These 5 Tips Make It So Easy to Welcome New Students

Whether it is the beginning of the school year or the middle of April, one important role of a school counselor is to make sure that new students feel welcome at your school. Depending on the dynamics of your school, you may receive varying amounts of new students throughout the school year. At my suburban Title 1 school in Ohio, we receive about 40 new students at the beginning of the year.  We also receive an additional 10-15 new students throughout the school year.  Here are 5 tips to welcome new students that have helped prepare students for success at my school.

1) Keep Track of New Students

Every time a new student enrolls at my school, I receive an email from our enrollment coordinator. I created a simple Google Doc to keep track of new students as the emails arrive. In the Google Doc, I create one page for each grade level. Next, I insert a chart that has 3 columns on each page– Name and School, Notes, and Placement. In the Name and School column, I type in the new student’s name and the previous school he or she attended.

The Notes column is used for any information I acquire about the student that would be helpful for classroom placement. This information may come from the student’s records, talking with the previous teacher, an IEP, or discussions with parents. I work with our dean of students to reach out to the previous teacher of each new student. This method is only about 50% successful, as we often do not get our phone calls or emails returned; however, the information we do receive is very valuable, so we always make the attempt.

The third column of the doc is Placement, which is used to type in the new student’s teacher once we finalize our classroom lists. By keeping a Google Doc of new students, it helps us stay organized and collect helpful information that is beneficial for student placements.

2) Plan Ahead for New Students

When new students register at our central office, they are given a packet full of registration information. Inside the packet, we include a flyer about our New Student Orientation. The flyer contains information about the Orientation, as well as contact information for myself, our principal, and our dean. It is common for families to reach out with questions through email during the summer, so it is helpful to give them our email addresses in advance.

What if the new student arrives in the middle of the year?

Our process is a bit different for students who arrive during the middle of the school year. We do not run a formal orientation. Instead, I invite each new family in for a tour prior to the student’s first day of school. One way I plan ahead for new students in the middle of the school year is by creating New Student Folders. I purchased some simple folders from Amazon in our school colors. On the front of the folders, I stick on a label that I created with the online Avery Label Maker. Inside the folder, I include important papers that will help the new family get acclimated with our school, such as:

  1. Most recent school newsletter
  2. Meet the counselor brochure
  3. PBIS brochure and Class Dojo letter
  4. Most recent lunch and breakfast calendars
  5. School year calendar
  6. School supply list
  7. Directions to create a PowerSchool Portal (our online grade card program)
  8. Flyer from our parents’ club

I provide the family with the New Student Folder when they come in for the tour and include a business card so they can contact me with any questions.

3) Plan a New Student Orientation

About one week before school starts, we invite all new families to our school for a New Student Orientation. We create a simple presentation in Google Slides that gives families an overview of our school. I take turns presenting with our dean of students, but also invite our principal, school nurse, and parents’ club president to say a few words. The presentation lasts about 15-20 minutes and then we split all of the new families into small groups for a tour of the school. It is helpful to have very small groups to address questions from the families, so I like to invite a few teachers to help serve as tour guides. The tour is a very personable experience, which helps the new families feel welcome.

After the tour is complete, each group meets back in the cafeteria for a Popsicle treat! Staff members mingle with the new families to address any further questions. We also set out a table including some important information about our school, which allows families to grab any extra information that they need. Our New Student Orientation really helps to give families a great first impression of our school!

4) Connect with New Students

Once the school year begins, I continue connecting with new students to help them feel welcome at our school. During the second week of school, I meet with the new students in each grade level. It is helpful for the new students to get to know one another and it is also beneficial for me to learn more information about each child. During our meeting time, we always start with an ice breaker game. A quick search on Pinterest will give you many options for ice breakers.

My favorite game to play is New Student Jenga, which can be created with my Build Your Own Counseling Game on TPT. This Jenga game asks students though provoking questions in an engaging way. Throughout the game, I jot down any extra info that children share that will help me get to know them better. Students love playing New Student Jenga and they often ask to play again when they visit my office later in the school year! Click on the image below to check out the game on TPT.

Build Your Own Counseling Game

When new students arrive in the middle of the year, I take the time to connect with them a few days after their arrival. I invite them to lunch with me and play an ice breaker game to get to know them better. Sometimes I notice that the new student is having trouble getting acclimated mid-year.  If this is the case, I often schedule check-ins with the student throughout the next few weeks.  I also find a student buddy to connect with the new student.

 5) Introduce New Students to the School

A final step I take to help new students feel welcome is to create a display showcasing all of the new students at the beginning of the year. When I meet with each new student, I snap a picture and have them create a pennant for our New Student Banner. Once I am done meeting with all of the students, I use the pennants to create a display in our main hallway. Not only does this create a welcoming display, but it also helps the returning students get to know all of the new students! During arrival and dismissal, I often catch parents checking out the display, too. I keep the display up for about a month and then return the pennants to each student to take home. If you want to create your own New Student Banner display, check out my FREE resource by clicking the image below.

