We've all played the game and know the rules of school. If a kid gets sick in the hallway, they get sent to the nurse's office. If they don't have money in their lunch account, they get sent to the kitchen, where they can negotiate with ol' Madge in the back. If they get in a disagreement in the cafeteria, they get sent to the principal's office.
But what gets a kid sent to the guidance counselor? It's an elusive, slippery slope of interpretations. When I was in school, I was once sent to see the guidance counselor because my career interest survey suggested that I might want to look into becoming a puppeteer. A puppeteer. Seriously? I was a book nerd with a public speaking phobia; puppeteering was not my dream gig, and anyone who'd ever breathed the same oxygen as me would have known that.
Thankfully, the counselors at my school were all over it, keenly-aware that I was not of the puppeteering ilk. They sent for me so they could figure out what questions I had botched badly enough to produce such a ridiculous career suggestion, and honestly, I was grateful for their expertise.
So what other things, beside misguided puppetry dreams, might actually get a student sent to the guidance counselor?
20 VISITS FROM COLLEGE REPRESENTATIVES
If a kid is a high school athlete and a college recruiter shows up to check out their game, you can count on that student getting sent down to the guidance counselor's office for a little meet and greet. Cheerleaders, basketball players, golfers, bandies; no matter what the activity, if a recruiter pops in to see a student, the student will be popping in at the counselor's office.
It kind of makes you wonder about the varying levels of awkwardness for the counselor, though, doesn't it? If a Bill Self-caliber coach sits down in the office with a Lebron James-caliber basketball player, wouldn't Mr. Schmekkins, guidance counselor extraordinaire, sitting between them in a pleather chair in dad pants, feel just a little out of place in their conversation?
"Um, dudes, I so can hoop the basketball."
"N-no, um, not really."
19 REPORTS OF STUDENT ENGAGING IN QUESTIONABLE BEHAVIORS
Yeah, this guy gets it. The scene. He is all about the partying scene. It's not unheard of for high school students to engage in irresponsible behaviors on the weekends, but when kids are talking about one particular student being excessive in their habits, the GC squad often jumps in.
That kid will be receiving an invitation to a party that does stop, a party that involves talking with adult professionals who may be able to help him.
18 PUBLIC CRYING
Talk about your red flags. Students who are crying in class are definitely going to be offered a round-trip ticket to the guidance counselor. Which is good, because students who are struggling emotionally can benefit greatly by this added support.
This begs the question, though; how on earth did Kim Kardashian make it through school without getting sent to the guidance counselor all the time? Like, every single day? Perhaps she was a bit less dramatic before she was famous. Maybe tears come easier now that she's a ka-billionaire; she's more emotionally-free than she used to be.
17 STUDENT REQUEST
Teachers, administrators and counselors will JUMP at the chance to help the student who requests a visit to their office. That hall pass will probably be delivered by a barber shop quartet of cartwheeling clowns; we're talking next-level excitement. You see, they're not used to kids actually asking for help, so they're likely to get a little clappy. Students shouldn't be put off by their eager, puppy-like enthusiasm, though. The counselors have dreamed of this moment since college so they're virtually frothing at the mouth to provide the assist, but they're also healthily-trained and up to the task.
16 TEACHERS AREN'T QUITE SURE WHAT TO DO
There's always "that" kid. The kid who is healthily different. He has supportive parents and doesn't misbehave, but he definitely marches to the beat of his own drummer.
At my school, there was a guy who kept to himself. One time he quietly sat at his desk and wrote the lyrics to a Beatles song on his stomach. Another time he rolled up tissues and stuck them in his nose, then proceeded to silently flick at them for the duration of the class.
Technically, the kid didn't make a peep and got good grades. Watching him while lecturing, however, seemed to exhaust the teacher. And when exhaustion finally settled over him, a magical hall pass from the guidance office would often appear.
15 PROBLEMATIC SCHEDULE
BAM - Scheduling classes is the special superpower of the guidance counselor. Whether a student expresses difficulties in managing the schedule they have, interest in changing their classes around or a general desire to look into other educational tracks, one word from the kid and they'll be whisked away to the GC quicker than you can say superhero.
They can drop and add classes faster than a speeding bullet. They can change instructors at the speed of light. Guidance counselors, studs that they are, can help with college applications and all things scholarshippy.
A challenging schedule may be the thing that leads a student to the counselor's office, but once they get there, they might find something else that makes them stick around for awhile.
Or...they may hightail it out of there the second they get the counselor to agree to letting them drop P.E.
