How to Have an Organized First Week as a School Counselor

Read Time:  min |  Counselor Life, Organization

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!

Set up your counseling office

3 – 6 hours.  Unpack all materials and set up your counseling office or classroom. Don’t spend more than a day on this, even if you are breaking in a new office/classroom because it will all change as the year progresses anyway. Just put everything you have in a place so that you feel somewhat comfortable in your space.

Summer break phone and email messages

30 minutes – 1 hour. Change out your summer break phone/email message and return any phone messages you acquired while hanging out at the beach.

Return summer emails

2 hours. Check work email and take care of those over-the-summer emails and any others you just couldn’t deal with during the last few days of the 2016-17 school year. 

Create your to-do list

1 hour to a half day. Put together your TO DO list and write the tasks in your planner or Outlook Calendar or Smartphone or whatever you use. This way, you will know when to do them and actually remember to do each task. This will take 1-2 hours if you are continuing from the TO DO list you started for this new school year at the end of 2016-17. If you didn’t start your 2017-18 TO DO list last year and you have to make it from scratch- block out a half day. 

Meet with your counseling colleague(s)

2 -3 hours. Plan and coordinate your activities for the first two weeks of school. Set a weekly or monthly planning time to continue meeting regularly through the school year. 

Set up the waiting area

2 hours. Set up your waiting room/suite/lobby if you have one. If you have an awesome student helper who can come to the school and do this for you, enlist their help! In our counseling office, we have amazing office aides/peer mentors that we painstakingly train each year- here’s a link if you need training materials. This past year, we bought our student aide lunch and just let her go- 2 hours later, she was all done and our waiting room sparkled.

Meet with your principal or admin

1- 2 hours. With your principal or admin, review, complete, and sign ASCA’s Program Planning Annual Agreement. Use this time to also set up a weekly or monthly meeting with your principal/admin that runs throughout the school year. It’s a great way for him or her to know what ASCA (or your state school counseling association) recommends that you do, what amazing things you are actually doing, and what he or she needs for you to do.

Create your weekly schedule and yearly calendar

Half day. Create and send your weekly schedule and yearly calendar. Here’s a downloadable version of mine from my School Counselor Stephanie TPT store, if you need them.  Post copies in your workspace and on your office door.  Also, email/give copies to your administrators and other relevant staff.

Plan your August/September guidance lessons

1 Day. Use your district or state-mandated school counseling objectives to plan your first few guidance lessons. Excellent August/September guidance topics include: introductions, how to see the counselor, how to handle an emergency, and success in school. Next, create your staff/student/parent needs assessments- the results of these needs assessments will guide the rest of your guidance lesson topics after September.  Visit my blog, School Counselor Stephanie, to download a free student needs assessment if you need one.

Create your counseling program presentation for staff

Half day. My counseling program presentation is also on my homepage if you’d like to use and modify it to create your own presentation.  After you finish creating the presentation, send it to your principal or admin for approval and ask them for a time and date when you can present it to the staff.

Now go ahead and get started on that To-Do List. Happy Do-ing!

Here are some photos of my counseling office that I set up every August. Good luck on an AMAZING start to your school year!

My Counseling Office



Organized school counselor. 10 tasks to complete to start off your first week organized and ready for the year.