Five common issues school counselors come across

You can pursue a wide range of professions if making a difference is your primary goal in life. Be it a doctor, firefighter, or lawyer; there is no shortage of jobs that help you contribute positively to your community. However, one of the most rewarding and impactful careers is that of a school counselor. This might not be as glamorous as some of the other careers you may think of, but it is an incredibly meaningful job. School counselors can help shape students’ lives for the better and help them pursue a much more meaningful, proactive existence. However, school counselors also come across several issues during their careers. Students can have turbulent lives, both at home and at school. Below, we’ll go over some of these common problems school counselors face: 

Academic problems 

In a school setting, students experiencing academic problems is the first indicator that there may be something amiss. Students may have periods where their academic progress drops, but if some students are consistently underperforming, there may be bigger issues that need to be identified and addressed. One of the school counselor’s main roles is to help each student do their best academically. 

This can require assessing underperforming students on various levels. They may be experiencing issues learning, where they aren’t able to understand concepts, or there can be emotional problems. Often, students who make it to the counselor’s office are at risk of dropping out, and thorough assessment is necessary to keep them in school. If you’re interested in making a difference, you might consider a degree in social work. However, if you want to pursue a career as a counselor, a master’s in counseling is the right choice. Understanding the difference between a masters in social work vs masters in counseling can help you better understand which degree is more beneficial for your career aspirations. With this degree, you can identify structural issues within the school system and help develop better policies that aid learning. 



Bullying is one of the most common problems that school counselors encounter. Bullying in schools is an age-old issue and one that continues to affect many students globally. Bullying is common across all age groups, be it in elementary school, middle school, or secondary school. 

Although bullying isn’t new, it has changed immensely in the previous decade. Now, bullying doesn’t end once the final bell rings – it gets worse. Bullies can now follow students even after class ends by continuing online. Online bullying can be pretty intense and can cause a lot of stress and anxiety for the students being targeted. There are several behaviors that can allow school counselors to identify bullying. Students acting more withdrawn, scared, and underperforming suddenly may be experiencing bullying. Students being bullied can also start skipping school. Finding out why and how they’re being targeted is essential to fixing the problem and preventing more students from suffering. 

Family issues

Family issues are one of the most common problems that school counselors come across. Schools don’t exist in a bubble, and the lives students lead outside of school can profoundly impact their performance in school. Some students may come from turbulent backgrounds, which can hugely influence their school life. 

Students may have families temporarily going through a challenging period, such as financial hardship, divorce, or a sudden issue. Other students may come from consistently toxic backgrounds where they may have experienced abuse. Building rapport with such students is essential, as it can help them have a safe space to express how they feel. Additionally, if possible, a school counselor needs to triangulate and try to communicate to the student’s family how they need to be supportive. School counselors, however, operate with somewhat limited ability. If the problem is too serious, you may need to refer the student ahead for proper therapy or ask for social intervention. 

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Substance abuse 

Substance abuse is, unfortunately, one of the most common issues that school counselors encounter across all age groups. Substance abuse rates in school-going populations have increased dramatically and are a major cause for concern for parents and teachers alike. Besides smoking, alcohol use in schools is increasing alongside other drugs. 

There are several ways school counselors can detect substance abuse. Students using or supplying may act erratically, skip school, underperform academically, and be disruptive at school. These students may also have a messy, unkempt appearance. Spotting substance abuse in schools is vital as one student can lead to many others falling into the same trap. Dealing with substance abuse can require familial intervention. 

College Counseling 

School counseling isn’t all about spotting underperforming students and identifying traumas. A large part of a counselor’s job is helping students find their true calling and helping them select a suitable career path. Students can often be overwhelmed by the wealth of choices before them and may not know where they should head. 

A school counselor can help assess the student’s strengths and weaknesses, future goals, and finances and help them pick a suitable college major. Moreover, a school counselor can help students decide which colleges will be best for them and guide them along the application process. 


Working as a school counselor can allow you to tackle a wide range of issues across many age groups. Students are some of the most vulnerable groups around and can be especially susceptible to facing emotional issues. School counselors can help make schools a healthier, safer environment for students of all age groups, regardless of their race, culture, religion, or ethnicity.