14 PARENTAL REQUEST
A call from mom or dad will definitely get the kid sent to the GC. After all, who knows the needs of a student better than good old mommy? Thankfully, the counselors are good at recognizing the difference between a legitimate concern and a full-on helicopter parent.
If Mom A is calling for help because her child is suddenly sulky, quiet and quick to get angry when he's normally happy-go-lucky, the counselors won't hesitate to send for the kid to see if they can help.
If Mom B calls because little Johnny didn't finish all of his breakfast that morning and is dating a "goth" girl that she considers questionable, the counselors will treat the request with a bit less urgency.
13 EXTREMELY PUBLIC BREAKUP
Guidance counselors know way more about what's going on in students' personal lives than you would think. They have ears, after all, and it just takes one walk down the hall during passing period and they've got a pretty good handle on the latest gossip.
So when a crazy-popular girl - we'll call her Bariana for the sake of the story - breaks up with her boyfriend, er, Clete Ravidson, those school administrators are going to know about it. They'll also know how hard breakups can be - especially ultra public ones - so they're going to want to invite both Clete and Bariana to come talk to one of their qualified staff members.
Now, Clete probably won't want to because he's funny and too-cool, and Bariana will probably opt instead to take an adorable selfie of herself in cat ears, but the offer will still stand.
12 DISCIPLINE PROBLEMS WHERE THERE PREVIOUSLY WERE NONE
We all know those kids who have just always been in trouble. Since kindergarten, they've been pushing the envelope and dodging the rules, making teachers lose their cool and raise their voices. You know the one. The kid who smiles and accepts detention while continuing to keep their combat boots propped up on the teacher's desk.
But when a student's behavior changes abruptly, and they go from goodie-goodie to troublemaker seemingly overnight, the counselor will seek them out. It's very likely they're going through a phase and they'll eventually tire of black lipstick and feigned apathy, but it can also be a symptom of a bigger problem.
Which is why a visit to the guidance counselor's office is in their future. Tread carefully, oh-freshly-pierced-one, for you might be in for the concerned talking-to of a lifetime.
11 CHANGES IN FAMILY DYNAMIC
Guidance counselors are here for this. They're good at this. Heavy issues, like losing a family member or experiencing the pain of divorce, are tough for adults to handle, much less kids. If a student is going through any number of these difficult transitions and the administration gets wind of it, that kid is likely to be summoned to the counselor's office.
Why? Why would they butt into personal, non-school problems? Well, because their job is to help students cope with all of the pressures that affect their education. This is the counselor's sweet-spot, my friend.
Sometimes they'll even refer the student to additional resources if there are other support services available. Whatever is best for the student is what the guidance counselor wants.
They've got you, fam.
10 FORMAL REFERRAL FROM TEACHER
This one is the real deal. The oh, snap, he-ain't-playing, get-that-kid-in-the-counselor's-office-STAT summoning. A formal request from a teacher is taken quite seriously, because teachers are in the trenches. Teachers interact with the students each and every day. They have the ability to notice small changes in behavior that might be overlooked by others, and of course, the big, glaring changes that anyone can see.
Teachers not only have the experience to recognize students who might be in need of counseling, but they also have the education. So if your kiddo's teacher puts in a formal request for them to take a trip to the guidance office, your kiddo will definitely be taking a trip to the guidance office.
But it's all good. They're here to help.
9 SUDDEN GRADE DROP
Tell Junior to get ready, because when his all-A's-up-until-now drop to All-D's, that pass to the counselor's office is going to fly at him so fast he might get whiplash. A screaming beacon of warning, the sudden grade drop is almost always indicative of a bigger problem.
Why would Mr. Extra Credit suddenly be forgetting assignments and failing tests? If it were just one class we might be inclined to believe his excuses, but by dropping letters in all classes, we know it isn't the material he's struggling with, but school as a whole.
Yeah, the guidance counselor will definitely want to see this kid.
8 SUDDEN GRADE SPIKE
It sounds bonkers, but a sudden grade spike is a warning sign. At a glance you might think: Why on earth would a counselor have a problem with improved grades?
Obviously, they wouldn't. But they might have a problem with the kid-who-used-to-chew-off-his-erasers suddenly being up for valedictorian. Or the girl who'd always ditched school to go to the mall; we're supposed to believe that she cares now?
These inconsistencies shout to the guidance counselor's tingling guidey-senses, begging the questions Is she cheating and What the heck is going on with that kid?
She might not have the answers, but the guidance counselor is going to do the legwork to get this student figured out. Sorry, kid - hall pass coming your way.
