Academic support services to look for in a prospective school

When choosing a school, it's crucial to consider academics, but another significant factor to consider is the academic support services provided by the  school. Academic support services can make all the difference in the learning experience and help your child succeed. Academic support goes beyond getting good grades; it is a deeper understanding of courses rather than memorization, college readiness, and helping students feel accomplished.

Academic support isn’t just for students experiencing challenges. Good academic support services can help students who are experiencing challenges in school and can also help students who are doing well but strive to accomplish more. 

There are a lot of different types of academic support services. Some schools have full-time counselors who work with students on their academic goals; others have after-school clubs that focus on academics, while some have summer programs to help students catch up or get ahead. When selecting a school, you should look for one that offers academic support services that meet your child's needs.

What are the benefits of student support services?

There is no question that high school can be quite a transition for students between navigating self-discovery, social life, keeping up with grades, extracurriculars, and family life. It can be quite a challenge for them to balance it all. Student support services are a great way to help them feel more connected and supported in school through these challenges by engaging them and providing solutions through counseling, guidance, and intervention. Student support will also collaborate with teachers and parents to ensure students' holistic well-being. 

Let's take a closer look at student support benefits your child needs at their next school: 

 1. Individualized attention

Student support services staff through structured schedules meet students one-on-one to help them with their struggles. Sometimes the subject teachers bring the attention of Student support to students who need help, oftentimes they walk up to counselors to discuss their challenges with confidence that the counselors are there to help them. These challenges can be anything from help with time management to working through personal issues and many more.

 2. A sense of community

It can be easy for teenagers and preteens to feel alone in their struggle, but student support services through counseling, creating small groups of students going through similar issues or who have overcome a similar situation  can help them feel connected to a community and find a collective solution. Counselors work with these students to create solution(s) to these issues and they all work together to solve it.

 3. Improved academic performance

When students have someone help them stay on track with their studies, it's no surprise their grades improve. Student support services can help them develop better study habits, time management skills, and more.

 4. A better high school experience overall

Student support services work closely with students to help them identify their interests, strength, manage their time and tackle challenges in school or at home This is an effort to ensure students get the best of their high school experience, navigating academic, social, and emotional issues that may come along. 

Student support services your child needs

Most high schools offer student support services like academic advising, tutoring, and time management. However, it is advisable to search for schools that provide additional services to support other areas apart from academics for a more holistic education. While academic success and getting into their best-fit college is the end goal for most high schoolers, they also need to succeed in other areas of their life.

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Once you find a school with student support options, it is essential to look out for the student-to-counselor ratio; this is the only way you can guarantee that your child has access to these support services when they need it. When counselors are not faced with too many students it is easier to work deeply with each child to get to the root of the problem and find solutions in collaboration with the parent where necessary. 

Mike Grasz, the Assistant Principal of Student Services at Orange Lutheran High School, says, "Depending on the needs of the students, we usually keep our counselor-to-student ratio at a minimum. What this does for us is help consider each student's need, not having a broad brush stroke where it's the same thing for everybody."

The most significant advantage of having a small student-to-counselor ratio is that students get more attention. They can build relationships with their counselors, which can help them if they are struggling with any academic or otherwise issues. The smaller number of students also means that counselors have more time to spend with each student, which can go a long way in helping them succeed. 

At top private schools like OLu, our academic experience is founded on building relationships with students to enable us to support them according to their abilities and interests. An intentional focus on Social Emotional Learning sets Orange Lutheran's curriculum. 

College planning support

College planning is a process most great high schools begin early and continues throughout the student's high school years. College planning is one of the many reasons we want them to discover their interest early enough. That way, they can identify the ones that are fleeting early enough, explore others and settle for their true passion while we help them identify their strengths and weaknesses to find a college that fits their needs.

College planning support intensifies for 10th - 12th graders at OLu in areas like academic, social-emotional, and mental health support. In academics, our students take University of California (UC) approved courses which earn them UC credits and can help them get into almost any college in the country.

Another innovative student support program at OLu is "Academic Watch"; although this also applies to earlier grades, we put our students on academic watch when their GP drops below 2.0. OLu provides social-emotional support towards college planning by having seminars or webinars with parents and students in 10th, 11th, and 12th grade on financial aid, leaving home, and so on. 

