What Counselors Can Do Before Students Walk In The Door

Read Time:  min |  Counselor Life, Your Program

It’s almost back to school season! While I find back to school to be an incredibly exciting time, full of new ideas and fresh starts, it can be chaotic. Especially when those doors open on the first day and the students are officially back.

Personally, I’ve found that you never really know what is going to happen when the students walk in. Will I be supporting kindergartners who have a hard time separating from their parents for the first time? Will any students I know need to spend some time in my office processing what happened over the summer? Who knows.

What I do know is that when I take a few days before school starts to get myself organized and prepared, I feel much more equipped to handle whatever is thrown at me.

Plan Ahead

One of the first things before school starts is to plan as much as possible for the first two weeks. Your to-do list may be different depending on your specific school. I make a list of students to check in with, create a plan for scheduling small groups and classroom guidance, and I plan all of those out as much as I can.

Here are some things you can get set up before the first day of school:

Decide how teachers will sign up for classroom guidance, and send out the e-mail/forms you are using for that!

Make a list of students you may need to check in with during the first few days. It also helps if you make a note of which classroom they will be in.

Prepare the forms for needs assessments/minute meetings. I have these for free in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

Make a plan for the classroom lessons you will be doing in the first few weeks. Gather all of the materials you need and print out copies to avoid last minute stress!

Think about whether or not you will be running small groups in the first few weeks. Prep as much as possible, including gathering materials you will need and making copies. You can check out my no-prep small group plans here!

My theory is that if I can start ahead, and get as much planned as possible, it is easier for me to stay ahead… or at least not fall so far behind!

I keep copies of blank needs assessments in a folder, organized my grade level, for easy access!

Connect With Teachers And Other Staff

My second priority is always connecting with teachersespecially new teachers. Most schools have at least one or two required work days before the school starts when all of the staff are in the building.

I have found that building relationships with teachers and other staff can be so helpful in our practice as counselors, social workers or psychologists. Check out some ideas of how to do that here.

The first few days – when you can’t be interrupted by student crises – is a great time to touch base with them, explain your role and go over any changes you are making to your program. I try to make contact with every teacher in the building.

In case this isn’t possible, I also make a list of who I need to prioritize, such as new teachers and teachers who will be having some of my “frequent flyer” students in a class. Doing this before the students’ first day can make it much easier to touch base with the teachers and work on building those connections!

Making a list of teachers and students to check in with helps me feel prepared!

Get Your Office Ready

Once I have done the first two things, I make sure my office is ready to receive staff and students. Your office doesn’t need to look like it can be on the cover of a magazine, but having a tidy, welcoming space can be instrumental in making both students and staff feel more comfortable.

I love to have some colorful posters, a calm down area, and an organization system for my games/art supplies. For more ideas, check out this list of office must haves from The Counseling Teacher. I have found that having a nice workspace leaves me feeling refreshed and ready to tackle whatever comes at me! Doing this before the first day of school will help you get it done without distractions and help you feel ready for the year to begin!


The few days before school starts can be a great time to work – as there are no (or at least fewer) crises or urgent interruptions. If you spend this time planning your first few weeks, connecting with staff, and making sure your workspace is fresh and inviting, you will feel refreshed and prepared to handle whatever those first days of school will bring!

I’d love to hear what you will be doing before school starts! Is there anything you are working on now? Let me know in the comments!


School counselors can prepare before school starts by planning ahead, connecting with staff and getting their offices ready!