7 UNCLEANLINESS/BODY ODOR
All right, all right - relax. This item is not referring to your average, ordinary, my-armpits-smell-like-pepperoni body odor, the kind of pungent tang you emit after running for a ball too many times.
No, this is referring to chronic dirtiness and body odor, the kind that comes from a lack of bathing. This is a red flag that something is going on in the student's home life, a reason for the counselor to step in and ask if everything is okay.
So as much as we want the b.o. dude in the bro-tank to be whisked away to the guidance counselor's office, that won't be happening any time soon.
6 SUDDENLY QUITTING ACTIVITIES
If the kid who's been a die-hard bandie since fourth grade, practicing his clarinet as if he's auditioning for the New York Philharmonic, suddenly says he doesn't like the clarinet anymore and doesn't want to be in band, that kid is in jeopardy of a GC trip.
Kids can quit. They're allowed. Not exactly a great motivational statement, but it's a fact. Kids are allowed to quit the band.
And quitting isn't what would get this kid on the radar. No, what got this kid on the radar was his fastness, his 180 degree turnaround on something he loved.
5 REPORTS OF THE STUDENT PICKING ON OTHER STUDENTS
Schools are getting better about identifying and punishing bullies, in part because students are being educated to come forward and speak out if they witness these behaviors. But what about the kid who just isn't quite there yet? The girl who might not fit the bill of the obnoxious, overbearing instigator, but is beginning to get more and more comfortable in the role of demeanor? The boy who isn't full-on troublemaker, but thinks it's funny to "mess" with people?
If teachers suspect a student is sliding into this attitude, that kid is likely to be sent to the counselor, both for his own good and the other children. Nipping these behaviors in the bud before they become hardcore problems is a key way to prevent bullying.
4 REPORTS OF THE STUDENT BEING PICKED ON
The same rules apply to this one. A student might not be experiencing textbook bullying, but if another student seems to take pleasure in spreading rumors about them or commenting about them on social media, the time to step in is immediately, before it becomes something bigger and more toxic.
Counselors might invite this student to their office to discuss the situation, assess the student's perceptions, and let the student know they have the full support of the administration should they need further assistance. Sometimes the confidence of knowing someone has your back makes all the difference in the world.
3 SUDDEN ATTENDANCE PROBLEMS
Guidance counselors keep a close eye on attendance records, and sudden changes will get a kid sent to the office for further exploration. They want to make sure something troubling isn't going on in the student's personal life that is causing them to be unable to attend school.
So think twice, slackers, before you ditch chemistry. It may seem like the fun answer to the fact that you forgot to study for the exam, but do you really want to have a sit-down with the guidance counselor over this? You're still going to have to make up that test, but now you have to listen to an adult drone on and on about how much they care and how worried they are about you before you take it.
Ugh - is there anything worse? Stay in class, Todd, and take the dang test.
2 DISPLAYING ERRATIC EMOTIONS
Sometimes kids are happy. Sometimes kids are sad. Sometimes kids are angry. But when they erratically switch from one to the other and don't seem able to control the change, that's when they are led to the guidance office.
But administration is well-aware that more than anything, kids are kids. They know that kids are often emotional, whether it be a first grader getting upset because they can't get their shoe tied or a high school senior crying because of a breakup. They don't jump on every emotional mess, because if they did they would most-certainly have a full office, but more so just the ones who seem to lack control.
So don't worry. If you have a teenager who has a flair for the dramatic and rampant, wild emotions, that doesn't mean she'll be sent to the guidance counselor. That simply means that she is a teenager.
1 EXTREMELY UNUSUAL BEHAVIOR
Talking to oneself loudly. Somersaulting from class-to-class. Singing in the middle of a test without warning and without the ever-important volume control. Random bizarre behavior that cannot be reasonably explained is the best way for a kid to get whisked away to the guidance counselor.
There is a fine line, however, between strange behaviors that fast-track a student to the principal's office and those actions that guide the child to the counselor. The behaviors that seem to be done with the intention of disobedience and disruption; those bro's are being sent to the big guy, which is never any fun. Instead of understanding and problem resolution, the kid will get detention and/or suspension.
So think twice, my emboldened students, before attempting to employ this methodology just to get out of class. Though your buddies may think it's hilarious that you're randomly doing burpees while singing songs from High School Musical in the lecture hall, you might not land where you hope.
Proceed with caution.
Sources: Cosmopolitan.com, Buzzfeed.com, IMDB.com, Kidshealth.org, Schoolcounselor.org, USnews.com.