New Student Banner

By following these 5 tips to welcome new students, you can help new students and families feel welcome at your school. Although it takes a bit of work up front, the steps you take to connect with new students will have a lasting effect. Do you have any favorite tips for new students? Please share your ideas in the comments below!

5 Tips to Welcome New Students

Back to School

5 Ways to Use Lunch Bags in School Counseling

school counseling crafts: lunch bags.

Following the positive response of Five Ways To Use Tissue Boxes in Counseling,” I wanted to share additional ways I use crafts in my therapy practice. Because brown lunch bags are inexpensive, easily accessible, and inspire creativity, they have been my go to for child play therapy.  I have narrowed down my list of therapeutic uses into five projects that may be used in groups, individual sessions, and/or even in the classroom. 

The Mindless Monster

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Making Counseling Groups Work

Groups. Do you love them or hate them? I remember in grad school learning about group theory, the ideal selection process, and writing lesson plans for 12 45-minute sessions. When I started at my first school and saw the reality – way more kids than time, 20 minute lunch groups (while eating), and kids who struggle to even participate. I used to hate groups. Then I got myself together and decided to own my groups instead of the other way around.

Make a Plan Read More »

Group Counseling

How to Have an Organized First Week as a School Counselor

Organized First Week as a School Counselor

Happy Hot Summer, Everyone! I hope you are managing to stay cooler than I am here in Texas. I can’t guarantee working air conditioning, but I can give you a post full of tips for having an organized first week as a school counselor.  We are going to get your counseling office and program set up for the beginning of the school year.

If you are like me, the sight of a disorganized office is overwhelming.  This, combined with the thought of setting up my entire counseling program, can sap all my inspiration and motivation for the rest of the day! To keep us all calm and forward-moving, here are 10 tips for how to have an organized first week as a school counselor. Your program will be in order by the time everyone returns, guaranteed! Read More »

Back to School

Managing Disruptive Behavior Referrals

Managing Behavioral Referrals for Disruptive Behaivior


Managing behavior referrals often fall under the realm of school counseling.  However, most school counseling programs have few, if any, behavior management components. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!  Confident Counselor authors are ready to share their best practices for managing behavior referrals. Heather will cover the details we need to know first when presented with a behavior.  Carla has some tips for clarifying the problem with the teacher.  Finally, Robyn has some solid advice on how to engage the parents.  Read More »

Behavior, Classroom Management, Parents, Teacher Consultation

3 Organization Tips for a Great Year

3 Organization Tips


Organization is my jam. I may or may not get ridiculously excited about school supplies and organizing systems. I recently starting a grad school program at night and I had more fun than a toddler in a candy store setting up my notebook. But I know not everyone is so geeky inclined. Sometimes others think organized people are so together but, the secret is, I’m lazy. I want to do it once so I don’t have to think about it later. In that spirit, I want to share with you 3 school counselor organization tips that will make your school counselor life easier. Read More »

Back to School

15 Must Have Books for Elementary School Counselors

15 Must-Have Books for Elementary School Counselors. Books on feelings, personal safety, incarceration, growth mindset, friendship, self-esteem.

Hello Confident Elementary Counselors!  Kate, Susan, and Vanessa here to share with you some of our favorite books for elementary school counselors. The three of us have teamed up to tell you about the books we love and also tell you a bit about ourselves. As elementary counselors, we know that books are an important tool to use in our programming. Children can easily connect to the characters in stories, which helps them begin to apply the message to their own life. Join us as we tell you more about ourselves and our favorite books for elementary school counselors! Read More »

Bibliotherapy, Product Review

An Honest Review of SCUTA Pro for Tracking School Counseling Time


“Tracking school counseling time is my favorite task,” said no counselor ever. (especially not The Counseling Teacher!) I have to admit that keeping a time usage log makes me cringe.  From phone calls and emails, to every conversation in the hallway, we are always working towards meeting the recommended time usage percentages posted by the American School Counseling Association (ASCA). When I think of all of the things I could accomplish instead of this tedious task, I squirm.  Then I remind myself that this is not about me. This is about the students. This is about providing a data driven, research based, school counseling program for my amazing community. After struggling with spending too much time with various data collection methods, I knew that our current method wasn’t working.  Then one fine day, my fellow counselor, Mrs. Carla Christian and I stumbled upon a little gem called SCUTA Pro. To make it even sweeter, we were able to secure a grant to cover the yearly fee.  And we were off.

First things first, we do not get any financial gain from SCUTA Pro for this review. We’ve been using it for 2 years for tracking school counseling time and have no complaints. I really wanted to share our journey because it has helped us so much and I hope it will help others as well.  Overall, it has been a user-friendly way to analyze the effectiveness of our program.