For the athletes, OLu prepares them to transition from playing at Orange Lutheran to playing at a college level, what classes they'll need, and how to deal with the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), recruitment, and so on. Their mental health is also of great importance; hence OLu has a robust mental health structure categorizing students based on level of concern, a crisis manager to handle different tiers and connect students to licensed professionals if need be, to provide outpatient support, and also guide families in this situation.

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Additionally, OLu has a unique program called College Consulting Plus. It's a program that spends extra time with students in the college planning process. "Families are looking for some form of a college counselor/specialist to help with the whole college application. We've created a service called College Consulting Plus that eliminates the need for an outside professional because they're getting that with somebody who's at our school, who knows our students, our school, and everything about us. In contrast, an outside person will have clients from 10 different schools,” adds Grasz.  

Academic Support Services

Specialized guidance by grade level

High school is often a time of self-discovery, exploration, and growth for students. As they move through high school, their academic, social, and emotional needs become more complex, and their collective objective changes. Specialized guidance by grade level is an approach to counseling tailored to the specific developmental needs of students at each grade level. This approach allows students to receive appropriate support and guidance for their needs.

At OLu, counselors work with freshmen to help them with the transition, understand the expectations of high school, how to manage their time, pursue or explore new interests, get involved in clubs and activities, and develop healthy relationships with their peers. 

At the sophomore level, specialized guidance focuses on helping students identify their strengths and interests to begin exploring possible career options and college choices. 

At the junior level, specialized guidance focuses on assisting students in preparing for college applications. This program also helps students identify potential colleges and universities, create a list, prepare for entrance exams, and develop essays.

Prioritizing your child’s mental health

In the last three years, due to the pandemic, mental health challenges for teenagers have increased significantly, so OLu does everything it can to ease students’ minds. 

"Let's find out where you are. Let's meet you there. And let's bridge where you are and where you need to be,” says Grasz.  

Counselors also provide students with tips on managing stress, balancing their academic and extracurricular commitments, and making the most of their high school years. 

Special Programs and Services (DSPS)

OLu offers special programs designed to provide additional support to students to ensure they reach their full potential, not just to finish high school, but to succeed in life as well. These programs help students with specific challenges or struggles, bridging the gap between where they are and where they want to be. These programs, through Department of Special Programs & Services (DSPS). DSPS Program meets the needs of students with identified learning disabilities and other special instructional requirements, including some medical conditions, fostering academic growth through reasonable accommodations in curriculum and classroom expectations.

Students get put on academic watch when their GPA drops to 2.0 or below. OLu's Academic Watch program provides a study hall called Academic Prep Class for students in the program, which makes it unique. The prep class is a structured, monitored, and small-size class where students report to a teacher who works with individual students, find out what's missing, and develop an action plan on how to proceed.

According to Grasz, counselors work with students to say, "Hey, let's figure this out.” “Lots of times, we find students just need a little extra layer of help,” he says. “Okay, I did this assignment but forgot to turn it in. Okay, let's get some accountability and help so you can turn it in."

Another critical service provided by Orange Lutheran’s DSPS is providing accommodation for college testing on school campuses. Sometimes DSPS requires an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to determine a student's neuro-diversity level so they can develop more custom solutions. OLu has an emotional support dog named Marty because sometimes teenagers feel overwhelmed and feel better when they play with Marty. "I can't tell you how many times students come in, and they just lay down on the floor, curl up next to the dog, and go on their way," said Grasz. 

Courses in the DSPS Program help students reach their graduation goals through accommodations in reading level, research expectations, and note-taking requirements. The primary objective for DSPS is that upon graduation, each student can embrace how they learn, utilize the tools they need to be successful, and be able to self-advocate.

You might be thinking it's not possible to get a school that checks all the boxes, an excellent academic record, academic support service that goes above and beyond, faith-based teachings, outstanding extracurricular activities, and flexible learning options that will fit into your child's schedule. Well, download this guide on How to Choose the Right high school and you may be surprised.  

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Download OLu’s guide, “How to Choose the Right High School for Your Child,” here.

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Topics from this blog: Academics Community Wellness