high school” OR “middle school”) AND (“student outcomes”)]
  • advising frameworks
  • [(“advising frameworks” OR “counseling” OR advising”) AND (“middle schools” OR “high schools”) AND (“academic outcomes” OR behavioral outcomes”)]
  • [(“academic advising” AND (“middle school” OR “high school”) AND "student outcomes” )]
  • school counselors and academic outcomes

Databases and Resources

We searched ERIC for relevant, peer-reviewed research references. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.7 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched the What Works Clearinghouse.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published from 2007 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order; (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, and so forth), study duration, and so forth; and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in the Southwest Region (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southwest at AIR. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-91990018C0002, administered by AIR. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.