Top 3 Reasons We Continue to Choose SCUTA Pro for Tracking School Counseling Time

Time Savings

The website is very easy to navigate. Whenever we couldn’t figure something out, we were able to get assistance right away through an email to customer service.  Sometimes the owner would email OR CALL us to make sure that we were comfortable with the program. My favorite feature that came out our second year of use is the “repeat” option that allows me to easily fill in a recurring activity that I do on a regular basis.  When entering data, categories are already filled so that you can easily choose from a drop down menu without typing it out. Finally, my counseling supervisor can look up my data in real time without asking me to send in a report.

ASCA Categories

The first thing that drew us to SCUTA was the fact that it followed the  ASCA National Model recommendations. The time categories come straight from ASCA. Carla and I are sure that our SCUTA reports were critical in helping us prepare for and obtain RAMP certification for our middle school. After winning RAMP, our district decided to pick up the tab on our SCUTA fees and provide the service to all of the schools in our district.

Detailed Reports

Colorful, visual graphs help us keep track of percentages for our use of time based on ASCA recommendations. With a quick glance at the colors on the calendar pages, it’s pretty clear instantly if we are making our goals. We use this data to self-reflect and plan our time in a way that helps us maximize the effectiveness of our program. We also use these reports to share our progress with stakeholders. I can look up by student name or type of activity. I can also choose a time period which is helpful when I’m analyzing each quarter.

Week at a Glance Calendar View

Advice for First Time Users

One thing I learned from the first two years of using SCUTA Pro is that it would be a good idea to spend some time reading over the categories and subcategories and deciding how to best label certain activities. For instance, some duties that may seem like non-counseling related tasks are actually counseling tasks. If you look at how you perform your daily duties, you could easily turn meaningless tasks into meaningFUL tasks.  For instance, early morning car duty could be used as a time when you warmly greet families which falls under the PBIS counseling task.

Finally, I love how the owners are continually getting feedback from counselors to keep the program up to date and as helpful as possible. I’m excited to see next year’s version. I know they are constantly improving and making time-saving additions.  If you still have questions, you can leave a comment or contact me directly.

This is an honest review of SCUTA Pro and three reasons why we use it for tracking school counseling time to evaluate our school counseling program.


Product Review

10 Ways to Prepare During the Summer

School Counselor Summer Prep. 10 ways to prepare this summer to ensure their year is off to a great, confident start. #schoolcounselorprep

Summer is finally here and we all have time to breathe and decompress from another whirlwind year of advocating and empowering! If you’re like us, after a week or so of sipping lemonade by the pool, you might be getting the itch to start planning for another successful year. CounselorChelsey and Counselor Keri are here to share 10 things school counselors can do during the summer to prepare for the school year!

Review your data from the year

What programs and initiatives were successful? Where is there room for improvement? Begin looking for new data-driven interventions to address those areas that were not as successful (and celebrate the areas that were!). Use your data to determine which topics you will cover in classroom guidance lessons and small group programs. Read More »

Back to School

Confident Counselors is Turning One!

Confident Counselors


Social Emotional WorkshopSay Happy Birthday to the Confident Counselors Newsletter!

Almost a year ago Confident Counselors began. It started with me chattering on about how being the only person in your school doing your job is a uniquely challenging, to say the least.

There is no one in my building to share resources with or ask for advice. Do I really have to go to the professional development sessions on the new math curriculum? My supervisor has a teaching degree in English. If one more teacher insinuates that all I do is play games with kids. Oh, the teachers got an entirely new writing curriculum, and I have to create all my materials for my an entire building.

Feeling confident yet? Ugh. All I wanted was to make those negative thoughts go away for people like me and replace that with beaming confidence.

I reached out to my (better than real life) friends from school counseling Facebook groups. The little idea grew and grew in excited, passionate chats. Within a few months, more than 20 of us committed to collaborating on a monthly newsletter that we hoped would begin to fill the gaps we saw and felt.

We wanted to provide real life advice, counselor tested products, best practice resources, links to quality professional development sessions, and humor where we could find it. We wanted to help people feel confident that they too were amazing, essential professionals in a school building.

Now, we have to own that confident label and take it up a level. You all were so kind and enthusiastic about our content this past year, we want to put out more of it. This year, we will be moving our newsletter into a regular blog. Here’s what you can expect:

  • 2-3 blog posts per week
  • A monthly email/newsletter with the most popular posts, recommended resources, and confident musings.
  • Giveaways and exclusive freebies

Over the next month, we will be doing giveaways for our email subscribers. If you are on our list, keep a lookout on Facebook, Instagram, or your inbox to see if you won. Look for ways to get extra entries. We are so excited about being a valued resources for you during this next year.

Be #aconfidentcounselor

Confident Counselors Blog

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