The new school year is here and that of course means new students are being added to our caseload! While the prospect of getting to work with a bunch of new little people sure sounds exciting, in my initial years as a counselor, I have to admit, the start of the year was met with a little uncertainty, simply because I was unsure of the most effective ways to ease new students in.

new student

As counselors, we're bound to meet these new kiddos at Back to School night, observe them during the first couple of weeks in the classroom, and even meet them through the year as we facilitate Tier 1 class lessons. We may end up seeing some of them in group and/or individual sessions later on. However, there's no denying that new students need and deserve to feel welcome and get acclimated as effortlessly as possible, and that's where you as their counselor come into the picture.

Here are my top 8 ways to help new students feel welcome:

1. Introduce yourself

Beyond your Meet the Counselor Class Lesson, it is important for new students to actually see who you are. This means that to build a rapport and eventually a relationship with the newbies, they don't just need to know what your role is and how you are there to support them. They need to know you! Share some personal information that might interest them. Does one of your new students love dogs? Talk about your dog too! Share an anecdote or a joke with them. Tell them a little about your life outside school. Maybe even share your story of why you became a school counselor. Give them something that makes them feel like they can connect/relate to you.

2. Give them a tour

One of the biggest mistakes we make is talking about key people and places in school before we really give our new students a tour of the school or an introduction to the people whose names usually keep coming up. Why not give them a personal tour? While it's important to show them your office, you could also walk them around and show them how to get to your office. Don't forget to point out other important locations like the bathrooms, lost and found, the nurse's office, etc, along the way.

school counselor giving a campus tour

3. Send home a welcome bag

Your welcome bag/packet could contain a handwritten personalized note and maybe even a souvenir like a bookmark or a small tool that's usually featured in your Calm Down Corner. A mini coloring book and crayons or even a small laminated sheet with more details about you and the ways in which you will support new students, are other items you could include in this kit. Your new students are going to feel extra special!

4. Assign them a buddy

This is probably something homeroom/classroom teachers will do, but you could also ensure that each new student has a peer assigned to help them keep up with the transition - someone who will show them around school, explain to them class expectations, and most importantly, just be a friend. This would help new students feel more included and less intimidated by all the newness that surrounds them.

student buddy

5. Find ways to mingle with them during the day

Students need to know that you are truly available to support them. Say hello to them by name in the hallway. Find a spot next to them during lunch or join in a game on the playground while on duty. The more new students see, especially outside your office, the more likely they are to get comfortable around you sooner.

6. Start a New Students Small Group

Again, getting to know each other is the most effective way for counselors to make new students feel welcome. This Friendship Group for New Students is a five-week group designed to help new students feel welcome and make new friends. Students are often nervous when they first start a new school so including them in a small group is a fantastic idea. Not only will they make new friends as part of the small group but they will learn how to view their transition to the new school through the lens of a grown mindset. The icebreaker activities are designed to be a fun and easy way for the group members to get to know one another and make friends. The activities dig deeper and have them self reflect. Check it out here.

7. Conduct check-ins/minute meetings

What happens once your small group sessions conclude? I have always found check-ins to be super useful for the next couple of months into the new school year. This is how new students know that you are still there to support them and it's also a useful way to ensure your students' academic and social-emotional needs are being met appropriately. Or if you decide a group isn't the best choice for your kiddos, minute meetings will suffice.

8. Keep in touch with their parents

As important as it is to make students feel welcome, it's equally important to ensure their parents feel supported too. Send a welcome email or make a call to them in the first few days. Reassure them of how you can support them and their child. Ask if they have specific concerns. Let them know the best way to get in touch with you as well as share any links to resources that they might find helpful during this transition phase.

keeping in touch with parents

What do you do to make your new students feel welcome and comfortable? I would love to know in the comments!


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